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“Is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes?”

I expect Mom to say no, because it’s cold and it’s raining and I’m sick, but instead she waves away my question with a bewildered look in her eyes and says, “Yes, of course it is.” I’m reminded that this is the last day she has any control over me, any right as a parent to say yes or no to my question and dictate the decision at hand, and that years ago she stopped giving answers to petty matters such as my going out in the rain, anyway.

I give one glance back, waiting for her to look out the window and check the weather, waiting for her to tell me she’s changed her mind because tomorrow’s my birthday and she doesn’t want me to get any sicker, but already she’s moving away from me, further into the house and up the stairs and onto other things. I slip on my moccasins, try not to frown at the fact that my owl-printed socks clash horrendously with them, and unlock the door.

I look back again. Still nothing. The only sound in the house is that of the dishwasher, churning away. Mom is already up the stairs. Dad and the dog are somewhere up there, too.

I open the door, and step through to the porch, and then I’m in that other world beyond the one I that I live in. The world that’s slightly less structured and slightly more wild, and one hundred percent prettier in every sense of appearance and virtue.

The first step off the porch feels delicious, the slight breeze shifting my sweaty fever-hair from my neck and making the hairs on my hands stand at attention. The raindrops are little reminders on my shoulders and face that I’m alive, outside and free and my own person. Like Post It notes, only for a more desirable purpose.

I like this feeling. This freedom. Does that all go away tomorrow, or does it magnify?

I walk down the driveway, and then up the front walk that crosses the yard, and then stand there for a moment, staring dubiously at the hard packed dirt that’s taken the place of portions of our front lawn, ever since the grass got ripped out to fix a leak in the basement.

Everything’s so peaceful here on the walk, and louder than inside. There are birds chirping, and squirrels rustling walnuts, and I am perfectly content to stand in the rain with no purpose and no mind, to just stand there and let it bleed me dry. My moccasins are not designed for cross-country travel down the hill to the little animal cemetery at the edge of our property.

… But I came here for a reason. I’m outside in the rain and the cool mid-April air for a reason. I’m out here sick for a reason, and it’s not to stand and gawk at the cement beneath my feet and the mud just beyond it.

With a breath that almost makes me cough, but not quite, I take the first step onto the dirt, test my footing to make sure it’s not too slippery to walk on, and then continue that way around the side of the house. The hill beyond this is grassier, untouched by house repairs, and I’m less careful as I pick my way down it, always at a slight angle that takes me further from the house and closer to my destination.

The cemetery has not changed from November, except to maybe be more alive with grass and weeds, and wetter with rain. But in principle it’s still the same.
I take a moment, just stand there and wait for something to happen, somebody to call for me to come back inside or for a face to appear in one of the windows at my back; a dutifully watching parent… but there is nothing but the chirping of the birds and the pitter patter of the rain. I chew on my lip, unsure of what to do now that I’m here, and feel the rain soaking deeper into my sweatshirt, although too sporadically to truly make me cold.

My nose is too stuffy to appreciate the scent of the outdoors, of the rain on the trees, but I like being outside here all the same.

An ambulance goes screaming by on the main road on the other side of the neighbor’s house, and that breaks the silence and the stillness enough for me to speak.

“I miss you.”

The words are out before I can consider how cliché they sound. How impersonal.

“I’m turning eighteen tomorrow, and it’ll be my first birthday without you, since my very first birthday, and I obviously don’t remember that, so…” I pause. “I miss you.”

My eyes are misting and trained on a medium-sized tan stone set back from the other, smaller grey ones—the ones that belong to gerbils and guinea pigs and fish. There’s a glob of purple and white bird poop pancaked to the top of the tan stone, which sets my teeth in an unbecoming way, but I try to ignore it.

“I miss you,” I repeat to the stone. And then I’m silent, and that’s okay, because whereas the rest of the world cares only for my words, he only ever cared for my silence, and I could always turn to him when I didn’t want to speak.

Only that silence is too much for my mind, so while I look around at the budding trees and the wild catnip sprouting from the dirt, my thoughts construct a verse:

You were my boomerang, you just kept bouncing back
But now that you’re gone, all that returns is the pain

And, once again and as usual, I wonder how all these months later I can still cry. Maybe it’s sort of like how your body reacts to anesthesia, only more so—for every year you spend with someone, it takes you that many months longer to forget the stab, the throb of loss. Like a scar that takes a long time to fade; so long that you forget what exactly, originally caused it before it’s completely gone.

In that case, it will be sixteen months from last November before I’m whole and unblemished again.

Or maybe he’ll never leave me. Or maybe he’ll leave me tomorrow.

I think about myself. About the zits on my face and the illness in my throat and the way I look so different from how I looked this time last year.

At seventeen, I have hair that’s almost long enough to be as long as I want it to be, but not quite.

At seventeen, I have owl-printed socks and moccasins that stick in the mud.

At seventeen, I have crappy almost-bangs that I need to keep off my forehead to make me look younger, because for my first two weekends of being eighteen, I’ll be pretending to be a kid again in my senior year spring musical.

At seventeen, I am sick, which ironically is how I entered childhood also.

At seventeen, I lost Jesse. And I lose him more every day I move towards eighteen.

The rain begins to grow softer on my head, and I think that I should be going in, but my feet are rooted to the ground here and I can’t stop thinking about what and who lies under that tan rock, so instead I look around at the trees that are just now growing their spring leaves. They look especially green in the rain.

I look up at the sky, silently will God to make it rain harder so I can stay out longer, and for just an instant it picks up; the drops become larger and harder and more like pellets against my scalp than the misting, laughing rain that it was before.

I look back at the grave again, and the words are on my lips again: “I miss you.”

And it occurs to me that that’s all I have left of him. I miss you, and nothing more. An eternity of missing yous and cliché feelings and no way to prove to the world how personal this pain of missing him is.

He was my childhood, and he died in November. He was my childhood, and the girl he knew dies tomorrow, so that all that’s left of her is a memory.

Who I am today, and always have been, will be nothing but a memory tomorrow.
I will no longer be a kid tomorrow.

You spend the first seventeen years of your life as a baby, and then the next however-many-you-get as something other than a baby, and I’m not exactly sure what that is, and I’ve never liked change. Tomorrow I’ll wake up as something I’ve never been before; something that has more responsibility and less wonder, and I will no longer be special for all the things I’ve always been special for, and I’m so scared that I won’t be able to learn how to be special as that other something, too.

And these are the thoughts I think as I stand out in the rain and stare at the grave of the cat who was my childhood.

I miss you. But sometimes I’m unsure I know truly who I miss.

I whisper to the rain, thank it for transforming the water on my cheeks from tears to a much simpler explanation.

Just rain. Not missing you. Even though I do miss him. So badly it aches, so badly I can’t keep back the hunger and the pain.

“I miss you.”

The rain’s growing lighter again. I know nobody gets a second miracle.

And once again I leave him behind, first at the official New Year and now at my personal one, and now it’s more so than before, more concrete, because it’s not just a year I’m leaving behind, but my childhood. And I’m leaving him behind with it.

He was my childhood, and tomorrow I will be eighteen.

When I get back inside, it is silent. And I am alone. So I go sit in the kitchen where Mom sat before, and write about the silence:

Tomorrow I will be someone new.
Tomorrow I will be someone new.
Tomorrow I will be someone new.

But today I am a child.



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

thatunknownthingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 21, 2013 at 7:16 am:
Your writing.....wow. you weave your lines with such detail, meaning and simple sphestication, I can connect with you. the last few sentences were magic and not a sentence bored me..I'm already starting to dread my turning of age!!
 
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crayola_green said...
Oct. 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm:
This is beautiful! You are a talented author with a unique but somehow universal tale, and it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing your story.
 
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