Life begins with a beginning, it continues with a middle, and concludes with an end right? Of course I wondered what the big deal is if it ends near the middle or beginning. Maybe that person’s end was the complete end, and the story was meant to be short. Well…I use to this that. Then our grandmother passed away.
On that day, the sky was gray, the fog was falling upon us, and it was slightly raining. The pavement was darkening. The trees were becoming a darker shade of gray. It’s as if the entire world was dying, their colors becoming completely saturated by the rain. I stood amongst the many people who knew my grannies. Co-workers, friends, and yet, there were no relatives but me and my older brother. It was very cold, and things began to feel a bit smaller and confined. Even though before my grandmother’s death, my brother and I did not live with her, we could visit her. But now, there would be no more of that.
My brother placed his hand on my shoulder. His grasp became tighter and I looked up at him. He was staring off. I knew, even though there wasn’t one tear which fell down his cheek, he was completely sad. He probably didn’t even realize his grip was tighter than he had expected it to be. I lowered my head and looked upon the coffin once again as they lowered it into the ground. I knew that this would be the last time I would ever be able to say I was near my granny.
I was 15 years old and my brother, 23. I knew that I would have to “pretend” to be older than I was. Just like in those movies. On the ride home, I sat in the backseat with my knee to my chest and my face against the window, wondering, exactly how does one “act” like a 15 year older wanting to be older?
“Live your life” I heard him say from the front seat. I looked at him, and noticed he had glanced at me through the rearview mirror “after all” he continued “you never know exactly how long you will live, or, where you’ll go afterwards, for that matter.” There was a bleak tone in his voice. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to comfort me or scare me, but he was once again, staring at the road.
I laid my head against the window once again but I continued to stare at him. He didn’t say anything. It was completely quiet. No radio. No talking. No nothing; just the sound of the windshield wipers and the rain falling on the car. I closed my eyes and drifted off to the sound of the rain falling onto the car.
I woke up in my bed. I could still hear the rain. My room was dark as always because I had heavy curtains hung up in my room. But through the tiny spacing between the curtains, I could see that it was still quite grey outside. I sat up slowly. And slowly my mind began to process the early morning events. My granny was not coming back, was she? Was this something I should truly be sad about?
I mean, for the longest time, my brother has told me that when people die, the gods swoop down to pick them up. This is what I thought. This is what I wanted to believe, and yet, my heart was heavy.
“If you were going to come, why didn’t just say so?” my brother’s voice faded in through my thought. I looked over at my door. I stood up slowly and walked to the door and opened a bit to peer out. He was sitting in the living room couch, hunched over with his hand to his face and the telephone to his ear. I don’t think he recognized my door opening, or my presences or eyes staring at him. “No. They didn’t show up either. It’s obvious that they wouldn’t. They even said so.”
I knew he wasn’t talking to our foster parents. I knew he was talking to his girlfriend. But, she wasn’t even his girlfriend in my eyes. She would usually blow off occasions he would present her with. Personally, I didn’t like her, but our foster parents did. They would all put on fake smiling face and greet each other, and yet, once the person is out of their presence, it becomes a fake-o-thon, where everyone talks about everyone, but, not my brother of course. He would usher her to stop.
At a moment like this, I didn’t want him talking to her. So I made a kicked my foot against my bedroom door to get his attention. And indeed, that did get his attention. He jumped and looked over at me.
“Ella” he spoke at last, after staring at me for a while. I guess it didn’t process in his mind that I was sleeping and could wake up whenever. “You’re awake….” He looked over to the ear he held the phone to “no, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to my sister.”
I walked towards the living room window and looked out the window. I looked over at him, as he stared at me. He looked uncomfortable. I knew standing in the room would make him uncomfortable. He knows that I do not like his so-called girlfriend. So he tries to savory all the time he can, to speak with her when I’m not around.
“Um…” he looked to the floor and whispered “I’ll call you later.”
I rolled my eyes and sighed. He hung the phone up and suddenly the room fell into completely silences. Off in the distance, I could hear the sound of that annoying ticking from the grandfather clock in the hallway. Who would name it that anyways?
I rested my head on his shoulder and stared at the window.
“What was her excuse this time?” I asked him. I felt his arm tense up.
“What are you talking about?”
I exhaled deeply and looked at him. He avoided eye contact with me.
“She slept in. She said she was up all night studying for a test.” He bit his lip. His facial expression changed. He knew I would say something. I was about to, but then I stopped. I figured he just needed someone to talk to. And for some strange reason, he would rather talk to the girl who would stand him up, rather than his own little sister. But I guess that’s how he sees me, as his “little” sister still. Not a teenager who cares deeply to hear about what he’s feeling.
I sighed quietly.
“Are you…hungry?” he hesitantly asked. He began to fiddle with his fingers and fingernails.
I became quiet again.
“Do you know for sure” I began grabbing his hands “if the gods really come to help granny once she died?” I asked. I looked at him. His face was difficult to read this time. He suddenly smiled.
“You’re talking about what I said in the car, aren’t you?” he questioned. Knowing very well that I would be one to press the issue of something he contradicted himself on. I began to tap my fingers against his hand. “Actually…I can’t say for sure. After all, I’m still here. And even if I did…” he paused and he tensed up again.
“Died?” I questioned, filling in the blank for him. There he was again, treating me like his “little” sister again. I sat up and looked at him. “You can say it. I’m not a child anymore. I can handle these things” I assured him. He just stared ahead. Then he squinted and looked at me.
“Since when?” he smiled and chuckled. I nudged him.
“But…”I started; ready to drill him for answers.
I smiled “where do you think we go after we died?” I asked bluntly.
“Is this a question you should be asking after…?”
“Well, help me rest assure that granny will be okay”
He sunk farther in the couch. I knew he didn’t want to talk about this. It was kind of humorous to me.
“Ella, you always seem to ask questions….about things that have just happened…that aren’t so good to ask” he stated.
“Then when should I ask?” I asked him.
He ran his hand through his dark hair, and looked at me as if I were joking. He sunk farther into the couch.
I looked at my hand, then at his. I grabbed his hand and placed it beside my own. I tilted my head.
“I know I would miss granny a little less if I knew that she was safe up high in the clouds with the gods.”
“But…Ella, no one could know for sure. Before they could even tell you, they wouldn’t be able to reach you.”
“Well, what about seers?” I asked
“We can’t know for sure that they are really seeing anything.”
I paused. He was right. “Well…what if I became a seer?”
The room grew quiet. I knew what I said caught him off guard. Because the next words out of his mouth were:
“You…are you hungry?”
“I’m serious” I went on.
He looked at me. “That’s….impossible” he spoke. His glare began to intense. Was he trying to tell if I was joking or not?
“No. You said that we can’t tell for sure whether seers see or not. So if I become one, I can assure myself”
“Well, how actually do you purpose to do that?” his tone became a bit colder. “I understand you are worried for granny. But she is dead. Just leave it be.”
I looked at the floor. “There are places that would…”
“Leave it be”
I stood up “But why!?”
He looked at me surprised.
“I’m not a child anymore. So please stop talking to me like I’m one.”
“You aren’t an adult either. So not pretending to be one” he snapped back.
The room grew silent once again. I knew that this was going to become a habit. I didn’t want to make my brother angry. He was the only person I had left. The only blood related family member I knew. But I also didn’t want him to think I couldn’t do anything. He stepped to me and I looked up. He placed his hand on my head.
“I’m sorry” he started. He looked at the floor pained. “I…I just…don’t want you to get hurt. You are still young. You should just continue with school.” he removed his hand, and exited the room.
I looked at the floor. I was a bit upset, but I understood that he wanted only what was best for me. But it made me upset that he thought I enjoyed being here; living in this house, in this neighborhood, with these people. He said he hated it too, and yet, he seemed to be just fine with it. I, on the other hand, have never forgotten this, because it’s always been in my heart. This was certainly not where my heart lied. And since granny wasn’t here anymore, there was no one I could call and speak to. There was no one who could tell me words on which I felt a certain amount of assurance, just enough to feel like I can move through the day, the week, the month, the year.
I realized this just now; that I depended on my granny way too much. I depended on someone to help me along. I told myself in the car that I would have to “pretend”, but why pretend if I could “be”?
I sat back on the couch and smiled. Of course I realized that this was only a dream of mines. Just like many other of my crazy fantasies. I fantasied once before when I was younger, that I would meet a prince. This hasn’t happened yet. I also fantasied with my brother that we would move out of this home, far away from these pretend parents, and live in a blue house together. And this hasn’t come true. To be honest, I haven’t even heard him speak about.
Suddenly I remembered the story about the dragon my brother use to tell me about. I wonder if this story was just a lie as well, because of my age. I started to feel disappointed. Now I was sinking into the couch with disappointment.
I had way too many questions, and no answers. This is surely not how my life is supposed to be. I knew this. I felt this.