Leaving the Rest of Us Behind

Three True Stories, Imagined Scenes

Summer, 2021

The young woman sits cross-legged on the floor of the small bedroom, meditating. The room is painted a soft buttercream, there is an old wooden dresser re-painted, a small crib.  On the dresser is a wooden box, tied round with a t-shirt.  Tomorrow the woman will have an appointment with the grief counselor, next week with the midwifery team, but for now she confers with her baby boy’s ashes. Why? Was it something I did? Why, why? The t-shirt around the box is hers, the one she wore when she held Jonathan as they withdrew life support, gently- so gently slid out the tubes and the needles. Their Jonathan; she vows to always say his name.

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The 30-something friends reunite over the missing one. An old girlfriend travels back to town, another friend does too. They speak with the distraught parents and the police detectives. The first few days they visit old high school haunts, Fort Bayard park, Fort Reno  outdoor bandstand, the friendly alleys and green nooks where their younger selves used to explore alcohol and marijuana, kissing and confiding. Then they divide the city into a grid and drive their portions in pairs, looking for their friend. They print more and more batches of the police fliers, staple them up. They walk, show the photo to store clerks,  librarians, folks living in tents under the bridges. 

Three weeks have now passed since their friend called his mother in distress, off his meds, in crisis. When she got there her son was no longer there. Later his phone was found on the ground. 

In two weeks he is supposed to be back at work teaching at the high school. Right now he should be strumming his guitar, drinking a cold one, making the most of these last days of summer. He is supposed to be in community but instead he is lost.

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Probably the landlord found him. Probably the dog was barking and barking and someone complained so the landlord took his keys and, dreading, went in, like last time, only this time he was really dead. Dark stubble, baseball jersey, running shoes, sweet boyish face on a young adult man. Was he hunched over the table, on the floor, in bed? Was his face relaxed or was it contorted? Was there a needle, pills, what? Why couldn’t this be another close call? Instead, this time, it was a slipping over the edge into death that cannot be undone. Leaving the rest of us behind.

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