i searched the whole yard for a flower worthy to lay on your grave. this rose will have to do. i thought nature was lovely, but i’d rather have you then all the wildflowers that smile up at the sun.
the thorns lining your rose’s delicate stem dug into my skin as i picked it. it reminded me of when you dragged your claws over my arms and left blood behind you. i’ll remember you by my scars.
i remember when you died. i was caught up in the peaceful ignorance of sleep and i had no clue that my world was about to shatter like glass. my mother crept into my room that morning, dragging me into this ugly world that stole you.
“apollo. emily is dead.”
the words didn’t stick. there’s something about death that our minds reject. how can a heart stop? where does the spark in their eyes go? what happens to their soul?
my mother climbed into bed with me. trembling arms wrapped around me as she murmured, “i’m so sorry.”
“i don’t understand.” the heaviness in my soul let me know something was wrong, even if my mind wouldn’t let me process her words. “what happened?”
her eyes were filled with confusion and heartache. i’m sorry for refusing to believe it the first time, mom. i’m sorry for making you repeat that horrible sentence.
“she’s dead. emily is dead.”
i recall that as i tossed the last handful of dirt over your grave, my neighbor strolled past. her world was still intact. she wasn’t missing a chunk of her heart. her gaze settled on us, the grieving group clustered around your resting place, staring at the ground with stinging eyes.
“what happened?” she asked, coming to a halt.
i wanted to scream at her that everything was wrong, that nothing would ever be right again. i wanted to pour my pain and regrets and helplessness all over her so she would find it as hard to breathe as i did. but the only word my mouth could form was your name. and i couldn’t even bring myself to say that. it felt like an anathema, laced with sorrow and guilty black tears.
“we’ve lost someone,” my mother informed her flatly.
“oh. i’m sorry.” she waved and continued on.
my brother mentioned to me one day after you left that i was a perfect example of the kübler-ross model of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
how my mind hadn’t let me fathom the idea of your death at first? that was denial. anger: all those times i tensed up whenever a car passed our road, and i thought i could hear all the bones in your body breaking. i wondered, was it you? are you the one who took her away from me? and those long nights with my face buried in a damp pillow, promising to anyone who was listening that i’d be good from now on, an angel, if only you would show up at my door the next morning. i was trying to bargain with God.
why was there still color in the world? why did the sun still rise? why did people still laugh and smile? why did it feel like your memory was slipping away with every second?
“that’s the depression,” he stated. like everything was facts and science and there was no room for emotion in the universe.
all of this was pointless without you. i didn’t want time to move on.
but it did.
you never got a gravestone. i keep telling myself i’ll fix that someday. but it seems to me that setting a plaque into the earth with your name engraved on it would really mean you’re gone for good. maybe there doesn’t have to be a marker there. the whole place is filled with your presence already.
i visited your grave today. it’s under the almond tree, the one that’s covered with pastel pink blooms in the springtime. when the wind rushes by to sing to you, the petals are brushed off their branches and swirled through the sky. looking up at the clouds, i imagine i can see your face up there. i’ve been holding onto the hope that i’ll see you again someday, when we’re both up behind the sun.
i’m sorry the last thing i said to you wasn’t “i love you.” i’m sorry i couldn’t protect you. and i know “i’m sorry” won’t bring you back.
dead rose, i will love you forever more. (dead rose // the classic crime)
(this was written for my cat, who died the summer of 2015.)