Bulbous fingers made me hungry
Hunger is for suckers. Crying is for losers and I’d rather drown in the Allegheny River never to be seen again then stand upon an Achilles heel. If I open my eyes it makes no difference, so I let my lids rest. The black dark blinds me and is as soft as the moist moss beginning to grow on top of his grave where I lay each night since they lowered the box a million miles deep under my bent heart. No one will find me here; my family may be looking for me, maybe not because I was never convinced by any of them that I was not invisible and that love was not an albatross; love was a constant drip drip drip between contempt, impatience and avoidance splashed in stained cups and drank without sugar.
Brad was so deserving of his posthumous Purple Heart, but was I deserving when he called me Precious with so much love it boiled? Imagine? Me? Precious? If a soul has a mate, he was mine, until a bomb dropped on us in the form of a tiny blue plastic calculating capsule representing systematic slaughter, all in the name of democracy; as if a rifle placed in the hands of a disengaged 18 year old had something to do with freedom.
Anticipation crawled up our spines delivering ice cubes while we sat side by side preferring to run an infinite marathon to anywhere else other than our own skin while we watched the Vietnam War draft lottery on a 13 inch Sony Triniton. The word HAPPY was erased from it’s cousin, BIRTHDAY when the number 5 was pulled and written next to Brad’s birth date, October 18th. Morbidly freezing my bare broken eyes, the inside of a grotesque morgue grew inside my brain; raw body parts severed by muddled bludgeoning hands hung in the room like veal.
“Why?” I didn’t ask because there could be no explanation. “Why couldn’t those bulbous fingers at the end of the dark suit sleeve reaching into the poisonous drum have picked the capsule to the right instead, pulling up a number like 333?” Neither of us bothered to flinch at the news, comfortably turning into igneous rock, because a dog knows when to let his pack walk on ahead without him when it’s time to lay down and die, so Brad did nothing other than slowly move his right hand up to his neck to straighten his collar, clearing his throat of dreams. Surrendering, unable to touch for a minute too long, unwilling to speak of the dirty word spelled out on the hazy black and white screen in blood;
V I E T N A M, the seven loathsome letters handed us both the inescapable warrant for our arrest.
On the day of the funeral, not one of them standing there sniveling saw me. Although I’m sure their emotions were personally heartfelt, they were too busy weeping like fools into their hankies to notice me. All of them congregated acceptingly over the mocking folded American flag caressing the wood as they lowered the casket. When the ceremony was over, I watched one and all of the able bodies walk away from his death on two legs, returning to a warm house where they stuffed tuna casserole and overcooked lasagna into their eager mouths, intermittently wiping their eyes, eventually drifting off to sleep, waking to an alarm, heading back to school, to work, to living with facts.
There is no evening security guard for the cemetery where I sleep on top of Brad and I almost wish that there was, because from time to time taunting teenagers hunting for the ghosts that don’t want to give them the time of night jump the fence, trying to rabble-rouse the dead that would tell them if they could, “Get a life.” I can always hear them in the distance when they are approaching and I hide like a ninja warrior princess behind a tree or a mausoleum escaping discovery and their lofty notions each and every time, until they quickly surrender, spooked without evidence, chilled to the bone; they exit and I return comfortably to where I belong, where I want to be instead of 16 feet under the rushing water over my dead body.
A fisherman on the Allegheny thought he saw my spirit when it lifted up past his boat heading towards the cemetery and he wasn’t mistaken. Convincing himself I was only a dropped cloud, he went right back to fishing and caught a 40 inch Pennsylvania musky, which dominated his evening story, as fish tales always do, at the corner tavern over a frosty mug of beer, forgetting all about me, the dropped cloud, which is so much easier to explain than seeing the spirit of one sad dead girlfriend.
The living can’t explain after death rules, so there was no heads up for me about where we go when we die. When I strapped the weights around my waist and walked into the water the same day I got the news confirming Brad’s death, I know now I took a chance.
“Where are you Brad? I’m tired of sleeping dead on your grave without you. Come out come out wherever you are so we can get this show on the road. Are you still down there or is there something I don’t know about cowards and heroes needing to be kept segregated after death? Wouldn’t that just be our luck? Much to my chagrin, I must admit that whole number 5 luck of the draw thing is haunting me, making me hunger for you, but don’t worry, I won’t cry.”