Green Street (& Broad)
When we drive past the shack on Green Street, the one with the briars and the red door, my four-and-a-half-year-old son points and calls it haunted. When I tell him I don’t believe in ghosts, he says he doesn’t believe me.
It is the anniversary of my friend’s suicide. It is a day that feels like rejection letters, a day in which I have already seen every beautiful thing, a day of heads-down pennies, a day when I look in the mirror and wonder if my face is becoming less symmetrical, if there are parts of me that are just slowly disappearing, a frown line here, the edge of an eyebrow there.
My four-and-a-half-year-old son says that there can be over one thousands kinds of ghosts. Cat ghosts and dog ghosts and dinosaur ghosts, which are the reason for hurricanes and probably tornadoes. “We had a tornado drill at school today,” he says, his four-and-half-year-old stream-of-consciousness faculties turned on full blast. I ask if he had to crouch in the hallway and press his head into the place where the wall meets the floor, and he nods, looking out the window, suddenly serious.
My friend who committed suicide was a dog trainer. All day she worked with dogs, but at night, she said, she dreamed of shoes. Every dream, every night - shoes. Rows and rows of them. Sneakers and high heels, patent leather, suede, shoes she would or would not wear. I used to wonder about this. Do mathematicians dream of faces, estheticians of numbers, shoe salesmen of dogs?
I was at the pharmacy when I found out she was dead. It was the first warm day of spring. It was cool inside the drugstore and I was trying to choose between types of analgesic. My phone rang in my pocket and I when I answered, someone - my mother, I think - told me the news.
Why is our first thought always, how?
Maybe it is a way to delay the inevitable, the sinking-in, the moment or the day or the hour when you realize someone is gone and not coming back. Like my grandfather, after my grandmother died, telling me to move my shoes out of the damn hallway or my grandmother would trip on them and then all of us standing in the hallway, staring at the shoes.
Grief is sometimes like that, sudden and solid, like a brick to your forehead, and other times it is just a fog you drive through everywhere you go.
I’m at least two miles past our house when my child pipes up from the back seat to ask why I missed our turn. By this time we have already circled back past the shack, briars exploding in a crown at the point of the gabled roof. I am pulled back to the car by my son’s voice and then to our house and then to his bedroom where I help him into his pajamas and try to memorize the pattern of freckles across the bridge of his nose.
After he goes to sleep I look up the constellations I recognize on his face but don’t know the names for: Cassiopeia, Delphinus, Canis Major.
Later, I climb into bed and turn off the light. Then, I lie in the darkness and picture my friend with a gun in her hand, then with a bottle of pills, then I see a bridge and I am falling off of it, but when I wake up, there is only the sound of my child’s voice. It is morning, he is telling me, he wants his breakfast. His hair soaks up the sunlight coming in from the window. His head is a lantern that leads me from the dark bedroom and into the sunlit kitchen.
We sit at the island and eat fruit. We feel we have been saved.