Everyone was there, more faces than her birthday party. Rows of rows of pews all occupied by the sad or the sympathetic sad. I lead Cynthia by the arm as we walk to the front row. Dressed in black, we seat ourselves and wait for this part of lives to start or end. A tiny casket surround by candles, the sunbeams cut through the windows and pull the casket closer to something everyone here wanted to believe in.
They pray and they pray, like if somehow this was going to bring her back. I sit with my head down all the same, however. It’s easier to hide the stray tears if everyone is looking to the floor. The priest calls me up to say my bidding words, I take the scribbled on paper out of my pocket and walk past her casket. I stare at all the blank and crying faces and they stare back at me. I unfold the paper and straighten it out. I begin. “What is youth, we know it for how wonderful it is, we were all young once. Noah darling will be young forever…” I try to exhale but it feels as if I spit nothing but ash. I try to say the words, the things, I wrote down on this paper, for her, for everyone. But I can’t. The priest, father something. Ushers me off to the side and I walk to my seat ashamed. Cynthia takes my arm and doesn’t say a word. Cause like me, she only spits ash.
There is no drug that can give an out of body experience like this, and there is no price I wouldn’t pay not feel it. I sit on the couch staring at a reflection in the TV, someone else. An imitation of myself, with dark rings and darker pits. Blurred faces come and go to tell me how sorry they were. How the world is cruel. How it’s a shame. The imitation nods and thanks them for coming as I stare at him, hating his words. I have enough and leave myself downstairs as I walk up the steps past her room into mine. I lay down, dressed in black, wanting to die too.
For six months our house is haunted by two phantoms of despair. We linger closer and closer to the edge of unrecognizable. An empty chill fills the house as I walk down to the living room. I break a leaf off the dead house plant as I look around the home in ruin. Like a moth, I am pulled by the kitchen light. I find Cynthia sitting with a cup of what I hope is coffee staring at a picture of our family. I kiss her on the forehead and grab a cigarette from the pack on the table. “I would do anything to see her again.” She says as she brings up a bottle from the floor and pours some gold liquor into her coffee cup. I pack the cigarette on my finger trying to decide on my words. I chicken out and pull my zippo from my pocket and light the cigarette. “I wish you didn’t get rid of that time things.” She says with a slur to her voice. “I wish I didn’t either.” I exhale and say the things I have been meaning to say. “I’m worried about you. Do you want, or will you just talk to me, please?” I say nervously. She takes a drink straight from the bottle then spits her words at me. “Talking won’t fucking bring our girl back will it!” I retreat like a coward to the back porch.
I wake up early, at some point in the night, Cynthia found her way into our room, which is to say it was a surprise as most nights she slept in Noah’s room. I get cleaned up enough to head to work, on my way out I try to kiss her on the lips, but the smell stops me. “Hey, Olive would like you to come over if you feel up to it.” I say. She pulls the sheets tighter around her and turns away. I brush her hair with the tips of my fingers then leave the house. As I walk to work I listen to the birds chirp and spring blow through the fields. It seems the world will continue to spin, despite my want for it to all stop.
German gives me a lift in his bug back to the Weatherby’s house. I wave goodbye then walk down the dirt path. I soon spot Cynthia’s car parked out in front. I was jogging, no, running now. She did it, six months and she was finally out of bed. I felt joy then, a joy that makes my stomach hurt as the tolerance for it has long faded. I get up the steps and walk inside the house. I meet Jasper standing in the hall looking at the little black book that he keeps his numbers in. “How’s fou-fourteen doing?” He asks. It takes me a moment to answer as I was still winded. “Fine, twenty-three is a different matter altogether, though.” He jots down something in his book then slips it back into his pocket. Cynthia turns down the hall in a bright summer dress with an equally bright smile. “Hey!” She shouts as she runs over to kiss me. Taste like mint. “I convinced Jasper to give you some time off! Olive is helping me get a picnic basket together so we can go to a lake nearby, like old times, won’t that be swell?” She was too excited for what I was prepared for. “Uh, yeah, that’s great, that sounds great. Great.” I say unsure of what I was actually saying. She kisses me again and runs back to the kitchen to help Olive. Jasper also speechless for the entire exchange gives me a shrug then walks into the living room. My mouth lays open, tasting of mint.
We drive inland, further and further we get I notice the smell of salt fade. Cynthia drives with one hand and flies through the air with the other. “Is everything alright?” I ask her being careful with my tone. “Everything fine!” She says ecstatic like a thunderstorm.
We arrive at the lake and the campground is empty. Pine tree after pine tree covers nearly every surface without the gravel. “Let’s go!” Cynthia yells to me running into the forest. I follow behind her with the basket and blanket. Deeper and deeper we go when suddenly there’s a rush of light and the tree line opens to a pale blue lake. “This is perfect, right here.” Cynthia says pointing to a clear spot on the bank of the lake. I lay the blanket out and we open the basket. A feast for kings it seems. I try to remember when I was this hunger, but sometimes remembering hurts, so I drop the thought. “Isn’t this perfect?” Cynthia asks. I look pass the water edge to the trees on the other side. “It is.” I say with a mouthful.