The goats sound like crying children as they bleat at me from their pen. The air smells sickly sweet of hay and a hundred different summer blossoms; and the sky is such a vast, clear blue that it is almost white. I look across the field through the deathly still air at my parents' house. The modest country house is so different from the one they left out west. Our old house was big and modern, with sprawling rooms and high tech appliances. This one was old and small, my mom had called it cozy. I didn't understand why they left their successful careers and moved south to Mississippi to become farmers, until I came to visit for the first time and saw my family happier than they had ever been.
As I open the front door, it creaks a lonely hello and I step inside. I glance around the living room; the walls and shelves are covered with pictures of me and my siblings: my five year old sister in her dance recitals and her gymnastic competitions (always the lead and always first place); my ten year old brother's football pictures (the star player); and my old senior picture. Above the fireplace is our family portrait showcasing our family's notorious good looks, but more importantly, showing off the family my mom wanted everyone to see.
On the armchair next to the fireplace is my mom's bible engraved in gold letters with her name, probably forgotten in her rush to get to church. I think back to the countless hours I had spent in a stuffy church praying to a god I didn't believe in so my Baptist mother wouldn't worry about my soul spending eternity burning in Hell.
In the kitchen is the shelf with all my mom's cookbooks. I think of all the times I choked down food so they wouldn't worry about my weight. She couldn't have known how much the smells of her rich meals tortured me, how with every bite a piece of myself died, how I would go home after my visits and fast for weeks, working out for hours every day.
In the garage is my dad's gun case. I open it and take the pistol out. I think back to that day a year and a half ago when I had sat alone in my bathtub. I was too much of a coward to face life anymore and too afraid to lose control of my own death, so I put the gun in my mouth and tasted the cold, dangerous metal, ready to put it all to an end. Right before I pulled the trigger, my mom called and I realized what it would do to my family if I went through with it, but I never forgot the way the gun tasted.
I walk in to the guest room that my parents use as a trophy room for me. On the center of the wall is the picture of me shaking hands with the president. Beneath that picture is a picture of me accepting a $20,000 scholarship. On the other wall is a picture of me giving a speech to 3,000 different senators, C.E.O's, congressmen,and different wealthy philanthropists. My various other trophies and medals covered the walls along with paintings I had done that won first place in art shows. Each picture immortalized an achievement of mine that was supposed to prove to my parents that they had made the right choice when they adopted me at fourteen. I look around the room and realize how absurd it all is. I take out a trash bag and clear the walls.
The cemetery is small and it doesn't take long to find their headstones, engraved with the names of my whole family, my whole reason for being. I think back to the funeral a year ago. The church was filled with the entire town, along with half of my hometown. I sat in silence as everyone talked about how wonderful they were (as if I was unaware of this fact), what upstanding citizens they were (as if my mother would allow it to be any other way), and how sorry they were for my loss (as if that would bring them back). The pain was too unreal and my dry eyes offended the ones that really loved my family.
Sunday mornings at my parents' house were a battlefield. My mother hated being late for church, so getting my brother and sister to get ready on time was a constant fight. One particular Sunday morning my sister won the battle and my family was late. To make up the time, my dad sped the entire forty minute drive to church. My brother and sister were fighting over a toy in the back seat so my dad reached back to stop them. At that exact moment, someone else decided to run a stop sign and end my family's lives an hour before I would board the plane to visit them (I usually tried to time my visits so I could avoid church).
Amazingly, my brother survived the crash and slipped into a coma. I stayed with him for three nights not sleeping. On the third night, I broke down and asked my mother's god to save him, promising my eternal faith and servitude. He died the next day.
After the funeral, still unable to cry, I flew back home to continue college. A month later I was studying for finals when I realized that it didn't matter anymore what kind of grades I got, they were gone. The icy pain wrenched it's way through my gut and plunged me into a darkness so cold and deep that I knew I would never reach the surface. I stopped going to school and spent most days finding oblivion at the bottom of a bottle.
As I sit now by their graves on this hot Sunday morning, I wonder if their deaths are a punishment for my lack of faith and my innumerable sins. I wonder if there is some sort of afterlife and if my family was in the good kind and if I would go to the bad kind. A breeze cools the sticky air for a moment and I rearrange the flowers on my sister's grave. I take my father's pistol out of my bag, silently tell my family that I'm sorry and put it in my mouth. My phone makes no protest and I pull the trigger.