23 November 2008

The Ghosts In My Heart

I would have called before I came by, assuming that had been possible. I went to see you this chilly fall morning under a sky of crystalline azure. The wind was slight but the cold has a way of seeping into the bones. This time I remembered my heavy coat and my gloves. I stopped the car and looked across what passes for a lawn, straining to catch a glimpse of you both. Nothing. There was no one else around except for a pair of workmen. They were across the road, one working a backhoe, the other directing from in front of the yellow machine. They were talking with one another; their voices were muffled by distance in between growling bursts of engine noise. The hole in front of the backhoe was slightly larger than a coffin of an adult. A small shiver coursed down my spine.

Finger on the lock button, I hesitated as I always do. There is that moment where I want to turn around and go home, save myself some heartache. Then I feel ashamed. How could I leave now? I came this far already, and I do not get out here often enough. I imagine you both must be waiting patiently, day after day, week after week, and wondering when it is I will arrive. I inhale deeply. There is no real choice but to get out of the car and walk the short distance from the street to your front door. Front door? Who am I kidding, this is not a house.

Stepping out of the car into the white gold sunshine, I am amazed at the quiet. The main road is nearby with a steady stream of cars rolling by in both directions. I hear them as if through blankets. The backhoe coughs itself into silence as its operator shuts it off and jumps down from the seat. The two workmen peer into the hole, conferring with each other. I cannot hear their voices now. Standing now, I can just barely see your stones peeking above the grass. There is a curious sensation in my chest and arms, as if I can feel the turbulence of my blood flowing under the skin. It is not a pleasant feeling. I start forward. The leaves underfoot are no longer red or yellow or orange, but a hundred shades of brown. Their crunch under my feet is astoundingly loud. Beyond in the woods is a crow. Backlit by the sun its ebony silhouette looks like a hole punched into the crisp blue of the sky. Please leave, I mutter to the crow, I am uncomfortable with your implications. The crow ignores me.

How far is it from the road to you? Seventy feet? Eighty? A hundred? I don’t know but it always seems so far. The walk is discontinuous; I keep moving and moving and it seems I am getting no closer until suddenly I am beside you. Things are not very different from the last time I was here, which I find strangely comforting. The markers look metallically stolid under a thin film of dirt. The leaves are heavier on the ground and have collected in the shallow groove surrounding each stone. I feel a pang of regret that I forgot to bring a scrub brush and paper towels like I normally do. I’m sorry, kids, I won’t be cleaning up today. The flowers from the last visit have shriveled into tiny tatters clinging forlornly to blackened and brittle stems. The pot holding them has tipped over on its side, probably from the wind. I brush leaves away from the markers as best I can. There are numerous little stones around both of your borders; you have had many visitors. I choke back a sob, overwhelmed by the kindness of the people who came to see you.
Finally, the leaves are out of the way. Your names stand out in stark relief, yellow metal against brown. The letters waver in and out of focus, shimmering under a flood of hot tears spilling down my cheeks. I close my eyes and find myself kneeling on the ground with my hands on the plaques. I must have taken my gloves off because the cold metal shocks my palms. I can feel the heat bleeding out through them, draining my heart and flowing down into the ground. I hope it finds its way to you. I cannot stand the thought of you both alone, in the cold darkness. I whisper “I love you, I miss you” into the brittle air. Did you hear me? Are you home?

My composure regained, I stand and brush the dirt and leaves off my hands. Time to go. Walking back to the car, I realize I have made a mistake. Your home is not here, in the cemetery. Your home has always been with me: my heart, haunted by ghosts I will not banish.

(For E. and C. Winter isn’t here yet, but it sure feels like it today.)

1 comment:

  1. For all the world to know,my son is a beautiful person.
    We love and miss them also.

    old pop-pop & me-maw


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...