My mother has thin hair. It is nearly translucent, barely nipping at her shoulder line. She won’t wear makeup. She has nothing to hide. She occupies the guest room most nights because of Dad’s snoring, and we share an inability to sleep. Waking up with me at the crack of dawn, when the night is still present, we cut a grapefruit before school. The sprinkles of sugar have a sweet taste that overcomes any momentary bitterness.
And my sister. Her double life unknown by anyone but me. At home, her door bolstered shut, she sits on a bed with no outside contact, quiet and confidential. But at night her car is gone, her presence is not common at the dinner table. We ask where she is going. “Out.”
Sitting on a blanket, my dog gnaws at another peanut butter cookie, panting, with a wide grin etched across her grayed cheeks. I lay my head on her coarse back, decorated with fatty lumps and bald patches, cherishing each moment we have together. This dog, who knows my childhood, who holds my past, is weighed down with 13 years full of life, of memories that weigh so much she can no longer walk. The dog who has kept me pinned to the present but will not accompany me to the future. Who will fight against the oncoming sleep as the shot is inserted into the very hind leg that brought upon her final decision.
Final decisions often get made too quickly. I want to reflect. In the shower, the water rushes over me, helping to take the weight of memories off my skin. I often take two a day. When the heat is close to burning, the pain of loss doesn’t feel nearly as intense. With scented soap and face scrubs, I cleanse my soul and mind of the memories that weigh me down. I can think when nestled in the quiet, secluded tile walls. With the pitter-patter of the water, I cannot hear the echo of Brian’s movies, or the laughter or screaming that climbs the staircase from downstairs, but most of all when I am home alone, I cannot hear the quiet of a house that is truly empty for the first time in 13 years.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.