It's been a year.
I've tried to find you, but I never quite seem to be able to. I'm always a step behind.
I went to the department store today, the one we always went to together. I thought maybe I would find you there. All those times we braved the Christmas crowds on Black Friday; all those times we waited an hour just to check out with the goodies we found as we braved those crowds. The conversations we shared while we waited in those lines – even though we were so tired of standing – and the laughter we had that you had to be there to appreciate. I was certain I would find you there. As I walked the aisles, looking at the new items that filled the familiar shelves we once explored, I caught a whiff of your perfume. It was light, but it was there. I tried to follow it, but it disappeared, just like you.
I went to the restaurant we would go to after finally getting through the line at the department store. A waitress sat me at the booth we shared last year. (Has it really only been a year? It seems like a lifetime ago.) The tabletop still has a notch missing on the edge that borders the wall. I ordered the same appetizers as last time, without realizing it would be too much for just one. It didn't taste the same. When I looked up, I saw the back of your head as you were going toward the restroom – your hair still that golden shade of blonde, stopping at your shoulders. When I went to find you, you weren't there. But, a nice lady with golden hair smiled at me as we passed each other at the bathroom door.
I went to the park where we would sneak off to on Sundays. Just the two of us and a bag of McDonald's. For over 30 years, we would have lunch under that big oak tree, where we could watch the squirrels play. I would throw out bites of my bun for the birds to grab. I parked my car under that same tree, but there were no squirrels. All was quiet. I brought some bread crumbs to toss for the birds, but even they weren't hungry. For a moment, the smell of burgers filled the car. When I looked at the passenger seat, I expected to see you sitting there, smiling at me, holding out a carton of fries to share. But you weren't there. The seat was as empty as me.
I went to that mom-and-pop grocery store we often frequented. The one with the ice cold pops and $0.10 bubble gum. It still smelled of onions from the sandwich counter, and the floor board by the cashier still creaked. For a minute, I thought I heard you walking on the old wooden floor, coming up behind me at the pop cooler. I turned around to hand you a drink, but no one was there. I almost dropped it, but caught myself, and placed it back in the cooler. I paid for my pop, hearing the familiar creak of the floorboard as I walked away.
I went out to my barn, where you loved to sit and read. It still smells of straw and cows, just like you liked. You said it reminded you of your childhood, always closing your eyes and inhaling deeply when you spoke of it. We had such good conversations there. I can still feel the laughter bouncing between the beams. I saw a shadow move across the floor, coming from up in the loft. I thought it was you walking to your chair. I climbed the stairs and looked around, but all I found was your chair. I left it there, where you left it, next to the little table with a piece of $0.10 bubble gum laying on it.
I went to sleep in hopes of finding you in a dream. I thought maybe we could revisit the store for a Black Friday sale, maybe grab a bite to eat afterwards. Perhaps we could go to the park instead, with a sandwich from the mom-and-pop shop, and feed the crusts to the birds and squirrels. Maybe we could just hang out in the barn loft, laughing about old times and family stories. Anything would do, so long as it was us, for just a minute or two, forgetting everything else while we enjoyed each other. But, when I slept, there was nothing. There was no you.
I went in to the living room when I could no longer sleep. There I found you. You were quiet. You weren't laughing, or telling me about the latest episode of that ghost hunting show. There was no conversation about some Kardashian drama, or mention of the latest news headlines. It was unlike you. You weren't saying you wanted to go out shopping, or to grab a bite to eat. You weren't talking about the dogs and the cute thing they did just the other day. You didn't greet me with a hug, or tell me how I need to eat more because I'm getting too skinny (even though I'm seven pounds heavier than I was last month). Your silence was so loud, it hurt. It was deafening. I wanted to sit next to you, but there wasn't room. You were sitting next to a couple of paintings you did. Dark trees with bare limbs under gray October skies. They were my favorites, but you never thought they were good enough. A black-and-white photo of you and me hugging each other while laughing at something I can't remember sets next to them. The metallic powder blue color of your urn really stands out against that photo. You would've liked it. That's why I chose that one, because I knew you would've liked it, and you wouldn't have to tell me. You wouldn't have to utter a word to let me know how much you would enjoy the silver doves flying skyward around the engraving of your name.
I went to stand in front of the mirror, and I found you once more. Your eyes were staring back at me, but they were redder than before...and swollen. The light-colored birthmark you had on your temple was there, too. And your cheekbones. There was that smile I'd missed, though it wasn't as lively as I had remembered it being. You wore it better. But now you don't wear it at all.
I found you. I found you inside of me. I found you in the person you raised me to be. I found you in the morals you gave me, and in the principles you taught me to uphold. I found you in the peace I feel when I talk to you about my day, like you're still here, listening to me ramble about workplace nothings. Even though you're not here, you're still here. So many pieces left behind, but not enough to make a whole.
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Hello mam. I'm a girl from India. I need to talk to you about your story. It's really really important. Can you please give me your Instagram account ID?