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All We Leave Behind

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One

 

I woke with a sense of dread. I was awash with anxiety, an impending sense of irrational doom. It was an entirely inexplicable feeling. A nightmare unremembered I told myself, that’s what it must be, a nightmare unremembered. A loud crash of thunder exploded as if just outside my bedroom window, and in my panicked state, I nearly jumped out of bed. I live alone, and at times like this I wish I had a partner. Someone to tell me ‘relax dear it’s just the storm.’ or ‘you were having a bad dream that’s all.’ Although I had calmed down some, I was in no condition to fall back to sleep. I pulled myself out of bed and headed towards the bedroom window. The view out my tenth floor window was spectacular. Nature’s fury lit the sky with blazing arches of electricity. Flashes illuminated the otherwise pitch-black sky. In the moments of bright light one could clearly see the sheets of rain coming down. I watched for some time drawn into the majesty of nature’s display before pulling myself away from the window. Glancing at my alarm clock the bright red numbers informed me it was just past three in the morning. I stifled a yawn somewhat unsuccessfully, and slowly and sleepily shuffled towards the washroom. Squinting in preparation I flicked the light switch on. My bathroom was small and immediately upon entering it I was directly in front of the mirror. I looked tired and worn out. I had dark circles under my eyes, I hadn’t shaved for a few days and I’d been gaining weight. I figure I was about twenty pounds or so above my comfort zone. I’d been eating too much fast food, drinking far too much and rarely exercising. I looked again at my face in the mirror. It was rounder than it used to be, pudgier. My black hair, though short, still managed to appear disheveled. There were still hints of the man I used to be though much of it had disappeared. At thirty seven I suppose I should be happy to have retained all my hair. I shouldn’t care about the gain in weight or the thin wrinkles around my eyes. Still, the subtle changes my lifestyle had brought wasn’t going to help my prospects any. I was terrible at approaching women. I became nervous too easily. I was inclined to go silent and just not say anything at all. Silence hadn’t proven to be an effective ice breaker. I reached for my bottle of chalky antacid tablets. Recently I had been suffering from increasingly bad bouts of indigestion. Far too busy to visit the doctor was my excuse but truthfully I was putting off the visit. I was certain I would be condemned for my lifestyle. How would I answer his questions ‘How much have you been drinking? Have you been exercising regularly? Are you eating well balanced meals?’ Flicking the light off, I shuffled back to bed and pulled the blankets back up around me. Tomorrow I’d start exercising and eating better, yes, tomorrow. How many times had I said that?

I woke groggily and sluggishly reaching for the ringing phone. It was still dark in the room the red lights of the alarm clock displaying quarter to five in the morning. It took three tired and discombobulated attempts before I successfully grasped the phone.

“Yes… Hello?” My voice sounded gravelly my vocal cords unprepared to work so soon after waking.

“John?” Her voice cracked with either age or perhaps emotion. The woman’s voice sounded familiar yet I couldn’t place it.

“Yes this is John…who is this?”

“It’s your Aunty Beth. John… your brother Frank…. he’s dead.” I felt like I’d been punched in the chest, winded, I had no idea what to say. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to speak. I wanted to disbelieve, this couldn’t be happening.

“What?” was all I could muster, my word barely a whisper.

“It’s a terrible tragedy… we’re all in shock.” I hadn’t seen Aunt Beth in a long time but it sounded like her. My hope that this was a terrible prank call was evaporating.

“How?” My voice cracked but I managed to push the word out with more strength this time.

“There was an accident. They were driving home. They had just had dinner with your father”

“Megan? Kimberly?” Megan was his wife and Kimberly their child, my niece.

“Megan is in critical condition and Kimberly… she... I’m so sorry John.” Poor Kimberly… only ten.

“How’s… Dad? How’s he holding up?” The mental images of my brother and his family flooded my mind. I raised my hand and pinched the bridge of my nose wiping away the tears that were welling there.

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