I find myself looking for you at every turn. In the puddles on the sidewalk on my morning walk to work, in the car behind me and everywhere else in between. I keep hoping I’ll see you in the background hiding behind something for all these years. I wonder what you would look like now 6 years later, with something that might pass for wisdom in your eyes. You had experienced enough pain to have lived a thousand years, yet you were only 17.
I wonder what you would be doing right now, you had so many plans and so many dreams. There weren’t enough stars in the sky to wish for them all. You used to say:
“I’m going to be a writer and artist and I’m going to change the world”,
with just enough of a smile that I knew it was true. I wish that you had been able to accomplish at least one of those dreams, but you were only 17.
After I found out you were gone I found myself seeing you everywhere, in the hallways at school, in the back of the room in math class throwing staples at our teacher, on the school bus ride home talking animatedly about boys and shopping and all the other pursuits of teenage girls, but most of all I saw you in the background of the most random places; the store, a restaurant, walking down the street.
What bothers me now, is that I have stopped seeing you. I look and look but don’t see your face anymore. As long as I was seeing you even if it was just a flicker it meant that I haven’t forgotten, now I find myself struggling to remember the specifics of your facial features, the jauntily way you walked, and the way your voice sounded. It scares me that I may be forgetting you.
It scares me that I am moving on and growing up without you. I am graduated college and you never even got to graduate high school, never got your license, never went to the prom, never turned 18 or 21, got married or had kids. You never heard your name change to “Mom”. You never got to see your hair turn gray with the worries and trials adulthood brings. You were only 17.
Today would have been your twenty-ninth birthday but eighteen would have had to come first. I stand at the wrought iron cemetery gates, the cool spring air carries with it promises of warmer nights. The air weighs heavy with aching guilt and unending sorrow. I grasp the bouquet of flowers so tightly in my right hand that my knuckles turn white in the moonlight. Slowly, as if walking on ice, I move toward the graves. I scan the headstones and markers until I see:
April 15, 1989- December 12, 2006
I fall to one knee and release the flowers from my clenched fist. In the silence of the night, I hear the clear cellophane that encases the flowers crinkle as it hits the ground. It startles me. The grass is still wet from this afternoon’s shower and I can feel the earthy water seeping into the knee of my jeans. The wind blows cold, the trees sway in unison. The cold sends shivers up my spine. I bow to confess:
I wish you were here.
I miss you.
My eyes begin to burn with fire creating twin rivers of salt water on my cheeks, that quickly to turn to ice in the wind. I quickly wipe my face clumsily with the back of my hand and look around habitually to see if anyone is near. Tears still flowing, watering the grass that grows on your grave, I stand up. I raise my head and see the clear black-blue sky contrasted by starlight. There are so many stars right now, but I only need one. I think about the time, another lifetime ago, when I thought the stars served as postcards to Heaven. I think I’d like to send one now.
What would it say?
I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t save you. I’m sorry all those wishes you sent to the stars never came true. I miss you. I wish you were here.
I glance down and see the flowers I dropped earlier. Purple carnations. Your favorite. Remember? You don’t like roses. They are so shy and proper and tightly wrapped.
Carnations you said,
are open and proud, unafraid to expose their most vulnerable flesh.
A small smile stretches across my face at the memory and I look up at the stars once again.