Issue 38 July 2016
I lay facedown on my bed. Unmoving. Silent.
Mom hovers over me. “You really should go, Claire.”
I don’t respond. Can’t. Talking makes it real.
Mom’s hesitation grows thicker and heavier. She’s going to say words I don’t want to hear. Words that will chip at the wall I’ve built.
Don’t say it, I would say, if I could talk. Please, don’t say it. But my lips stay closed.
“Sam would have wanted you to go.”
I say nothing.
She keeps going. “And you know Liz would want you there.”
I hold my silence close to my chest, gripping it like my survival depends on it.
With a long sigh, she backs away. I haven’t looked at her since she came in, and I don’t need to. She’s wearing the knee-length black dress with the pearls at the neckline, the one she wore for Grandma’s funeral. Her brown hair is pulled into a low bun. Her eyes crinkle with concern.
“Your black dress is hanging on your closet door,” she says. “I’ll leave my keys on the table. If you decide you can do this, take my car. The service is at Tremblay’s Funeral Home on Oak Drive. Just…please try.”
I had prepared the speech in my head countless times about what I would say to her if I ever saw her again after that night. It was a week after we had broken up, and we had a relapse in the bed of my F250 truck. I thought for a second that maybe she was back for good, but Gloria was never one that could be tied down for long. So I wasn’t too surprised when she went MIA for three months after.
Then, the letter came.
Meet me at 5pm at The Bench on Sunday. I will be wearing blue.
Yours always, Gloria
I found numerous things to be off about this letter, but that was Gloria. Her noting she would wear blue, even though I knew her body well enough to recognize her with my eyes closed; her capitalizing The Bench to signify its importance even though it was just a random bench we occasionally stopped at on our walks near the park. And then there was her signing the note “yours always” which implied she belonged to me, even if I was unsure she ever did at all.
Gloria always kept me on my toes if anything. She had even taped the letter to my bedroom window. My second story window! How she managed that, I had no idea. It was just another thing I’d never know, another mystery unsolved.
I decided that I’d get to the bench before her. Part of me only wanted to because I worried that she wouldn’t wait for me if I was late. Gloria was hard to tie down to anything. The string to her balloon was much shorter than others. She slipped away too easily. I wondered what she did when she was gone. Did she keep wandering aimlessly or did she eventually pop, tiny pieces of her left to float back down to earth?
I whispered her name to myself over and over, willing her to appear, until I saw a speck of pale blue in the distance. As she moved closer, I could see she wore a floppy sunhat on her head. It covered her eyes as she walked, making her look like she was from another time. Her head lifted as she approached, her gray eyes stormier than I’d ever seen.