The moments in a person’s life where everything changes aren’t even the most catastrophic. Sometimes it’s in the hours of empty that follow the catastrophe. In the hours where you feel the life fade away…
What kind of sick bastard—
My first instinct was to block it out. My first instinct was to make it so it didn’t happen, and I was good at it. I couldn’t be Jennifer anymore—so I lost her. I buried her, with…
A mother is supposed to love her kid, so why…? Why ?
I can remember every detail of her room that day. I remember the movement of the sun across us both. I remember the patched blue comforter bunched under her corpse—no, her body.
She’s still alive, somewhere.
She’s got to be.
They say your brain goes into shock in those situations. Mine didn’t. It kept on computing, like it always does. Putting everything that happens to me into eidetic 3-D.
The better to haunt you with…
Her hand was still so warm. So warm. When they pried my hand out of hers—hours (years?) later—it wasn’t anymore. I had held her hand until all the life had drained out of it.
They had tried to carry me out of there quietly—I was a kid, I didn’t deserve to see— . But I remember. I remember the halo of blood splattered on the wall behind her.
What kind of sick—
I didn’t want to go to Jen’s funeral, but I was so young. I had no choice. She was my friend, but I had no choice. They did let me stay later, though. I sat under the tree, alone—so painfully alone—and stared at her tombstone. I sat, and I lost.
You wonder— where would I be if I hadn’t met …. You wonder if you would’ve been messed up by something else. You think, If only… And they tell you that it’s not your fault: you couldn’t help it. But, it is. If you hadn’t dawdled, if you’d ran, maybe… Her hand was still warm, dammit. She was almost there.
What kind of—
I couldn’t handle it, after. I couldn’t deal with long silences, with sunshine. I slept on the floor for weeks afterwards. I wouldn’t drink anything but pure water that I had poured myself. They didn’t even mention her. They stopped calling me Jen, and that was fine. I wasn’t Jen anymore—something inside me irrevocably changed. I became distant from myself, built walls, hid inside the anesthetizing serenity of an inane existence.
Maybe two Jennifers died that day.
Maybe it’s just taken longer on this end.
No one outside my family knew about Jen. It was so easy to erase her from me. It was so easy to erase myself.
But was it, really? I haven’t been able to finish a sentence, a thought, completely, after. Maybe some things are better left unwritten.
Maybe some things are better left unexperienced.
Why did I wear that hoodie that day? Why did they ask?
She was so thoroughly gone. And they asked, and suddenly I was… I was …
Watching the sun go across the floorboards, the foam at her chapped lips. The deadly white hand…
And I laughed.
What kind of sick bastard crushes pills into their daughter’s hot chocolate?
In the midst of a mall, sitting at the bedside of my dead friend. The dissonance from the food court spilling into the memory I’d kept pristine for so many years. They were standing in the room with me. They saw me— young, scared, me—holding desperately to the evanescent warmth of Jen’s hand.
Maybe I never left that room. Maybe she’s always been holding my hand.
And there they were, questioning faces crowding me in. Can’t you see? I wanted to shriek. I wanted to be devastated. There they were; blind witnesses to my life. To my hell.
“I never told you—?” I laughed. “My name’s actually Jennifer—”
Is it? Is it really, anymore?
Who blows their brains out when their kid is upstairs, suffocating, on the drugs you gave her?
They asked about her. They dropped me back into her room after so many years.
I spent that morning—the hellish, cursed morning—in her room.
Surrounded by sunlight spilling into darkness through a window that was nowhere but my mind. By the present living and long dead. By the halo of blood and the sightless eyes—
They were the first to barge into that memory, but since then, eternity has traversed it.
After erasing it for so long—
After erasing myself for so long—
Why does that injustice exist?
I allowed myself to be defined by that moment. I allowed everything of my life—past and present—to shrink into that room with me, after. The layers stopped confusing me eventually. Bedroom—crime scene—layered onto classroom, reaching for a pencil that wasn’t there. Turning on a light that wasn’t… Reaching for a hand that…
Maybe I’m crazy.
Maybe I’m just a singular fucked up life on a world of fucked up lives.
And despite all the other layers that come back to haunt me, there’s something tenaciously debilitating about six-year-old me holding her best friend’s hand until she can’t anymore.
I think I’m going crazy.
“I never told you—?” I laughed . “My name’s actually Jennifer—”
Is it? Is it really, anymore?
It’s not fair, goddammit. It’s not fair!
Happy Birthday, Jen.
I’m so sorry. I should’ve been there, I should’ve noticed. I should’ve spoken up.
I wish I hadn’t erased you from my life. You deserved better. You deserve….
I’m sorry I’ve covered up the person you knew with Lisa. I doubt you would like her. To be honest, I think I hate her too.
Every time I switch from Jenny to Lisa… The lines are blurring, Jen.
I don’t know who I am.
But god, I wish…
I think I’m going crazy.
Happy Birthday, anyway.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
The better to haunt you with,