One year and seventy-two days. That’s how long it’s been. How long since my son died. I know he’s gone, I really, I truly do. But… but is he really? Those letters, the emails, reading them, the ones I found, I can feel him, I can feel my own son with me. I see him every day, leaving his room, getting breakfast, his shoelaces always untied, and he reeks of pot. I chastise him daily about that, asking if he’s high, and he laughs, saying ‘not right now!’, causing me to sigh and give him a kiss on the cheek before he’s off to school.
Except he doesn’t really go. Because he’s not here, he’s not alive, he’s not real, he’s gone. Instead, every day, I offer the air a ham and mustard sandwich, staring off as the door doesn’t open or close behind his nonexistent body, chasing the bus as he used to every morning.
I wipe my eyes; I spent a half hour crying in bed. I go downstairs, hearing some noise, and I’m curious, finding Zoe getting a can of Redbull from the fridge. I curse myself for not disposing of them earlier, but then again, I’ve stopped making proper dinners. I’m a horrible mother, not caring for my own daughter, letting her put these chemicals in her body and- I cut myself off. These are the thoughts Dr. Jenson would tell me to try and tell to shut up.
She turns to see me, not looking too surprised, takes a sip of the drink, and shuffles books and papers in her arms.
I want to pluck the can from her hands, but I don’t. “Sweetheart, is… is everything alright?” If nobody will ask me, I’ll ask my children- after all, their lives are far more important than mine, aren’t they?
“Everything is fine ,” she scoffs, waving her can around, and I can hear the liquid sloshing around. “Why wouldn’t it be? My teachers, which are fine , gave me eight hours of homework. Which is totally fine ! Two calc assignments, an essay on To Kill A Mockingbird, a chem lab, and a quiz in history on the French revolution… totally fine!” Zoe laughs dryly, and finishes her drink, slapping it down on the counter, marching off towards her room.
I grab her arm before she’s gone, concerned. “Honey, just... calm down, okay? If you can’t finish it all, that’s okay, I’m sure your teachers will understand-”
“And play the dead brother card?” She snaps, a book flying out from her hold, and moves her face to mine. “Oh, would you look at that, you didn't fucking forget that Connor is dead !”
A small gasp comes out, and I want to yell at her, but I’m so, so tired… “Sweetheart…”
Zoe bites her lip. “Sorry, Mom,” she mumbles, and picks up the book that fell on the floor, moving around me, to go upstairs, leaving me alone in the yellow light of the kitchen.
I slowly move towards the counter, and pick up the can, holding it in my hands, unsure why I picked it up in the first place.
“Zoe’s been drinking this shit?” Connor enters the kitchen from the living room, shaking his head. “God, she’s wild.”
“She sure is,” I respond distantly. “She sure is.”
Connor takes the can and tosses it in the trash, then lifts himself onto the marble counter, swinging his long legs like he would as a child.
“Don’t stay up too long, okay?” I tell him, patting his knee, and he nods.
I wake up, noticing Larry is out of bed. It was the first time we had sex in three years. I’m not quite sure why I decided we should, but I think I’m glad we did it. Zoe thinks we don’t love each other, and maybe she’s right, maybe I’m only with Larry for our kids. Or maybe I do love him. I pull my robe around me as I slide into my slippers, hitching up my nightgown as I do so.
As I pour a fresh pot of coffee into my mug, I smile as Connor puts on his shoes, simultaneously towel-drying his hair after his morning shower, and Larry knots his tie as he crosses the living room to the dining table.
Zoe comes in, tired, tying up her hair, holding a paper in her hand.
“Mornin’ sunshine,” Connor teases, but Zoe ignores him, eyes fixed on the paper.
“I have the date for my recital, you guys coming?” She looks hopeful, and I nod, pouring coffee in my mug, only to realise I already poured some. It splashes out, and coats my hand. I put the mug down and grab a dishcloth. “I’ll put it on the calendar!” I assure her, wiping my hands.
She narrows her eyes, staring at the calendar on the fridge. “Mom, it’s still showing October of two thousand fourteen.”
“Oh… um..” I look at it, and she’s right. “I see.. Um.” Why am I- am I losing it? I must be going crazy …
I pour a couple extra mugs of coffee, for Larry, Zoe, Connor, and I. I keep pouring, not knowing why, more, more, more.
I faintly hear Larry calling my name as the coffee spills over the edges of the four mugs, staining the table, dripping onto the floor. I have to be a good mother, take care of breakfast for my family, I have to be a good mother, I have to be strong, I have to-
My head turns, and I see Larry looking at me concerned, Zoe worried and confused, and Connor’s face is neutral. I look down, seeing the mess I’ve made. “I..” I clutch the table, clenching my eyes shut, feeling a bout of dizziness overtake me.
“Mom? Dad?” Zoe comes towards me, but Larry puts a hand on her shoulder.
“Zoe, it’s alright, your mom is fine, go ahead, alright? You’re gonna be late,” Larry tells her softly, but Zoe doesn’t leave.
Connor touches my hand as I grip the dishcloth I used to clean my hands.
“I’m okay!” I exclaim, batting him away, then obsessively wipe the table. “Everything’s fine! You two have to go to school, now, okay?”
“Two..?” Zoe whispers, and I barely catch it. Larry shakes his head at her, and nudges her towards the door, Connor behind her.
Larry comes to my side, lifting some mugs out of the pool of brown liquid. “Cynthia… How about I take off work and we go pay a visit to Dr. Jenson, alright? Does that sound good?”
I nod, and catch my breath. “S-sure…”
“You’re going to be alright,” he says. “You’re going to be alright.”