Death and Barbies

January 21, 2010
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Remember those days when death wasn’t a big deal? When it was just there, hidden in the dust and the shadows, when it just sat there and had tea with your Barbies? Remember when death hung in a crystal chandelier above your head, throwing diamonds of light on the walls, a simple drop of a mirror? You never knew that it was dangling by a whisper, ready to break at any moment and fall into your lap, cutting into your innocent skin.

I didn’t really care when my grandpa died. I was only four years old and still fresh in this world, fresh in the wind. Just sitting in the hallway, thick yellow light casting buttery shadows, night creeping in and holding me back from my bed. Just sitting there when I hear the door cry and I turn to see my mother, mascara stains on her tired cheeks, the phone trembling in her hand with a pain that I had never known. I stare up at her with my wide white eyes and ask, “What’s wrong, Mommy?”

“Grandpa died. Grandma just called and said he had a heart attack and they couldn’t get there in time…” The words shatter into sobs and she just stands there, phone clenched in her delicate fingers, disappearing into sorrow. And all I do is look up at her and think, So what? My blank, unfeeling eyes push my mom back into the dark abyss of her room, and I continue doing whatever I was doing before, as if nothing had happened. As if I hadn’t been rudely interrupted by the cold hand of death that was knocking at my door. I just ignore the noise and go on my merry way.

Even the funeral couldn’t pull me out of my ignorance, not even if it tied itself around my waist and pulled me out of the sandy pit that I was in. I saw the clouded tears and the minister and the blackness that surrounded me. Surrounded, not penetrated. It still didn’t mean anything. I got bored halfway through and snuck craftily through the doors into the lobby, spending the rest of the time running around and tossing mints at my cousins, laughing all the while.

When the funeral was over, my mom, whose face was still saturated with a salty blanket of tears, gripped my hand, and we started our journey back into the normal world. One step, two steps, only a few steps more and I would be in the safety of the warm car, driving away from death and leaving it in those four quiet walls. But then someone interrupts our escape and engages my mom in one of those eternal adult conversations. As I stand there, my eyes drift like balloons over to a quiet room, stifled yet exploding with silence and a peace that I could not identify. I slip away, unnoticed, and my eyes peek cautiously over the edge of the door.

And what I see, I still see to this day. In one glimpse, I see him. My grandpa sleeping in his coffin, lying in an ominous fate. I see his pale, creamy face and his sad eyes and his white hair breathing quietly on his head. And I feel something inside of me gasp, and there death is, opening the door and walking right in to a deeper part of me. And there death was, and it is, and there it will always be…

My mom runs to me and snatches my hand and yanks me violently away, as if the harder she pulls, the more I will forget what I just saw. She scorns me with her finger, so weak and tired, telling me that I am not allowed to ever be near that room again, do I understand? And I just nod my head numbly, unable to say anything but, “Can we go now?” And my mom’s concerned eyes follow me into the parking lot. And we drive, but we can’t drive away. We drive into a foreign realm of death and uncertainty and no second chances. Each day, I go deeper and deeper, until I get lost in the dark forests and seaweed shadows. Each day I go deeper, until someone pulls me out, and I can go back to laughing in the lobbies at funeral homes and throwing mints at my cousins, the way I wish it would always be. Except I know that death will always be there, too, now. It still hangs in the crystal chandelier, still drops pieces into my lap now and again, cutting into my skin and leaving red pain where innocence once was.





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