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Someone Else's Tragedy
You will be staring at that truck when the phone rings. That ugly green truck with only one headlight. And you’ll hate the way her voice sounds while she talks into the phone when they tell her your grandpa is dead. And it will be December Second.
But right now it’s still November.
Right now you should be doing your English homework. You should be reading that book about that kid, the ones whose head got run over by a mail truck. But you’re not doing your homework that’s due tomorrow. Instead your standing in the hall of an ugly green hospital, you’re not even in the same state as the school where your homework is due.
You’re here because they called last night, they called to tell you that you should come, because you might not see your grandpa again, alive.
But they didn’t say it like that, they never do.
Any way, You came, you got up ridiculously early and you sat in the car for six hours and listened to pink floid and the Jackson five and your mother crying for six hours to get here. But it was all a waste of time because he’d miraculously recovered by the time you got here. And now you’re here for no reason, in this ugly green hospital in that ugly brown town where nothing good ever happens.
You could tell them the numbers on the doors of the rooms where your family members took their last breaths, but you won’t, cuz that’d be morbid.
So you visit him in the hospital, and you sleep on the floor, and it’s cold. It shouldn’t be so frickin cold in the desert but it’s cold. And then you’ll get up early the next morning to sit in the car and listen to pink floid and the Jackson five for six more hours until you’re home. But before that, you walk to walgreens and you get ritz crackers and ben & jerries for dinner.
Since when do they sell food in walgreens?
And on your way back you get lost. And even though you only came one block you walk three miles in the wrong direction and you don’t call to ask where you are, because you’ve never been lost before, and who wants to admit to having been lost in the world’s smallest hell hole?
And by the time you’re back in that ugly green hospital your ice cream’s melted. So you drink it out of the carton.
And you visit him in the hospital and he’s doing better so the next day you leave.
And you sit in the car and listen to pink floid and the Jackson five for six hours until you’re home.
And a couple of weeks from now, it will be December second and you’ll be looking at an ugly green truck that only has one headlight, and you’ll hate the way her voice sounds while she talks into the phone. And you’ll have finished that book, the one about that kid whose head got run over by the mail truck. That kid had a friend named Art, your grandpa’s name will have been Art. And that kid sent Art letters and Art said
“Those letters were the only thing that kept me going.”
You wrote letters to Art but you will never send them.
When the phone rings, and she’s quiet, you’ll know someone is dead, because she always talks so much it drives you nuts, and she’s never quiet on the phone.
Then she’ll say “oh’ over and over again and you’ll wonder how he died. He was doing better. And then she’ll start to cry and she won’t say anything, and neither will whoever is on the other end of the line. She’ll just breath, slow rattling breaths that can only belong to the lungs of somebody you just lost their father, even if he was just an immature alcoholic…
You’ll wonder if you should offer to drive, since people shouldn’t drive when they’re emotionally compromised. But you don’t have your license yet so you won’t.
She’ll drive home. And she won’t say anything.
All you can do is guess, and you guess that he’s dead and you’re probably right, but you still don’t know how for sure.
He was doing better.
When you get home she’ll run up the stairs into the house and into the arms of her husband and you’ll stand outside for a minute.
Then you’ll go inside and you and your brother will sit there for a while.
You’ll feel bad for him.
Eleven year olds are supposed to have grandparents, but he doesn’t even cry, and neither do you.
She still doesn’t tell you how he died, not till latter.
And after she does you’ll call your friend, because that is all you know to do.
You: “hey, how are you?”
Her: “good how are you?”
You: “I’m alright, I think…”
Her: “what do you mean?”
You:“You remember I told you my granpa was in the hospital?”
Her: yeah, is everything ok?
You say your friend’s name.
“Darby, he Killed himself”.
And then you’ll go back that ugly brown town where nothing good ever happens but not for the funeral. Because there isn’t one. He didn’t want one.
You’ll just get his stuff, the books and the desk and that skirt that belonged to your great grandmother.
And then you’ll sit in the car for six hours and listen to pink floid and the Jackson five and your mother crying until you get home.
And soon it will be January.
You won’t remember what the date was because you won’t want to remember.
But you’ll remember that it was a Wednesday. And you’ll remember that after they were two hours late, you were fairly certain that someone was dead.
And this time,
The suicide won’t surprise you.