Your Picture

I saw your face in a slideshow in a memorial service for your aunt. My heart stopped. I swear your picture gets me every time.

You stood there with the deceased, arm in arm and smiling. Unaffected by the world. Two ghosts in a still frame. What about the ones you left behind?

The other woman, your aunt, died a year ago. Her husband sat silently through the service, through dinner, the whole evening staring at nothing. Three hundred and sixty five days have come and gone and his memories hold him captive. What’s a year compared to a lifetime?

They say the memories are what kill you. In the end you can’t move on because all you think of is her smile, her laugh, the way her hair smelled. All of it bundled in your brain rendering you incapable of full function. It destroys you. Rather, you wish it would. Instead you’re left alone, surviving and suffering (what's the difference?), longing to trade places with your beloved.

The human body decomposes so quickly, he wouldn’t recognise her now. Though it takes forty to fifty years for the bones to become dry and brittle in a coffin. You’ve been dead for 30. You're almost there.

Is it distasteful to say it? Am I dishonouring your memory? Maybe so, but it's easier. The biology, the facts, the nothingness we all become are easier thoughts to digest, much less painful than picturing my mother's face.

Is losing me what killed you? Did your body just give up on life?

​​​​“Losing.” What a joke. It’s not like you misplaced your baby. You didn't lose track of me. It wasn't an accident. You made a choice, however they coerced you, however riddled with guilt you were, how badly you wanted to please your parents, how desperately you wanted your sister to be happy, none of them chose for you.

But you chose for me. You created life. You did not deem it worth keeping.


Was I such a disappointment? If I’d have been a boy, my life would have been different. You would have kept me. I would have been safe. I would have been yours.

I try not to complain. I know I am privileged to be Canadian and have so many opportunities others dream of. I know how rich my life is, full of love and kindness from many wonderful people. I am grateful for these things. But in my blood – in my bones – there’s poison.

I was a little girl when it happened, when the man who haunts my nightmares first hurt me. Perhaps you weren't aware of how awful things would get. Perhaps you didn’t know, couldn't predict, wouldn't imagine it would be this way.

And still. I can't forgive you. You decided for me.

Socrates would tell you that the unexamined life is not worth living. Better to be a discontented human than a happy pig? I used to agree, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’d have a better go of it as bacon.

I stood in the rain today for hours. Days. Years. I’m not really sure how long. I let the cold drops seep through my clothes, my skin, into my bones, trying to wash it away, trying to rid my marrow of the poison. If I close my eyes I can pretend you’re here, your arms circle around me, gathering my pieces, protecting me. Does this hurt more or does it ease the aching? I’m so numb I can’t tell. Are these my tears or just rain? I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I’m too cold to think and I think too much to feel warmth. I stopped making sense long ago.

They say the memories are what kill you but I beg to differ. I have none and I’m dying. You were my first connection, but I can't remember. I never knew your laugh or smelled your hair. How do you mourn the loss of someone you never had? And even still, your picture gets me every time.

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