“The thing about hearts is that they always want to keep beating.”
― Elizabeth Scott
Four words that have angered me since my sister’s murder are: This. Too. Shall. Pass.
Please keep silent unless I ask for your counsel. It’s better to say nothing than to utter the wrong words to a mourning girl.
Unless, of course, your soul mate has been assassinated, too. Only then will I consider listening to what you have to say. Only then will I know you truly understand about darkness, shadows, and sharp, clawed fists twisting inside your liver and kidneys.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, one can live with half a heart, half a soul. Yes, the blood still flows thru veins, the legs still move, the pulse still pulses.
Isn’t that simply astounding?
After the murder, I stumble upon certain activities to distract me from my sorrow, to divert me from insanity. It’s a relief when one can take a break from being crazy. It’s liberating to become temporarily removed from one’s suffering. When this happens, it’s as if you’re standing outside your own body observing a stranger.
“Look at her,” You say, “She might actually make it.”
So one day my girlfriend, T calls, “Clear your day tomorrow morning. I’m teaching you how to make apple pies.”In other words: This task is not an option. When I arrive at 9:30 a.m., the centers are already prepared and organized in her enormous Martha Stewart kitchen: the apple-peeling center, the crust-making center, and flour, cinnamon, sugar, butter, nutmeg, and shiny green apples are beautifully positioned around the oak table like obedient children.
“How about a strawberry margarita before we start?” she says. I see two mammoth glasses of blood-red slush and begin to giggle like a school girl. “It’s 9:30 in the morning,” I say.“So.” She says. “You need a Margarita reeeeeeal bad.” She holds onto the e for a long time.
We slurp the thick liquid of strawberries and tequila slowly, and the heat traveling from my throat to my stomach feels dangerous, familiar, satisfying. We talk about our kids, husbands, work, and what’s happening in the Middle East. We talk about sex, too, and other things girlfriends typically discuss. We finally get serious about apples after a couple of hours.
She has one of those incredible gadgets that peel the apples and removes the core. There’s something deeply beautiful and pleasurable about watching the skin of the apple unwrap, unwind, and shed its body to the tiled floor: revealing, comforting, and mysterious—like something old and new evolving at the same time. Who invented such a joyous tool? But preparing the crust outweighs everything else. Sifting flower, cutting in Crisco, wrapping your hands around the soft pillow of dough as if it’s a big fat Buddha or your plump Mama.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” T says, “Pound it. Push it. Press it firmly. Pretend it’s the murderer.”
“Take that, you son-of-a-bitch!” I scream.
I punch the dough with all my might. I beat harder and harder as if I’m slamming every regret, belittling word, oppressive action, lost opportunity, and three bullet holes with my bare hands. I beat until my knuckles turn into different shades of pink.
“That’s what you get, you motherfucking murderer.”
“Hey, let me help,” T says. She lifts her fist in the air like a kick ass member of the Black Panthers.
And we begin beating the dough as if it’s a punching bag.
“Why didn’t we do something?” I shout, “Why didn’t we break his legs when we had the chance, smash his fingers so he couldn’t pick up a gun, why didn’t we call the police, why didn’t we…?”
Why. Didn’t. We. Tell?
We sit in silence afterward as if we just finished a chapter of some despicable novel. All I hear is our labored breathing and the idiotic clock tick:::tick:::ticking. One thing I’ve learned in life is that even if you’ve stopped ticking—Time has not.
Suddenly, T says, “We still have apple crisp to make! Get your butt up, Kimmers.” She throws a handful of flour in my face and waits for a response, waits for the petals of my fists to unfold into some form of light. She takes my hand, “She’s here. Can’t you feel her?”
It’s true. I do feel her. Everywhere. In every unfilled space like a soft flickering of hope gathering back its missing colors.
Sometimes all we need is a strawberry margarita, and somebody who gets us really gets us.
Sometimes all we need is the interruption of apples and cinnamon to survive.
One. More. Day.