There is beautiful graveyard in my future. I will stand on an autumn carpet of leaves before a grave of someone I do not know. Someone from my past no doubt. There will be a notification on my phone.
‘Bring flowers to Ellie’
I will be holding a bouquet of daisies and I will wonder if she liked them. I will look at her grave and realize from the dates etched in stone that she was only eleven when she died. And my heart will break.
I will wonder many times in my next thirteen years of life how many loved ones I have forgotten.
And even as I die of cancer in St. Joseph’s hospital in Minnesota, I will pray to remember just one face. But it will not come.
It’s going to rain soon. I head to the bus; I know I will take it to the second to the last stop and the rain will catch me as I run inside my apartment building. I will stand in the elevator, a consistent and repeating memory, and an elderly woman will get on. I will not know her name but she will always greet me.
“Good evening, Ilya. How was your day?”
And I will smile and tell her it was good, though I really don’t know. My day is in my past. And my past does not exist.
Every morning I will awake and wonder if this is the first day of my life as nothing existed before. Perhaps some jokester god has taken a particular dislike towards me and finds glee in my suffering. Perhaps this god laughs with other gods as they watch my past fade into nonexistence.
I will consider suicide many times. I know I never will, but it will cross my mind like a gentle calling breeze. How peaceful it must be, I will think, to know nothing at all. No past. No future. No present. To exists solely to exist.
I will reach my apartment and unlock the door and feed my goldfish like I will do for the next four years before I discover the little fish floating lifelessly in his tank. I will flush him down the toilet. I wish I could bury him, but the only earth around these parts are government or personal property. Or the garden on the roof. It would be a good fate, I will think, but the man in charge of the garden is much too stubborn.
So, I will flush the little fish down the toilet and watch his little orange body go round and round and round. I will feel utterly helpless. Trapped going round and round and round until I eventually disappear from this world all together.
I will make dinner. It will be some pasta with sauce and I will eat it while watching tv. It will be reruns, and I will wonder if I’ve seen this episode before. It doesn’t really matter though, because I remember seeing it tonight. I know what parts make me laugh. I know the jokes. There is nothing new about any premiere. No entertainment can shock me.
My life will not so much be a jigsaw puzzle so much as the missing piece. Lost without anything to tether it down.
I will head to bed without the slightest bit of exhaustion. There is rarely a reason to stay awake any more. I will lie in bed and listen to the nightclub down the street. Drunk people will pass by my window laughing and shouting as they experience the night for the first time. Two weeks from now, a drunk man will shoot his friend and police cars will be up and down the block all night.
I will often think about Ellie. Who was this girl? A family member? Perhaps my own daughter. I have no pictures no evidence no clues. I know I will never get my answer.
I find myself hurtling forward grasping blindly at a nonexistence past. Everyone else moves forward confident or not, their past stands behind them in makeshift foundations. We are going the same way in vastly different directions.
I know where I am going, and it is so much worse.
Eight years from now I will get offered a job by a man I help on the train. I will work there for two years before my diagnosis. A year after that I will hit rock bottom. Sick, dying, alone. I won’t be able to work. I stay alive by watching lottery numbers.
The roller-coaster of life has no up or down that I have not already experienced.
I know the old woman in the elevator will die four years from now. I will attend her funeral, a small gathering in a formal church. I will listen to the people there share stories of her.
One woman will tell us how the two of them used to be quite the pranksters in their youth. They spray-painted many walls and sent the police on many wild goose-chases. One time they got caught and the officer told them he was going to call their parents. The young woman had smiled slyly and told him to go ahead. It gave the officer quite the shock when the chief of police picked up the phone.
They will laugh and cry as they remember the good old days with their dear friend. I will feel sick to my stomach, because I will witness something I would never have. No past of mine and no past to share. Perhaps I don’t even exist at all.
I am simply living for the two years at a good job and then dreading the day they tell me it’s terminal. The doctor will be confused by my reaction. No shock. No tears. No grief. I will have seen it coming for years. And knowing is so much worse.
I will visit Ellie’s grave six times. Each time it will be under an autumn sun. She died on October 9th is what her gravestone says, and leaves from the graveyard trees will float like summer bubbles.
On the 6th time there will be someone else at the gravestone when I arrive. A woman I do not recognize. She will see me approaching. Her lips will quiver and her eyes will water. She will look at me as if I had just cut her open and she was bleeding upon the yellow and orange blanket the leaves had set.
And then she will turn and briskly walk away.
I will not visit Ellie’s grave again.