This Issue

Nov/Dec 2015

Alive

Alexandria Juliet Lenzi

They gave you a shitty funeral. Hands down, the worst I’ve ever been to—and you know how many that is. None of us could stand it. When Pastor coughed up the Amen, we all piled into the jalopy and cranked up Panic! at the Disco, the new album you haven’t heard yet. As they dropped that cheap coffin into the dirt—Plexiglas, can you believe it? Your sleazeball stepdad’s “aesthetic” choice—we took you to Steak ’n Shake and ate all your fries. I’ll just let you imagine the stories we told about you. Oh, once you’re dead, missy, you don’t get a say. Yeah, you bet I told the one about you and Jason in the tree house. I hope you blushed in your grave. The guys kept talking about how pretty you were, that “Oh, her chocolate brown eyes” and “Those legs went on forever” bullshit, but all I could think about is how you just got your hair cut, and they say hair still grows after you’re dead, and you really hate it long. The check was $21.60 because we all drank vanilla Coke in your honor—toast and everything, swear. You probably don’t believe me, but I paid the entire bill. See, I never did get to paying you back. Poor old Daniel had to run to the bathroom before we left ’cause he started tearing up, and you know how he thinks being the oldest means he’s always gotta act tough.

I don’t know why I haven’t cried yet. I guess ’cause it doesn’t feel like you’re gone. I keep expecting you to text me asking where we all went without you—and I don’t know. I don’t really know where I am without you. I—God, I said I’m not going to cry, because if I do, well, that means you’re gone. So I’m gonna go along like you’re still here, OK? The adults say you’re immortal in all these stupid ways—you’re in our hearts, in our memories, in heaven—but honestly, that doesn’t mean a damn thing. I’m sorry, but all I’ve got in my heart is blood, and my memory’s always been bad, and don’t even get me started on heaven.  Everyone at church probably has a whole devotional written about how to deal with me by now. They read off the same Bible passages they did when Luke overdosed or when Grandma passed away last fall—all about how you’re “alive in the past.” But it doesn’t matter if you’re alive in my head or my heart or whatever, because the past is still dead.

You were alive last Wednesday. I remember you telling me you wished you had a picture of the catfish pond that day after school when they let us out early and we went fishing. I think you said you liked the reflection of the clouds on the surface with all those ripples from the little Jesus bugs that walk on the water. I told you we see the pond all the time, and the sky’s always there, and you said yeah, but it’s different every day. You were always drawing scenes like those French Impressionists we learned about, with all the light and water and colors—capturing the moment, you said. So that’s what I’m gonna do. Here’s my Impressionist painting:

I’m in the old red car—red leather seats, red upholstery, red dashboard, red steering wheel—and get this: we’re at a red light. We’re on our way home from Steak ’n Shake and everyone’s quiet, just listening to the music. We’re the only car in the street ’cause it’s getting late out and everyone’s tired, but I feel hyper-awake, like I drank a can of Red Bull and ran a mile. We’ve got the windows rolled down, and it smells like gas and rain-slicked street. I always think this is the type of car old men with too many rings on their fingers drove around in the ’70s. You remember it: big dragon-snout hood, square roof, and a bench-wide backseat that’s just asking for trouble. I know you got in trouble quite a few times in this car, and I’ll admit it now, I was always jealous. I feel like I’m in Poe’s red-and-black room, and the Red Death is gonna snatch us up if this light doesn’t change soon. He can chase us all he wants once we get going.

Panic! at the Disco is still shaking the car’s bones.

All I can do is think about what I’ll never understand. I know your body’s in the ground and your room’s all clean and your desk at school is gonna be someone else’s soon, but somehow you’re here with me. I don’t know anything about souls, but I can’t stop thinking about your fingers becoming dirt and that dirt growing flowers. I’m trying to wrap my mind around you breaking down to the atoms, and those atoms turning into flowers—how those flowers used to be whippoorwills, orange leaves, stars. I feel like one of those bugs on the surface of the pond that can sense how deep the water goes, but is too light to sink beneath the surface. 

Did you ever wish you were the catfish in the pond?  

I’m probably sitting on the lint from your pockets clinging to this seat. My knees press against my chest, boots up on the red island between the two front seats, and my fingers fidget with the strap of my purse. I think I’m finally crying now. The stoplight glints off the wet pavement, off my nails, making my hands glow, like when you put your palm against a flashlight and see all the little roads inside your skin. Whatever made you you is in this car, it’s in the earth, and I think it’s even part of me, all of us. The light changes and Daniel hits the gas. You, me, us—we were always there and here, and always will be.

My heart beats inside my chest, my foot beats inside the car, the engine beats inside the hood, and the music beats inside us all as we race down the empty street and into that beating dark.   

 

Alexandria Juliet Lenzi’s work has appeared in Vademecum Magazine, The Postscript Journal, and elsewhere. In 2011, she was the runner-up in fiction for Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Hunger Mountain Prize for Young Writers. Her one-act play has been performed at Surfacing Theatre’s Emerge Festival. Learn more at seizethebooks.blogspot.com. 

© 2015 by Alexandria Lenzi