So … I’ve been dying to write lately. Like, really really dying. Plus I have this creative writing: fiction class and we have to write 3 short stories to turn in. I’ve been getting impatient to get a brilliant idea and get something written down.
So, this weekend something came to me and I actually got right up and wrote it down, which is something new and exciting for me. I even procrastinate the good things.
I wrote this little piece, which is about what I remember from the day my grandfather died. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I wrote it a little differently … from third-person, and exactly as I remember it even though I know I don’t remember everything accurately. When I remember those events, it’s like watching a movie. I see myself going about doing things and interacting with people, instead of remembering myself actually doing it.
And it occurred to me that this is something of a recurring theme in my writing in general. This makes the third piece I’ve written about my grandfather. I can only assume I write about him so much because his death was one of the most significant events in my life, and it affected me in some crazy ways. Writing is cathartic for me since I can’t ever express myself as well verbally as I do in writing, so I guess writing about it is a good thing.
Anyway, now I have a dilemma. I wrote this with the intention of turning it in to my creative writing teacher, but technically it isn’t fiction. I could always pass it off as such, of course, but I probably will take creative writing: nonfiction next semester, if it’s offered. So do I turn it in now or save it? I can’t decide, so I’m posting it. Read if you want, let me know what you think.
It’s a depressing subject matter, FYI. I know, duh, but I just thought I’d mention it. My frame of mind has been a little on the dark side this weekend. It’s this fanfic I’ve been immersed in, which also has a character with a very dirty mouth, and consequently I’ve found myself randomly wanting to drop the F-bomb for the last two days. The person responsible for this, you know your blame.
Here goes. This piece is currently untitled.
The girl lay in bed and stared at the sun coming through the gauzy white curtains and making the pale orange walls impossibly brighter. She felt lightheaded, a little confused, almost panicking but not quite. She couldn’t wipe her friend’s words from her mind, the first thing she’d heard when she answered the ringing phone that had awoken her.
Hey, I heard your grandfather died last night.
And her immediate denial. No, he didn’t.
The line went quiet after that. The friend mumbled something and quickly hung up. She blindly set her cell phone back on the table beside her bed and lay unmoving a moment longer, but sleep was nowhere to be found now.
She was reluctant to get up, but she was too tense to lie there any longer. She had to move, had to feel like she was doing something. Above all else, she hated to feel helpless.
She padded down the carpeted hall into the kitchen and searched for something to eat even though she wasn’t really hungry. The house was quiet, and the silence was somehow ominous. She knew her sister was at school and her parents at work, but still the hush felt wrong.
And she knew. Her grandfather had died during the night, and no one had told her. They probably hadn’t wanted to wake her for that. And on top of that, her friend probably thought she was a freak.
She fought the panic rising in her chest, to no avail. Tears pooled in her eyes and she looked around the kitchen frantically, as if searching for something. As if a confirmation of her fears would be written on the tan painted wall or the green countertop.
Her eyes fell on the cordless phone sitting on the island in the middle of the kitchen and she grabbed for it as a drowning man would a lifeline. With trembling fingers she dialed her mother’s office number; the voice that answered wasn’t the one she wanted to hear. Her mom had just left, and was heading home.
This was bad. It was all the confirmation she needed. Why else would her mom leave work so early?
It would only take her about ten minutes to get home from her office, but it felt more like ten hours to the girl pacing in front of the door. She watched her mother’s red car pull up in front of the house and her heart jumped in her throat. All of a sudden she was nervous.
The door opened and no words were needed. She fell into her mother’s arms, sobbing. Her mother said something, trying to give comfort through her own tears, but later the girl hadn’t the faintest clue what she’d said.
She dressed quickly, not even looking in the mirror, and left with her mother to pick up her sister from school early. They agreed to tell the ten-year-old nothing until they got home. The girl wondered how she would keep the tears at bay that long.
Somehow she succeeded and the little girl was none the wiser, excited at the novelty of going home mid-morning. She chattered happily from the front seat while the older girl sat in the back, trying to cry silently.
Their dad was waiting for them at home. He’d been called to his father’s bedside the night before, and he told them how it had all happened: how they knew it was the end, how calm it had been, how the sores covering his body had strangely faded in death, going away once they had claimed his life. He only broke down once in the telling. The girl thought it was strange that he could sit and relate the story so calmly.
An irrational part of her felt hurt she hadn’t been there. She remembered the last time she’d spoken to her grandfather and he hadn’t even known who she was. She remembered waking up in the middle of the night in the quiet of her dorm room crying, begging God. Please don’t take him yet. Please, we need him. Please. She remembered every hug, and wished she’d had more. She remembered the way he smelled. She remembered the sound of his voice leading the family in song. She remembered so many things he’d said, so many things he’d taught her. She remembered the day they found out the strange sores he’d mentioned in passing were cancer. She remembered every sight of the emaciated, weak man who had once seemed bigger than life.
She dreaded the thought of the funeral to come. She knew she wouldn’t be able to keep it together, and doubted anyone else would fare much better. She couldn’t imagine having the whole family together without her grandfather. It wouldn’t feel right. She wondered if she would ever be able to stop crying.
Two days later she was in a hotel room, getting dressed, fussing with her impossible curls, loaning her sister earrings. She had picked the black dress with orange flowers. She knew the heels would be killing her feet inside of an hour. She adjusted the black sweater until it hung just right. She stared at herself in the mirror. Eyeliner probably wasn’t a good idea … What the hell, she raged internally. It may have been stupid, but she wanted to look nice for her grandfather one last time. He always liked seeing everyone dressed up, always enjoyed the sight of his granddaughters in pretty dresses. She always had to be doing something, and here was something she could do for him. She applied her makeup meticulously, taking especial care with her eyes, her best feature. She made sure to put on the treble clef-shaped earrings as another private tribute to her musical grandfather. She primped until she knew she looked her best. No matter what sort of a mess she was on the inside, it wouldn’t show on the outside.
Later she looked back and realized the two days during which the funeral and burial took place were mostly a blur. She couldn’t really remember details. Everything was a little fuzzy, and her memories seemed as if she were outside her body watching herself. What she did remember, she couldn’t be sure it was accurate.
She never stopped crying. The tears periodically dried up, but they were always there, waiting to be triggered. Anything might do it, and usually at the most inconvenient times. To her surprise she found that she could still smile, could still laugh, could still enjoy life. The unfairness of it all grated, and probably always would. She never sang a song without remembering him. A year passed, then two … and she found that he was never really gone. She knew as long as she remembered him, he would live. The tears and the memories were bittersweet. She would take what she could get.