I look down, consumed by everything and nothing. Staring so intently on my black Calvin Klein pumps that I am sure I could burn a hole in them. My eyes flick towards the sky, a beautiful blue blares back at me and a soft breeze whips through my hair. Even the earth couldn’t be bothered to cry.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” I step forward, and look down at the coffin. It was simple and stained a light color. My brother picked it out. I couldn’t really muster the strength to participate in any of it. The preacher continues in the background, reading something I am sure Mike helped with. He was always good with those things. Taking care of the family. Funny that he is my younger brother. Things were good, or so they seemed. Until the divorce. But I guess that’s what happens to families.
It gets quiet, and I pause and look around, everyone is praying, heads bowed. At least there’s no one watching me to know that I’m not even paying attention. See, that’s awful. Maybe I’m just distracted. I close my eyes as tight as they can go, trying to muster a single tear. Anything, any sign of emotion that I might be the slightest bit upset. I come up empty handed. Same as yesterday, same as the day before. For someone who can cry at a sappy commercial, I can’t believe how heartless I am being right now. Even as the echoes of strangers voices ring in my ear, “Amen.” I can’t be bothered to cry.
I look up, the preacher is nodding. That’s my cue. I reach out for Mikes hand and we walk to the casket. I don’t remember when I got it, but there’s a flower in my hand. I throw it in, and we walk, side by side and stand near the grave. I’m now facing all those voices I heard behind me. A sea of faces, some I know, and some I have never laid eyes upon in my life. And now they are walking towards us, one by one, in a line.
“I’m sorry.” Says one of the first men I don’t know. He grabs Mike’s hand firmly and claps him on the back in a half-hug. He steps in front of me, “Kloe.” He begins, and then shakes his head and walks off. The look on his face was simply confused.
The line continues. Face after face. Some crying, some not. It’s so awkward; I just want it to be over. Strangers hug me. Aunts that I haven’t seen since I was four years old cup my chin in their hands. Uncles nod at me uncomfortably. People who were simply friends shake my hand, and yet, I still can’t cry.
“I’m sorry about your mom.” Says Angela.
“Thanks.” I mutter back. Even to my own boss, I can’t seem to fake it. And usually, I’m pretty good at faking it when it comes to her.
“No, really. It’s just a shame.” She says, shaking her head. She stands in front of me, her hands rest uncomfortably just above my elbows. I glance to my left, the line is beginning to back up. People are nervously shuffling their feet. “Do you need to take some time off? Do you think you can make it to work Monday?” She asks, looking very concerned.
“Um, no, I’m fine. I’ll be there. I need something to keep me occupied.” I tell her, hoping to avoid the truth. I hate lying. So, I tend to lean towards lies of omission. She hugs me one last time and walks away.
The rest of the group marches by uneventfully. I watch as Mike works the crowd, hugging, and making his ‘I’m going to be strong for the family’ face. I look at him, suddenly confused as to when he got so big. Was it last year, when he became a sophomore in college? Or was it before that, when he played football in high school? Sometimes, you just get so caught up in your own life that you forget everyone else is living theirs at the same time. Where did my little brother go? The one who played out in the woods at all hours of the night, and brought his friends over and went through my stuff?
Kyle was the last in line, purposefully hanging back. “Come on, let’s go.” He puts him arm around me and we walk to his car. I say goodbye to Mike and mumble something about getting dinner together later this week he nods in agreement. A few minutes later, I’m sitting at Starbucks, hands firmly clenched around a warm White Chocolate Mocha.
“So, how are you doing?” Kyle asks, as he looks up from his large brew. I know that if he had his flask on him, he would have already added something a bit stronger to his coffee.
“Fine. Good. You know, whatever.” I say, vigorously rubbing my thumb across the “Chloe” scrawled on my cup. They never spell my name right. Of course, who would expect them to? I mean, who spells “Kloe” with a “K”? Except my mother. Which brings me right back to her.
“No, you’re not fine.” He begins, “I can totally see it written all over your face.” He reaches out and sticks a finger ever so close to my face. “Right there, between those two freckles.” He’s trying to cheer me up. Great. I knock his hand away, with a playful smile.
“Kyle?” I ask, a serious tone rushing over my voice.
“Something’s wrong.” I say.
“Well, duh.” He sips his drink. “I knew that. Why do you think I rescued you from all those people?”
“No, not like you think. I mean, it’s just.” I start.
“Spit it out already.” He smiles his sly smile. Why did we break up again? Oh, yeah, because we were in high school and that was ten years ago.
“You know I wasn’t really close to my mom.” I say as I wad up the napkin in front of me. “We hadn’t talked in a long time.” I stop, and look out the window. A group of birds have made it a game to fly between two trees, back and forth, back and forth. It’s such a beautiful day. It makes me feel even more guilty.
“I just...” I trail off. He raises his eyebrows at me, urging me to spill. In an instant, his easy personality angers me and I want to hurt him. “I’m not upset my mom died. OK?” I spit in his direction as though those words would hurt him at all.
He of course, was unfazed. He sips his coffee and shrugs his left shoulder in a very carefree manner. “Everyone deals with grief in their own way. You’re turning to anger. It’s very normal.”
He didn’t get it. “That’s not it,” my voice tiny, barely audible over the clink of the barista behind me. “I don’t think I ever will.” My anger immediately melts into utter exhaustion.
I watch Kyle take another sip of his coffee. We sit quietly, neither saying a word. Not that I don’t think he has something to add, just that he knows I don’t want to hear anything right now. The silence is interrupted by the muffled sound of my phone ringing. I dig through my purse and pull out my trusty iPhone. My eyes bug out slightly as I read the name of the caller. Oops.
“Who is it?” Kyle asks, more curious than he sounds.
“Um, it’s Will.” I say, not answering it.
“You can get that, it’s OK. I don’t mind.”
I scrunch my face at him in reply. The phone continues ringing uncomfortably. “Um, I don’t think I want to talk to him right now.” I bite my lip. This isn’t going to be good.
“Are you guys OK?” he asks. “Let me guess, you’re not into him. Or, you don’t want to tell him you’re here with me?”
I look back down at the phone, which has finally stopped. I lick my lips, preparing to drop this tiny little bomb. I know Kyle is going to freak. And for good reason. My phone beeps, letting me know that Will has left me a voice mail.
“Well…” I begin, speaking slowly, each word feeling worthy of it’s own sentence. “I, um, haven’t exactly told Will about my mom.” I say.
Kyle comes close to doing a spit take. I interrupt him before he even gets the chance to start. “Look,” I say, speaking quickly, “I know. I know. I should have told him, I just. Well, see, he has been out of town, and this business thing he is working on is very important. And I didn’t want to bother him with my problems. And we’ve only been going out a short period of time, and I was afraid that he might feel obligated to come back here, for me, but, I don’t know if we are there yet, you know?”
Kyle looks at me, takes a breath as though he will start to lecture me, and lets it out. He starts again, “But…”
I cut him off with a look of utter helplessness. I might have messed this one up this time.
He sighs, raises his hand, letting me know I shouldn’t interrupt this time and says, “OK, sooo how do you propose telling him now?”
I take a sip of my coffee and try to gather myself. “I was thinking that I would tell him tonight.” I finally answer, satisfied with myself.
“How? Over dinner?” He raises his eyebrow again. “I mean, that’s not exactly dinner talk.” He breaks into fake conversation with an overly rugged guy voice ‘How have you been?’ and then in a high-pitched voice, “Im fine, my mom died. How was your trip?” followed by laughter.
“It’s not funny!” I say, throwing my wadded napkin at him. “I guess I will just start by letting him in on the background and then just tell him. It’s not that big of a deal.”
His voice was soft, “But, it was your mom.”
“I know.” I say, mostly to myself, “I know.”