when i told her that he was gone, how she collapsed into herself. how she crumpled like papers that he used to toss so carelessly after writing another passage that didn’t satisfy him. it would have broken you too to watch a woman so frail break with the whisper of two syllables.
how her hands had trembled and she wouldn’t look at me. but how i wish she had. how i wanted to tell her how much i had loved him too in my own way, hilariously grudgingly at first but eventually so fiercely that our friendship could only be deemed unbreakable. how i had been so young, how i had been so naive that day i first knocked on the large, polished oak door at the end of the elm tree trail, asking for that painting. who would have thought that such a chance encounter would have sprung such a strong yet elusive connection?
the memory that jumps out at me is the one where i’m standing with him ensconced in the graying concrete facade of the abandoned clinic, dangerously overdressed for such a dirty empty place. my mother’s pearls were strapped securely around my neck, hair coiffed so perfectly; how my mother would have finally approved if she had seen me. him in his three-piece suit, not a scuff mark to be found on his leather loafers, tie undone. there were nothing but grey walls to appreciate our black-clad elegance, which almost felt like a waste of effort save for the illicit purpose of this adventure. i had felt so alive at that moment, like i was useful, i was smart, i was in on a sinister secret. i was a partner in crime. perhaps it was the stark briskness of the cold surfaces and air that piqued my senses, but i had never so ready to live in the moment. i remember vividly the way we stood apart, the way we acknowledged that we were associates, not friends. oh how far we had come: i had grown since he had met me. i had grown taller, i was older, i looked so much like my mother whom he had never met. i had felt so in-control, so invincible in the moments when he looked at me to acknowledge my presence. how… in that moment i knew that i could not turn back and i was okay with that. i was okay with saying goodbye to the normal, to the mundane, to the over-romanticized. i was willing to trade everything for a life of hard, frightening danger.
i’ll never forget the funeral in his backyard in the backdrop of his sprawling veranda, surrounded by all his friends in white wicker chairs, the green so bright and pervasive it just felt too fertile a setting for such a drab ceremony. and everything was white. everyone was white tinged with a kentucky glow. the air was so warm and so moist that i swore that if i licked the air, i would catch dew on my tongue. and i wore white. i wore that white dress i swore i would never wear again. i wore it defiantly. i stood.
i was strong when she collapsed. i trembled, ready to burst at any moment, as chests shook. i was going to continue his legacy.