- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The tears sat welling in the corners of his eyes, splitting my heart right in two. The swing hung limp, much like his limbs, his heels dug harshly into the always damp red clay mud where child after church child had skidded their swings to a stop. The red mud clung like rusty blood, and the image hung in my memories just like the clay. I ached to scrape the mud from his shoes, to dry his blue-green eyes. Two feet away felt like miles.
“She wasn’t wearing a seat belt.” It was barely a whisper, spoken on his gnawed lips, a ghost of a sound, sprinkled emotionlessly on his tortured tongue. This broke me down, sending my cheeks back into their damp state, despite my constant drying.
Be strong, he needs this.
I was falling apart again, my eyes had dried, and my nose had been cleared after the quarter mile walk to the church-yard and the small playground, broken down, overused and then forgotten. We walked in silence, hand in hand. His fingers were limp; that day I was clutching them, squeezing them strong, trying to get him to feel something, something real, sturdy, wanting to give him something to hold on to. My eyes had dried then as the wind pressed gently on my face the air was warm; the spring was coming. Small animals of all sorts scampered playfully around the area. The aura of the day was so unfitting, just the day before in our nightly chats we claimed the day was to be rainy, a drizzle would have been much more appropriate than the weather of that day, the tortuous sunlight and rustling breezes.
It was planned to be a day of skating, fun stuff of that sort, a day on the rink with a dozen of theater and band dorks, a day planned especially for a birthday celebration, and an introduction.
There was no skating, no fun, no trip to the rink, and the dozen dorks stood teary eyed outside of the dented door of his small home.
The person they planned to introduce was dead.
It was also planned to be a day of lounging afterwards, a day of pasta and kissing while the supposed rain would batter the land outside of his home.
It was not raining. There was no pasta, and no lounging.
There was planned to be some conversation going a little like this; “Hey everyone! This is my sister Jill,” followed by a circle of people saying hello and names each being told.
But instead at one o’clock when these introductions were planned to happen, when cake was planned to be sliced, I was sitting on a swing, in a broken down playground, watching him dig his heels into the mud.
I could tell that every little childhood memory of her was passing between that gap between his eyes, every smile of her wide teeth, every flick of her blonde (though I doubt it was natural) hair, every half-hearted moment of drama, every argument, every guilt, every hug.
I didn’t focus on the hour I had known her, but only on the mud on the bottom of his shoes.
My tears welled, but I blinked them back, wiped them off, and pushed the thoughts aside, attempting to replace them with visions of sugarplums and fairies, rainbows and gumdrops. All sorts of bullshit like that.
As his eyes burned into my skin, he muttered so quietly, “Please don’t cry. Be strong for me.”
“It’s just too hard, too painful to watch you like this.”
“But if you cry, I’ll cry,”
“I’m crying because you’re crying.”
“I’m not crying,”
“Yes, you are.”
Our sentences were short, spoken with cracking voices, my fingers grasped tightly to the rusting chain of the swing, the cheap yellow paint was chipping off, I stripped off sheets of yellow plastic material, letting it fall to the ground.
It would never decompose.
Jill’s ashes would.
He didn’t speak again for awhile, but instead stood, walked zombie like through the stale post-winter grass to a spot along the tree line, a section of thin woods dividing the church yard from a neighborhood house. He sat, cross legged, plucking small strands of grass between his fingertips, stripping them down into shreds, and tossing them aside, over his shoulder, where they would not fully make it, but lay broken on the thin cotton of his cornflower blue shirt. I sat beside him in a similar stance. He scraped the mud from his shoes, a pair of worn out black slip-ons, the only shoes he ever wore. He rubbed the planes of grass against the rubber, they gathered clumps of the clay and were tossed aside over his left shoulder, again, where they would not quite summit the obstacle and gathered brokenly on his pale blue shirt.
He continued to work on the grass, tearing at it rabidly, angrily for moments, and then fading back into his shell of subtle emotionless movements.
“Her cousin was driving,” he choked out, I swallowed and nodded. “She was asleep.” The vision of her, curled up, her petite figure curved into the seat, peacefully drowsy, eyes closed, breathing steadily.
“It was Six a.m.” The cool moon was shining against her perfect complexion and her well-styled clothes which most likely she made them herself. She was peaceful, restful, exhausted from the night. Her smooth brown eyes would shut against the early morning air. Beside her sat a young man, twenty-some with her russet brown eyes.
“He fell asleep at the wheel,” he choked out, six words so at loss for a rhythm.
The image so sharp in my mind played again, his head would dip down close to the wheel, and eyes sagged with soft sleep. Then the next moment the car would be off the road, into a guard rail, and her figure would fly from the car to her death.
It was a painful thought to comprehend.
At that moment a small family walked out of the church, and gathered by a minivan. A small blonde boy stood next to a brunette older sister, the boy anxiously pounded at the car, wanting in that moment.
The mom laughed, the dad smiled, and the sister complained loudly.
I watched him, his face showed no emotion. The mom spoke, a sharp voice, saying kind things. She won’t ever be that mom; she won’t ever have the chance to be, a voice whispered in my mind. Then the mother’s voice echoed off the side of the building, coming back to us. “Come on now, get in. Buckle up.”
I watched him again; saw his eyes trace the line of the shade cast by the pine trees under which we sat. I saw his lips forming words, words painful for him to speak, small shards working their way out of his tongue.
“I keep thinking I hear her voice, but then,” he coughed, he swallowed and then he went on “then I remember she’s gone.”
From there he stood, and absent mindedly stretched his legs, then walked back down the road from the churchyard to his home again. A small apartment house attached on a row of them, his home sweet home, there in the chair where Jill sat the night before. The chair she sat in when she excitedly explained her plans for her future, how much craziness it would hold, every place she wanted to see. She had so much planned out. His mother sat there instead, instead of the reckless, young Jill.
He couldn’t take it, and he slammed his way into the bathroom, where the fan whirled wildly, where we couldn’t hear his sobs. I felt at home at their house, I lined myself on the couch with a row of other girls who sat beside his sister, his other sister, now his only sister. I watched them fight back tears and manage laughs for Kristina’s sake. When he came back he plopped down in an oversized armchair opposite the TV, and I sat down beside him, curling myself into his arms, I hoped having me there was a comfort. His arms wound lightly around my shoulders, and I curled my head into his chest, the beating of his heart comforted me a bit, but his grip wasn’t strong, nothing about him was strong. I was trying not to cry, trying not to break down, but there, with my head curled into his chest a few tears dampened the cloth of his shirt when it rolled off my cheek.
I wiped them away, hid them from him.
Kristina and her friends sat in chairs and armchairs around us. Chatting about small little things that couldn’t matter in the least, the weather, bikes, school, and the door mat.
The bunch went on a walk for a while, most likely retreating to the church playground as well.
When Kristina came back, her brown hair was tussled with breezes, her small round face slightly less swollen, and her tennis shoes not covered in red clay mud.
Jacob’s still were.
But I looked through my bangs at her shoes again.
They were smeared red around the bottom, the clay that her feet had sunken into had been wiped away. Taken on finger tips, and rubbed off on bits of grass, buried under leaves, and drowned in sunlight.
In his arms in the armchair, I listened to constant grumbling of his stomach, and short gasps of his breath. Eventually I got some food in him. A crescent roll and a slice of carrot cake that was for Kristina’s birthday party, the skating party that no one attended, the food though was lost shortly afterward. A short slam of the door and the fan whirled. He came back empty bellied, face pale.
I was there till ten, Jacob drifting away by that time into the land of sleep, his escape, at ten my mother came to the door, sporting a bottle of rum and a small box of Lunesta for their mother. I kissed the crown of his head lightly, and shut the door behind me.
“Please sleep well,” I whispered into the darkness.
* * * * *
Sunday brought the news story, featuring a headline, “Fatal Highway Accident.”
Monday brought the news to school, a note from teachers to the students about where the twins, Jacob and Kristina were.
Tuesday brought the obituary, no photo, just small font stating the small facts, Jillian Lanier, 27 died Saturday morning in a fatal car crash.
Wednesday brought the funeral. I skipped out on last period, and escaped into my father’s car. I slipped into my black dress at home and we left to go to the funeral home.
By the door Jacob sat, clothed in solid black, with the slip on shoes, the ones that were still tainted with red clay mud. His head was down; his hair, a shaggy light brown, was combed neatly. His eyes were red, despite his denial of tears. The lobby was empty except for him sitting on the couch, I whispered his name, and his head rose slowly, he stood shakily and we embraced for a moment, and we walked side by side into the chapel.
There, centered on the far wall was the casket, laid open, it was angled so that from over the top I saw her pointed nose. Her face was pale and smooth, at least the portions I could see. A swoop of blonde hair, styled just so. Her eyes were shut peacefully, as if she were sleeping softly among the dark wood and silky satin.
I slipped my hand into Jacob’s for a moment as we approached his mother who was sitting, head in her hands, on the front row.
He slipped out of my grasp and left the chapel with his mother and Kristina.
From the lobby came the group of girls, the ones that were lined up on the couch just days ago.
Katie, Marla, and Allison, dressed darkly, padded softly through the aisles to me.
My eyes were glued once again to the coffin. I swore I would go up there. Say goodbye before they closed her casket. Thank her for the short time of which she had been in my life.
But a thought hit me before I could make my feet walk to her.
I had met her just a week ago. Wednesday night at 6:30 she had come swooping in screaming “Happy freakin’ 16th birthday you guys!”
And I was crying again, thinking of the dinner I spent with her just seven days prior, it was Jacob and Kristina’s birthday, we were stuffing our faces with cheese biscuits, and the loud shout had spun both of their heads.
They were confused, and when Jacob found his sister among the waitresses he smiled and muttered “Oh it’s just Jill,” followed a second later by “Wait, what is Jill doing here?!” She lived in New York and had flown down to the surprise them for their birthday.
Her family, Jacob, Kristina, their mother, along with their grandparents walked out of the room in a small progression.
I cried, just stood unmoving in the aisle, watching as their red, swollen faces moved up the aisle, each woman was accompanied by a small sodden pad of tissues.
Marla swooped up and hugged me. A pair of men in suits swept in and moved the smooth purple pall over the casket edge, closing the top, removing her from view. I never looked in the casket. Never would know what she rested in. Never know how bad she was hurt in the crash.
Never would get to see her again.