“What’s it like?” she asks. Her eyes cast down, her bottom lip starting to bleed between her clenched teeth. She hates crying. Don’t look up… you’ll lose control… she says to herself. Her throat constricts and begins to burn from the effort of holding in her tears; she looks up anyways.
“What’s it like?” he says back, his words wrapped in defeat. “What is it like, Caitlin? What kind of question is that? I don’t know how to answer it.” He sighs heavily; both pain and frustration swim across his face. He plops down next to her in the grass. Their eyes meet and the tears spill over the rim of her eyes and streak her cheeks. He turns away from her; the pain he has caused her is too much for him to bear.
“I have to know. I need you to tell me. Please.” She chokes on her last words and succumbs to her sobs. She can taste the mix of blood and salt in her mouth and struggles to catch her breath. She squeezes her arms around her knees and drops her head to her forehead, heaving with anguish.
“It’s hell. That’s what it’s like. You think I can’t see what is happening here? I see everything. I see you. I see your broken heart and I see your tormented soul. I hear your thoughts. I know the pain you feel just to be alive, every single day. I see you try to carry the burden on your own and I see you punish yourself when the weight you carry causes you to misstep. I see you, looking out for mom, trying to be the best child you can be for her, but collapsing under all of this self-imposed pressure. I see you, trying to be connected to everyone still… to all of my friends… too scared to lose anyone else. I see you die a little inside each time they don’t remember something that’s special to you, about me. I hope you know that it’s not their fault though, Caitlin. It’s truly not. I see you trying so hard to heal broken relationships, not because you have truly forgiven, but out of fear of more pain. I also see you challenging the world to fuck with you more. You’re not invincible, you know? One day, all this pain that you cling to… it will pull you under. I see you trying so hard and doing so well but simultaneously killing yourself with sadness. Imagine how I feel. I have to watch this. I have to live with what I did to you. It’s fucking hell. It is fucking hell to know how many people I hurt; how many people are broken now. Don’t ask me what it’s like again… facing what I’ve left behind hurts too bad.”
“Do you want to know what it’s like for me?”
“No, I really -“
“I will tell you what it’s like. I wake up every day, stuck in the same exact spot yet somehow years down the road. I wake up heartbroken. And angry. I am lost in confusion and disillusion. Sometimes, I feel the pulsation of reality literally course through my whole body and I get physically sick. I have lost you and I have lost people because of you; because I keep your memory on the tip of my tongue and at the front of my mind. I can’t leave you behind, yet I can’t move forward with you. I miss you so much that sometimes I think the pain will kill me. And I am so angry I swear I can feel my blood boil. I’m also terrified. Every. Single. Day.” She starts sobbing again and cannot finish her thoughts. She squeezes her knees in closer.
“I didn’t want to go. I hope you know that. Given the choice, I would have stayed with you forever. Don’t you know that I am here though? I will always be right here, right by your side. I love you so much Caitlin and I would have never chose to leave you. All I want for you is to be happy. All I want for you is to find yourself, outside of me. Can you do that? Please? I swear I will never ever truly be gone and I will be right here, forever. But I need you to let go too. You have to let go. You will never get through this with the death grip you have on me.”
She can’t breathe. She’s suffocating under the weight of her grief. He lunges toward her, arms poised to embrace her. But his touch doesn’t land. His arms move right through her body. But, in that moment, goosebumps rise up over her entire body and a sense of warmth overcomes her. She stops crying and looks up, and glances around in desperation. Could she have felt him..?
He shouts her name again and again. He tries to grab her face but his hands move through her once more. He stares into her eyes, screaming her name, willing her to see him and hear him. But she cannot. And she will not, ever again. He is dead and gone and she, is not. She presses herself up to her feet and leans over to kiss the top of the marble in front of her. “I love you so much Eric. I just wish I could talk to you again. I have so many questions.”
“I am here for you… I am answering you! Please, let her hear me. Let her know that I am right here!”
She doesn’t hear him. She doesn’t see him. She walks away from his final resting place, feeling lighter than she was when she arrived, and yet somehow, missing him more.