It’s easy to forget the bad things when you deal with them all of the time. For example, my parents had a nasty divorce when I was younger. How did I deal with it? I closed my eyes, let the feelings rush over me, then counted down from ten. 10…they’re screaming at the top of their lungs. 9…it’s all my fault. 8…how can they do this to me and my brother. 7…I can’t breathe. 6…Dad cheated on Mom. 5…he cheated on all of us. 4…we’re never going to see him again. 3…why did Mom let him do it. 2…does he love us. 1…none of it matters. I open my eyes, and I’m numb. It’s a pretty good strategy if I say so myself.

***

As I climb into my car, I realize that there’s still a price tag attached to my black dress right under the armpit. I yank it off and drop it into the cup holder, the place of candy wrappers and random trash. The keys turn. The car starts. Scenery passes. But I don’t see any of it, not really. Visions of his face fill my mind. I remember the first time I saw him. I couldn’t stop looking at him. It was like a movie. Talking to him made my legs shake. I didn’t know those feelings actually existed. But life happened. Time passed. Feelings faded.

I pull into the parking lot of the funeral home and park far away to give myself maximum time alone. My feet carry me to the room. There’s a line, usual for when someone dies young. I stand in it, but I avoid looking at the pictures. I avoid looking at the people. The line moves. I move with it. Like life. Then I’m in front of his family. I hug them. They have the facade of keeping it together. I suppose I do too.

The open casket draws my eye as much as I don’t want to look. His tie is blue, and he looks like plastic. This can’t be him. This can’t be real.

As I move away, my insides tighten, afraid to let go. I’m afraid to breathe. My eyes close. 10…he’s smiling. 9…he’s explaining chemistry. 8…he’s glancing at me when he thinks I’m not looking. 7…he’s holding my hand. 6…why didn’t we talk more. 5…did he feel the same. 4…I almost kissed him once. 3…my heart’s going to explode. 2…tears are drying on my face. 1…when did I start crying. I open my eyes, walk until I’m at my car, and feel the world break.

Fiction

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