It Gets Better


  She was awakened by a bug.  She didn’t know what kind of bug it was, just that it was black and it had grazed her cheek and buzzed.  Maybe it was a fly?  It didn’t matter.  It had brought her back to life. She had been lying there with her face pressed to the earth for more than an hour and she winced as she pulled herself up. She brushed the bits of dirt and leaves from her cheek and traced her fingers along the lines that had been imprinted by the blades of grass.  She breathed in deeply, wiping the crust from around her eyes and exhaling a slow, long sigh.  It had been a good cry.             Leaning back on the palms of her hands, she again breathed deep, this time the scent of summers’ exit.  She watched the branches of the mournful willow tree sway in the reflection of the polished granite.  She could see herself there as well and she thought that her long, uncombed hair looked like the wispy branches of the tree swinging across her sad, dark eyes.  The stone was beautiful for something meant to mark death. She had used the last of their small nest egg to buy it. It was important to her that it be beautiful and strong, She wanted him to have a headstone that would still be standing in a hundred years, to remind the world that he had lived, one that would tell people at first glance that he was loved.              But the stone meant nothing to her now.  The engraved words, the dates, his name, were engraved on her soul.  The headstone was just a towering rock that cast its shadow across her body after mid day.                          For the most part her family had been right.  They had all told her, in their ways, that it would get better and it had.  It had been six months since her love had died.  Now it was early September and she could get out of bed in the morning.  She could also brush her teeth, drive to work, go through the motions of her job, microwave a frozen meal and come here to Hope Cemetery.  “Hope” Cemetery. She mused cynically at the name. She knew some who visited the dead here still carried some remnant of hope, but not her, not anymore. In the first weeks after his death there was a part of her that held out hope that there was some mistake. There was a mix up. Her husband wasn’t dead just missing, that he was a John Doe in the hospital suffering from Amnesia. She had seen his body, held him, felt the coolness, the emptiness, but who experiencing the trauma of losing one so loved, hasn’t imagined something untrue?  Yes, the cemetery was where she could be found when she wasn’t at work or sleeping.  Unless it rained.  When it rained she stayed home and watched TV, the same programs that they used to watch together.  On the local news, there was a weatherman they had joked was a robot.  He never blinked, he moved mechanically.  When he spoke, they use to break out laughing. Now she cried.   But it hadgotten better.  At first his death had been a horrible pain in her body’s’ center and in her chest and in her brain.  Now it was like little pains all over her body and the horrible pain only returned when she thought about one of the little pains too long.              She was glad  he was buried here, in this corner of the cemetery with the willow tree.  He would have liked it because of the tree and the Chickadees.  He would have liked that when you lay down on his grave, you couldn’t see any of the other headstones and you could imagine that you were anywhere.  She was also relieved that the big willow kept her privacy, obstructing the view of her weeping and tearing at the earth.  If somebody saw her, they would assume that she needed consoling, that she wasn’t alright.  Though it had gotten better, she still needed this, she needed to cry. She needed to be close to him.             She was losing him.  She knew that he was gone, but his memory was fading as well.  Sometimes when she tried, she couldn’t remember his face.  She might remember his mouth laughing or his eyes, but the rest of his face was just light, a a translucent shimmer.  The last vivid memory  she had of his face was of him lying in the casket.  He hadn’t looked the way  she had imagined.  He looked strong and healthy and peaceful.  She had searched for the wound that had killed him, but there didn’t appear to be any evidence that he had been through the trauma of a car accident.  Except for the cut on his right hand. She couldn’t see it because of the make up, but she could feel its rough edge.  His face was perfect.             Today she felt bitter.  She had noticed that some of the maple trees in the cemetery were beginning to change color.  She started thinking about the coming fall and harvest time and then about how they had planned to have a farm and were going to sugar and grow veggies and raise chickens and children and it wasn’t fair, they hadn’t had enough time to do any of it.  She watched a yellow maple leaf spiral to the ground and thought of the scowl he use to give her when he caught her chugging off of the jug of Maple syrup.  He couldn't get mad at her, she had told him on their very first date that maple was her weakness.  She couldn’t remember him ever getting angry with her, he was always gentle.  That’s how the horrible pain would return, thinking about those little ones.                 Of course she knew  she could end it.  Her doctor had prescribed enough pills for the anxiety, the depression and for sleep.  She didn’t believe in God. She couldn’t remember if she ever had, but now she was sure. She didn’t fear hell.  It would be easy.  But if she were dead, she wouldn’t feel anything, not even this pain, and she needed the pain, it was all that she had left of him. That and the sheets.  She hadn’t washed the sheets since he died.  She could still smell him, a subtle scent of wood smoke from stuffing the stove that last morning, a little Tea Tree oil from his after shave. There was something left of him there in the sheets, sweet like milk.  Sometimes as she lay in bed mourning him, enveloped in the emptiness, she would  stuff a corner of the sheet into her mouth, sucking the traces of salt left from his sweat. and as little as it was, it was enough to live for.   And she had the cemetery.  Here she could be close to him.  Sometimes when she looked into the reflection of his headstone, she almost expected to see his face, except that she didn’t believe in ghosts.  She didn’t believe in spirits either, or an afterlife.  She didn’t come here because she sensed his presence or because she believed  he could sense hers. She was here simply to be close to what was left.  She shivered, stopping herself from imagining what was left. Sometimes, as she lay upon his grave, she would burrow her finger down into the earth, just to get closer.   She was like a dog with an old wound. A dog seems to forget about his injury and goes about his routine of burying bones and begging for treats, but eventually he goes someplace private and gnaws at the wound until it bleeds and then he licks it clean.  The trees rustled with the arrival of the cool evening breeze.  She looked around the cemetery, it was getting late, it would be dark soon and she knew  she should go.  She had fallen asleep here in the past and had been terrified when she awoke alone in the dark cemetery.  Although she didn’t believe in ghosts, there was something paralyzing about a cemetery at night.  She picked herself up, brushing off her clothes.  She looked again into the stone, her reflection was pale and seemed transparent, “I’m the ghost”,  she thought to herself looking at the dates engraved in the stone. She sighed, Six months; it felt like a day, an eternity, a dream.              She wiped her eyes and pinched her cheeks; she didn’t want to be a ghost.  Turning away from his headstone she started down the grassy hill toward her car. She didn’t look back at the grave, there was nothing there, nobody to say goodbye to. She knew this, but she paused to listened to the Chickadees making the last calls of the evening and looked at the swaying willow and at the falling yellow leaves. She thought of her home and the lonely quiet that awaited her and thought that maybe, before she went home to watch the robotic weatherman and cry, she would stop and get herself a maple sundae.     

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1 Response Feb 20, 2009

wow like im speechless that was so amazing. Im so touched. Stories rarely make me cry but this was just so heartfelt like with powerful emotion wow i loved it