Chapter 16

313 13 5

You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently.
Why hold onto all that? And I said,

Where can I put it down?

- The Glass Essay, Anne Carson


Looking up at the stars, at the fragments of fireworks that glimmer like stars, I feel smaller than a human. And I relish it. 

I remember how, as a child, I had it lodged in my brain that my mother could hear my thoughts. I remember how that panic would make me seize up, how I would pray every night before bed that she'd be good enough not to intrude on the only place where I had some sanctity in being alone. There's the roar of the crowd around me, the glimmer of the sky like eyes into the night, and I think everybody intrudes whether they mean to or not.

My eyes blur around the moon, and I'm too tired to refocus them. I imagine this is what it's like to exist without a body: moving through objects with no clear distinction. I question if death is just the second dimension, a flattened surface that doesn't care to assert itself. I wonder if, now that she's dead, Grace's thoughts just intermingle with wind and light as if they were one and the same. I wonder if thinking is enough to make someone human, or whether those thoughts must be pried away from everything else and trapped inside the body, and whether the body is the true master in the end. 

Oscar's hand squeezes mine again, and the tremor of my fingers reminds me that the body is always the true master in the end. 

"You good?"

I blink in response and my eyes sharpen, and then I look at Oscar's face - illuminated with warmth - and feel something equally warming pulse within me. 

"I'm good." I say, and that sensation returns; the feeling like water trapped under my tongue, the feeling like I'm humming on a stable frequency. I start to think maybe the piano has lost its allure because my body is the instrument now, beating and humming and shaking and transmitting - think about how the ultimate paradox of grief is how it makes you so alive. 

Oscar smiles, the last firework pops overhead and the crows cheers. My head feels heavy with thoughts so I lean it against his shoulder, lean it just as music strikes up and pours thick and heavy like a stream of treacle through the snow. Weighed down and stuck to where I stand, my body finds some way to finally relax. Breathe. 

It's summer outside; the rain is warm. Grace watches me watch it like it's somehow more rewarding to live vicariously. I'm caught up in the smell of the outside which is splashing in through the open window. I ask her if summer is her favourite season, because that's something I should know and yet I don't. 

"I don't have a favourite season. I always prefer the one I'm living in." 

And I hum in acknowledgement, turn away from the window to the television to tune into the unravelling episode onscreen. The hum of the TV, the steady pour of rain from outside, the sounds of Grace's hands tapping over the remote - these are the things I take in instead of the plot line. When she laughs and turns to me - when she chooses to invite me into this smiling moment like she does for everything in life - I smile back and it's not because of the show. 

We don't really say 'I love you' all that much in our family. I'm not desensitised enough to the words not to feel fire burn in my chest when she wraps an arm around my neck and pulls me in and whispers with sincerity that is entirely unfamiliar- 

"Love you, Natty." 

And it's probably minus five degrees outside, but the memory makes me feel warm and safe. Even though it's dark, I feel like I could blink things into vibrancy with the knowledge that she loved me. I don't know if that's delusion, or if this is what it's like to see again after being couched in shadows for months. My heart beats like it's finally safe to. 

The Jump That Left Me StrandedWhere stories live. Discover now