Life Goes On
It amazes me the way the world goes on. The cars whiz by. I don’t want to see the bridge. Mom insisted. Just as she insisted on seeing Casey’s body. Her body. Her tangible body. I didn’t want to. I waited in the lobby of the funeral home, it’s black wood bench, high carved ceilings. Then, too, I heard the world going on. I cracked the door, shut it quickly. I didn’t want the sunlight, the pedestrians, the barking dog. Our world is here, I thought, where downstairs my mother and brother look at my sister. And it occurred to me that I am like she was: I create my own reality. I choose not to see her that way: her missing eye, the claw marks, all done by her. I want to remember her the way she was when she handed me a green basket with plastic grass and chocolate eggs on Easter in 1977.
Dana is quiet as he drives. He doesn’t want to climb this bridge either, I think.
“How did she get up here?” Mom says. There’s no sidewalk, no room for pedestrians.
“Must have hitched and made the driver stop,” Dana says. “They said she died as soon as she hit the water. There wasn’t time for much pain.”
“Stop the car,” Mom says, at the top of the bridge. We’re in traffic, but Dana puts on the hazards, shifts into park. It’s so bright out. My hand is against the door handle. I could do it too. I could pull the handle, climb the fence, and jump.
Cars honk behind us. I don’t understand Mom’s insatiable need to see: the bridge, the body, Casey’s one room apartment. Such probing, and years from now she won’t be able to say my sister’s name. And if somebody asks her how many children she has, a lump will rise from her womb and take away her voice.
But now she wants to see and neither Dana nor I can tell her no. It’s so goddamn bright I want to scream. The boats look like toys, tiny and slow. Finally we drive on. Dana forgets the hazards until we’re off the bridge. When we get back to the house Mom turns to Dana and says:
“Why didn’t you buy her new curtains? She had sheets on her windows, for Christ’s sake. Why didn’t you help your sister?” I’m still in the back and I want to stop them. We’re in the shade now. The seat is cool against my let, though still damp from my sweat.
“Curtains,” he says. “You’re asking me about curtains. How can I explain it to you.”
“I don’t know, “ she says. Her eyes are fierce, puffed, fierce. “I’d like to hear it.”
“I tried to help her. I tried so many times. Curtains, Christ.” He shakes his head: disbelief. They are both quiet now. Dana is frowning; if he talks more he will cry. I wish we could go inside. We sit in the car; it’s silenced our world. When one of us opens a door we’ll hear the neighborhood kids, or a distant car horn, or the buzz of a lawnmower. It will remind us that the world goes on. It should stop, I think, just for a minute. As we sit I think, I believe him. I believe he tried to help her. And yet, I want to know about the curtains too. I’ll never ask.