Fall letter

Megan,

I spent an hour this afternoon singing with my brother. He can hit the higher notes better than I can, and I took a video that I’ve watched a few times over now. There is so much liveliness there, in the way his hands spread out in the air, his laugh. He can always make me laugh. I remember nights of sitting at the dinner table watching him choke on milk through that laugh. That sounds terrible, but you’d have to see it to understand.

I don’t think he’s over you. This time of year, his smile comes a little slower and he always remembers to tell me goodbye before I head back home, peeling himself away from a game to make sure he hugs me. I wonder how many times he has thought about hugging you for the last time. How many times he thinks about the last moment he saw you. Were you smiling, too? I wasn’t there for him when you left. Part of me feels that I’ve been trying to make up for that ever since.

Was it raining that night? Were you listening to the CD he made you? I found one with your name on it in the box of music we keep in the dresser in the spare bedroom. I don’t think he has forgotten he put it there. I haven’t listened to it. Put it back quickly when I realized what it was.

I don’t remember if I ever spoke with you. Were we ever introduced, or did you just hear about Jacob’s big sister from the conversations in the hallways? Surely we had been in the same room a few times.

I am afraid of death, not so much in that I am afraid to die (though I am), but that I have never really grieved. I’ve seen my mother break down when my grandmother passed too soon. Saw my father cry for his parents. I’ve seen the shell of a person waking up and going to class and coming home to lock himself away again. I’m scared I’m not as strong as anyone in my family, that when I lose someone, I will crumble to bone. In H is for Hawk, grief takes the form of a goshawk. All of the author’s energy and will and devastation from the loss of her father is braided into the line she uses to keep this animal from flying off, leaving her. There is nothing but beak and feathered wing and rabbit meat in her world. I am afraid to lose myself. Jacob did. For the longest time he wasn’t there anymore. And I wasn’t there to help.

I often write about my father dying. It must be to try to prepare myself, but there is nothing to prepare. I keep coming back to the question of what a shadow is made of. Not atoms, but a void. I can’t prepare for a void.

I tried to write to you before. I’ve started many letters like this. Your scholarship fund is up to $1685 this year. There are 211 people following your page.

Your father wrote “Megan, the world just isn’t the same without you.” The list of things that made you happy on the memorial website includes “crying (with the people you love),” “riding with the windows down,” “a huge mood/attitude change in the form of New Balance sneakers,” and “Fridays.”

It’s been seven years. You died on a Friday. Jacob hasn’t dressed up for Halloween since.

In your writings, you talk about disappointing people and American materialism and fabricated friendships and music and a quote from a song I really like. I can’t remember the name of the artist. I wonder if it’s on the mix tape. “And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table.” The album was called Wreck of the Day. I’m sure I’m not the first person to note that.

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