Monday, November 21, 2016

Summon Him

Aidan's birthday falls the day before Thanksgiving this year. He would have turned nineteen. 

He'd be in the middle of his freshman year at college. I'm guessing he would have chosen to take his post-secondary education slowly, to give himself more time to figure out where he was headed and how he wanted to get there. After four years of diverse learning opportunities as a home-schooled high-schooler, he would likely have already accumulated some community college credits.

I think there was some film-making in his future. His first novel would have been finished long ago. He probably would have found a publisher before me, darn him. He'd be writing poetry, and he'd have chapbooks on the shelves at Quimby's or Barbara's Bookstore. He might be starting to think about seminary.

I dreamed about him recently:

I was working a table at a school fundraiser. Papers, clipboards, and a cash-box littered the surface of a rectangular card table. 

Aidan sat on a metal folding chair behind the table. My tiny, white-haired boss walked through the door and hovered near us, flitting around like a nervous aunt in charge of the cookie table after a baptism in a small town church.

In front of me on the table, photographs and images of varying sizes were arranged on a wide poster board. Flimsy and uneven, most of the photos had been cut from magazines. Captions printed on strips of white computer paper lay with casual inelegance below the images. Some of the pictures had come loose. Others, I noticed, had not been placed carefully enough and covered portions of the captions.

As I tried to rearrange and re-attach the pictures, other pieces came loose and needed to be re-taped. I felt my anxiety building.

“I’m not old enough to help,” Aidan said. There was sadness and frustration in his voice.

“Well, you can help me fix this poster,” I said. I started to show him what I needed him to do with the tape and pictures. He smiled, but barely, concentrating with serious attention on the work at hand.

Somehow, even while I was talking to Aidan and demonstrating how to fix the board, I knew that he had died. I knew that he was no longer with us. It didn’t make sense—I didn’t understand how he could be there with me after he had died.

Maybe Kevin could explain it to me. I couldn’t make sense of it, but he would understand.

I stepped away and crouched down to dig my phone out of my purse. I briefly wondered what my boss would think about my getting out my phone to make a personal call right in the middle of the fundraising event.
I pressed the code to unlock the phone. The icons on the home page had been jumbled into a different order. I swiped and searched, looking for the phone app icon. Finally I opened the phone app—but I could not find the re-dial button, or the list of recent calls so I could call Kevin with the press of one button.

I couldn’t remember his phone number. I started to cry.

The phone was a lost cause, so I went off to find Kevin in person. He was sitting on the tuscan yellow leather couch at home. His dad sat on the other end of the couch, and his mom sat on a straight back chair.

“I have to ask you something,” I said. My crying turned into choking, gasping sobs that made it impossible to get the words out. I couldn’t even remember what words to use because I was so confused. 

Somehow I managed to force the words out of my mouth.

“I know that Aidan is dead,” I said. “I know that I can’t make new memories with him anymore.“ I sat down next to Kevin on the couch. His dad was nearby, and now we were all crying. “But he’s there with me, working at the table.”

Crying made it hard to breathe. I closed my eyes. In my mind I saw Aidan standing next to the table, leaning over the poster board where I had left him: cowlicky, flyaway hair; long, slender fingers; a gangly adolescent frame; his shoulders and chest slightly concave from having his chest cracked open several times.

“I don’t have memories of this—I’m making new memories of being there with him,” I said, still crying and gasping for breath. “I don’t understand how I can be making new memories with him when he’s gone.”

The dream ended. It had encapsulated a heartbreaking truth of loss: I will never make new memories with Aidan again, except in the fleeting, surreal images of my dreams.

If I could summon him to my dreams, I would sleep all the time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful piece. Heartbreaking as well. Leaving me in tears...