ー-ー-ーー-ーーー-ーーーーー 灰 ーーーーー-ーーー-ーー-ー-ー
The honeyed scent of decomposing leaves revealed the end of autumn, drawing near. But while the oaks and elms sloughed off the year, I’d—rather foolishly—chosen to grieve.
Driving my tuxedo-black sedan up and down the coast was beginning to get tiresome. My twin sister sat still beside me, a sooty passenger whose final destination was completely subject to my discretion. Though she appeared somewhat healthy on the outside, the fact is Tea had been very sick—as it were—psychologically-speaking, so to say I was shocked when she died would probably be disingenuous. Our parents, on the other hand, weren’t too privy to Tea’s illness. I remembered how Mom had screamed…
A pickup truck horn fucked my ears up, but it was warranted—I was a full quarter of the way over the double-yellow lines. I couldn’t really even be bothered to flick the guy off, my standard modus operandi in a nonverbal automotive row.
I slowed to a stop and parked, the motor still running. Gliding my fingers across the red velvet sack, I shivered with a chest-deep sorrow at the knowledge of the contents of the box within the bag. Soon it would be winter, and surely the sorrow would only deepen—it could only deepen.
Out in the inlet a few hundred fathoms, the horizon, pinched on either side by a black corset of land, was an hourglass filled with magenta sand that slowly blackened as the sun set.
I’m not sure if it’s even necessary to say, but I was sobbing all the while. It felt nice in a way that engendered brief pangs of guilt. I took my sister by the bag and wandered around with her under my arm for some time, crying. The moon was starting to glow but it hadn’t registered with me that I’d spent almost forty minutes kicking around the inlet; but what does one do with their dead sister? There was, as I saw it, a great heft to the decision, even though all the important decisions were through with by this point.
In the midst of my purging trance, I found myself sitting straight-legged on some sandy bench, sister-in-box-in-velvet-bag in my lap, both of us facing the grey ocean. This sort of sentimentality was never Tea’s speed; I just couldn’t think straight enough to give a damn about picking where a human’s final resting place would or should be. And it was so fucking cold. There was no way I was doing this thing straight-laced. I produced a pocketed bag of joints I’d already rolled. A break into our emergency stash—if there ever were a time for it—was in order. I was sure she’d understand.
A velveteen red bag is not a person, I thought, still crying. There’s no succor in cinders of a ghost. At length I gave a verdant, smoky toast, yet presently the cold began to worsen.
So I stoned myself there for a few, taking in the sounds as the waxing gibbous overhead ascended farther, its strange glow brightening as the hour ran short. It’d been days since I slept in earnest. I was falling asleep despite the shoreward wind pelting me with atomized seawater. There wasn’t really a reason for me to sober up before I headed home. I rose with my second joint in one hand and Tea under the opposite arm.
Hardly a hint of purple left in the sky, I dreaded our imminent separation. Continuing to toke, I tearfully pulled the white box containing Tea’s remains from the plastic bag within the velvet sack. I opened the box and a portion of the top layer of ash whirled away on a gust, almost mirthfully; like some little air spirit. I—just barely—smiled at the playful tradewind.
But on my back I felt a brazen hand: a wretched thief snatched up my sister thus, ostensibly forever parting us. I had no solace left but shells and sand.
“Just wait, please,” I choked out softly through sandy teeth. “Just wait, please.”
I watched the fiend clad in black and red abscond, stopping a split-second to pick up the now sea-brined and gritty joint. What a dunce! I felt my vision betraying me; in part because of my utter disbelief at the evil fool’s intentions, and in part due to the blinding combination of mist and wet sand coating my eyes. I felt it cake up behind my optic nerve and coughed—heaving my lungs out—as the beach entered my windpipe.
“Wait,” I screamed silently. My voice failed me. No way they would hear me. My muscles failed me. One eye still adhered to the beach, I saw the wicked one poof down in the sand, much like myself seconds earlier (sand isn’t conducive to chasing). I barely had time to register Tea’s ashes, exploded in the air in a mushroom cloud, vanishing with the heavy wind.
I scrambled to my feet, still shaking and sputtering as sand spilled from my every orifice.
“Wait!” I screamed again, this time the sound actually being produced.
“Wait!” responded the villain in kind. “I thought it was—”
No more waiting. I didn’t care. I wanted to hurt somebody. It’s what I needed to do. Could I even be legally responsible at this point if I end the despicable criminal’s life? She was stolen from me; my own sister! There was a crime committed and the guilty needed to pay, as it were.
The grave-robber, face coated in my twin’s ashes, resembled a kabuki performer caked in white makeup. I screamed bloody murder and grabbed their black sweater by the hood as they gasped for breath. Swinging at them in an obviously untrained—and admittedly overzealous—manner, I whiffed in the dark, giving my opponent the chance to subdue me.
And subdue me they did. I was grabbed hard on my extended forearm and a swift karate chop was delivered to my upturned elbow, dislocating it.
“Fuck out of here!” they commanded in time with the chop, sounding as though they had borrowed the very voice of God; the pain was electric-white in color, and for a blinding moment I considered that they may have been God. I crumpled, screaming in agony. Finally something had overwhelmed the sorrow: the pain; the pain of having your joints blasted by a weed-starved drifter.
Not before kicking sand over my body several times, my adversary ditched their plan to steal my sister, now that they had unambiguous confirmation that she wasn’t, in fact, drugs.
Stealing away into the night, I heard my elbow’s-bane one last time, exclaiming, “My bad, my bad!” which resonated through the shoreline and all up and down my backbone.
Your fucking bad?
Clutching my arm and moaning, I turned an eye to Tea’s now virtually empty white container.
Alas, the wind had shifted by this point, and she was now being carried on the prevailing westerly wind into the blue night. Some ashes flew into my eyes, mouth, and nose as I lay there, just as every other errant particle had up to that point in the evening. The taste was weirdly sweet, like a mild confectioner’s sugar, and felt almost palliative on my tongue and lips. I forgot about my destroyed elbow momentarily, at least. But she was now gone, mere dust left in the white box and on the damp beach.
I rose to my feet yet again, my eyes red from countless consecutive stressors. I made my way to the shoreline, shivering, hobbling like I’d aged sixty years. The water seeped into my sneakers and squished around in my socks; a generally sickening and uncomfortable experience for me. Wading further, I steeled myself against the bitter ocean, and knelt down to wash my face off. Dirt and sand and soot and spit flowed off my skin and, now able to take in my surroundings, I inhaled profoundly. The moon was white and fully illuminated, giving a delicate shine to everything in view.
Tea would have been delighted to be exactly where I am on exactly this type of night; the moon hanging high, the stars visible from hundreds or thousands of light years away, and the sky a deep blue, like it was painted by Giotto himself.
My sorrowful baptism concluded and I trudged back to the shore, defeated. As I sat my soaked ass in the driver’s seat, all thoughts returned to Tea. I wasn’t sure how I would resume my life after this. I had failed Tea in life and now, I had failed her in death too. Gazing skyward, I reckoned that the moon looked fuller than it was just some time earlier. Again—just barely—I smiled; again, I felt guilt.
…A slightly less profound guilt, to be certain, but guilt nonetheless.
I started the ignition with my off-hand, still observing through the moonroof.
The moon was an aspergillum, blessing me with its heatless glow. This grief—this demon—I’d needed it exorcized, and maybe the only holy way to do so was those sanctified ashes, or so I’d begun to think. Would Tea have chided me? For being indecisive? If our places were switched, as I’d wished they were so many times since she died, I know she would’ve been able to choose my final resting place. Perhaps that transient druggie had actually done me a favor, in some perverted, sick twist of fate.
It even crossed my mind—just a skosh—that I would never be able to match up to Tea; that I’m now forced to stand on her shoulders for the rest of my life.
Tea’s spectral voice seemed to flicker in my head. I heard a buoy bell in the distance.
“How pathetic; you believe in ghosts?” she scolded. “You’re kidding yourself…Comparing yourself to a dead girl? You’re better than that…” I shuddered at the irony and hoped the hauntings wouldn’t be so consistent.
“Go home,” Tea advised. “I’m good.”
Her voice faded. The bell was silent, too.
My bad arm was still radiating a painful warmth, but I managed to pull out of the parking lot; I’ve just turned onto Bridge Street. My biggest anxiety is how my parents will react when I tell them I was robbed. I’m not sure if I should head home or to the hospital. I want to try and decide that—something—on my own, for once. But I’m nervous, especially to face that headlong, and as one sole person.
And now I’m driving inland toward my home; ashen, frigid, briny, and alone.
ー-ー-ーー-ーーー-ーーーーー 灰 ーーーーー-ーーー-ーー-ー-ー
The honeyed scent of decomposing leaves
Revealed the end of autumn, drawing near.
But while the oaks and elms sloughed off the year,
I’d—rather foolishly—chosen to grieve.
A velveteen red bag is not a person.
There’s no succor in cinders of a ghost.
At length I gave a verdant, smoky toast,
Yet presently the cold began to worsen.
But on my back I felt a brazen hand:
A wretched thief snatched up my sister thus,
Ostensibly forever parting us.
I had no solace left but shells and sand.
And now I’m driving inland toward my home;
Ashen, frigid, briny, and alone.