The dog’s warm tongue on my cheek, the den by the window where the sun comes in to expose the hair on my carpet, the dust on the lamps, the dirt on my legs from the morning’s hike. Going up Cougar Mountain this Easter, I remembered that time as a kid the three of us took a blanket and a basket and ate hard-boiled eggs in the park, it was warm then too. One of my favorite memories of youth, me and my parents. That same year a friend of mine had just died, he was only in the fourth grade, and my dad came in to deliver the news…the tenderness with which he went about it. Then the look of my friend’s empty desk in the center of the classroom, the rest of the year. No one would go near it, as if it were cursed, but one time I lifted the lid to see if his marbles were still there, I’d take them if they were. Remembering his name, Michael Krausley, 30 years later. We were at a theater performance of Peter Pan, and after the play they had a treasure hunt for the kids: see what artifacts you can find from the set, displayed around the theatre. One, a replica of the desk from Wendy’s dead brother: it looked just like Michael Krausley’s desk, small and sad, scaled to the size of a boy. And I remembered back to the creek that flowed near the school, the pond that froze over, Michael’s brown hair and freckles, his almost-mustache starting, too young.
We all die twice: once, when our physical body leaves and again, the last time our name is spoken. The memory of Michael was nested inside a memory of a time with my parents that felt like one of our best. It was just a simple day: no Disneyland, no amusement park, just a walk across the road with a picnic basket and some sun. Life and death co-exist like that, each feeling more real than the other at different times in our lives. Different phases of the moon, depending on which side you see. Always circling round.
Our cat got a baby bunny by the neck and carried it down to the patio, to finish it off. On Easter! I made her drop it, then threw her inside the house so the bunny could run off. Maybe it would recall the day it nearly died and tell the story, and I could be its savior. Or more likely, it wouldn’t remember. Maybe the first death actually happens before the body leaves, and we don’t even notice.