Your Check will be Waiting at the Door This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

YOUR CHECK WILL BE WAITING AT THE DOOR



I died in the dream, but I didn’t wake up. Not like you’re supposed to. When you’re falling, but never make it to the impact. This time I landed, and stayed down.

-----


She sifts through the old newspaper clippings. Eyes darting from headline to headline, not looking at the articles themselves. Why should she? She’s already read them, more times then she can count. The same information in every one. Slain Hikers were Avid About the Outdoors. Elementary school librarian mourned. Summer 2006. Nearly five years ago. God, time had gone fast. Faster than she’d had expected. Because back then, time stretched out forever. A day was a week and a summer was a lifetime.

------


And then, I’m not sure how it happened, but I was in a classroom. And I must have been living, because I wasn’t dead, but I couldn’t have been living, because you were there. Teaching the class as though you’d done it every day for years.

-----


That had been the last summer. The ending of a world. The last summer with elementary school friends, the last summer before her life twirled away into another orbit. Into a place where grades existed and classes changed and teachers were called by their last names and it was as different as possible from the world she’d left behind.
-----

And the other students didn’t know you. You didn’t know me.
-----


Of all her summers, it’s the one she regrets the most.
-----


And I told you. “I can’t call you Mrs. Copper.” Because I wanted you to ask me why.
-----


It was the summer she let go of all the friends she had fought with. The summer drowning in tears. The one with all the summer camps, jumping from activity to activity. The summer she broke down behind the dining hall. The one with the funeral she didn’t attend. The sleepovers. The joy. Just that summer. The summer it should have rained.

-----


But you didn’t notice.
-----


She doesn’t go to the candlelit walks anymore. Oh, she should. Just like the funeral, she should cancel her other plans, and honor the dead. But candles can’t burn away missing. And she never got that moment of ending, a closure, never fully accepted the truth, (can never take the image of someone she knew, someone so alive, and imagine her lying on a hiking trail with a bullet in her head,) and so the walks—they mean nothing. (And it’s not like she has to dedicate time to thinking about the dead, because she does that too much already.)

-----


Maybe you didn’t hear me. Maybe you were just ignoring.

-----

There’s been too much life between now and then. And on the rare occasions she goes back, back to that place, (to the school with its low ceilings and narrow hallways and pond they thought was so cool, ) she’ll stand in the library, the library with the yellow carpets and the rows of picture books, and wait.

Wait for Mary to come around the corner. Wait for the check at the door.

-----


And I left the class. You didn’t look at me, and I walked slowly up the stairs. High school stairs. Going somewhere, somewhere up. Until I wasn’t, anymore. Until I was just standing, staring down at the brown plastic floor. Because even in dreams, you can recognize anger.

-----

No closure, but who cares. Life goes on. Life always goes on, if you’re the one left living. It was as if the gunshot (gun fired by mystery hands,) pushed her farther forward, forward into another life. Holding the doors more firmly behind her until there was no returning at all.


And I turned, ran back into the class. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” I demanded. “Why didn’t you tell? We all missed you. What about Susanna? Is she okay too?”

-----


It was three years later, washing tables in a shelter downtown, when she heard the name again. Mary Copper. Mary Copper. Screamed over and over, followed by a loud “Wake up!” And she jumped, confusing thoughts tangling in her head while she tried to understand what was going on. (Because the rational part of her brain is frozen in shock and the irrational part just hopes— for a full second, believes the impossible—) And then someone starts poking a woman passed out cold on one of the tables. “Mrs. Copper!”

-----


I woke before you looked up.
-----


And of course it’s someone else, it’s someone else, but it still takes several minutes for her to be able to breathe again. Several minutes before she can continue wiping down the tables that are already clean.

-----

After all, I’m just one student among hundreds.

-----

Because four and a half years ago she ran down the hall, looking for more yearbook, signatures. Four and a half years ago, she said a hurried goodbye, the last goodbye, barely a syllable. Four and a half years ago, she left.

Leaving all her checks waiting at the door.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback