The sky was just as blue back then, the grass was just
as green, my dad had the same bad temper he's always had. So he bit his tongue or grit his teeth, and tried to listen when my uncle said people followed him
in the street or in their cars; we took my uncle everywhere after the doctor
said it really wasn't safe for him to drive. Sometimes when I looked at him and
he looked back, he looked as if he'd woken up from a dream or from a coma;
sometimes it looked for all the world like he was about to say, I haven't seen
you since you were about this high, and looking back, sometimes I thought I
might be like my uncle—and thought that I might need to be, at other times.
The sky was just as blue, the grass was just as green,
and when my uncle called that morning we just assumed it was something about
someone who followed him somewhere. My dad and I were supposed to pick him up
that afternoon but whatever my uncle said, my dad couldn't bite his teeth or
grit his tongue, and he slammed the phone down hard. We never asked him why my uncle called, like
it really didn't matter; the sky would
still be just as blue, the grass still just as green, and still, no one talks
about that day.
But we still went to pick him up that afternoon, and we
took the yellow Dodge Charger, the same as we always did; we drove to my
uncle's house the same way we always did, past all the same sidewalks and billboards, taking every turn the same. With the same blue sky above and the
same green grass below, only one of us that day knew the ground can open up so
you fall and just keep falling; only one of us knew then, hell can be as simple
as a middle with no beginning without end.
We found him in a bedroom off the hall, and it wasn't
like you see it in a movie or on TV, where the music swells and stops and
off-camera there's a scream; in a movie or on TV a slow pan shows only the aftermath, only blood is misted on the walls, and in the movies and TV, you are
only spared the sight of what you wouldn't be the same if you had seen.
If the sky is still blue, the grass is still green,
your dad has the same bad temper and the earth still turns the same, then you
still have to put the pieces all together. But there's pieces that don't fit,
there's colors you can't name; the movie didn't smell like the time you left
the iron on too long. You think in ratios, equations, you think if you do this
it costs you that—but music doesn't swell and you don't scream, the dust of
discharged metal just tumbles in the sun.
With the same blue sky above and the same green grass
below, once the services are over and the relatives are gone, everything's the
same as it always was. You still have to do your homework every night, your
mother still makes you eat the brussel sprouts she knows you give the dog—if
you insist on screaming now, you just keep everyone awake.
That's the kind of selfishness that keeps you from
reaching your potential: you understand of course it's your future that's at
stake. You won't get into a good school, or get a good job, or land a good
catch—a nice boy wants a girl who knows when and where to scream.
So you try to hold it in or keep it down. You mix it in
a drink, or keep it wrapped and eat a piece a day. But the scream stays in your
mouth and gets into your hair. It makes you bite your lip and comb your hair
against the grain.
You take a step and fall and just keep falling. Now everything
is middle without end. The grass could turn blue and the sky could turn green—but
you will still be followed, on the street or in your car, by a man who put a
bullet in his brain.