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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Day of the Dead

 

by  Cezarija Abartis

 

 

 

            It was getting toward the Day of the Dead, and I was stirring in the dirt. I could rise soon, but it felt restful just to rest. I did not know if I wanted to see old John with his petition to sanction Dave for his anti-collegial comments on the student radio show. Or Connie, who wanted to remove the new Honors Director for dereliction of duty.

 

            I turned over on my side and a memory wafted in, something about my wife. She had asked me was I afraid to die. I lied and said no. The pain had not gotten to ten yet. She said I should talk about it if I wanted to. I said I liked being quiet, lying quietly. She laughed. You always lied well, she said.

 

            I did miss her laugh here in the deep dark.

 

            Most of my memories were gone, and more disappeared every week and year. There would soon be a balance between what I remembered and who remembered me. And after that, a tipping point, when I would get lighter and then thin as the wind.

 

            People still remembered me: Marissa, whom I taught how to structure a painting; Lloyd, whom I encouraged to go into print making; Tracy, whom I told to paint with her soul instead of her eyes. But there were others: Nick, whom I told to leave art and go into music. He made a fortune but probably hated me, wanted revenge for his troubled mind. He would remember me until he died, so I would exist for another fifty-sixty years, unless Nick did himself in with drugs.

 

            And then there was Vaughn–he hated me because he failed my class for not turning in the required journals on the artist that influenced him the most. Vaughn scratched under his backwards baseball cap and said he was an original and was not in anybody’s tradition. But why am I wasting my hours of sensation remembering Vaughn? He must be thinking of me.

 

            “Mr. Horner, can’t you give me extra credit?”

 

            “Vaughn, I’m treating you the same way I treat everybody.”

 

            “I’m going to be a famous artist.”

 

            “Good luck with that.” I stared at his puffy face, which was getting spots of anger in the cheeks. “You’ll have to develop a color sense, learn design, study figurative painting.”

 

            He curled his lip. “That old-fashioned stuff. Nobody cares about that.”

 

            I lied to him. “You probably will be a great artist. I’m jealous of you.”

 

            He was delighted by my mock confession. He is right now painting canvas after canvas with black. Darker even than here. He’s getting ready for death.

My sweet Louise brought carnations for my grave on our anniversary. She knelt there and sobbed. I could not comfort her. That made me die again.

 

            She recalled how I walked up to her next to the exit sign in our freshman English class and said I could help her write a good paper.

 

            “Pfft,” she said,  imitating her grandmother. “I don’t need any help. I’m a straight A student.”

 

            “Then will you help me? I’m an awful writer.”

 

            She laughed, and shaking her head, walked away. The next day, I sat beside her and took good notes. After class, I offered them to her.

 

            “I’m just fine,” she said.

 

            “You sure are.”

 

            She laughed and walked away. The next day, I sat beside her, and when class was over, I asked to borrow her notes. She furrowed her forehead but lent them to me. I presented her a sketch of Professor Gribble, and she laughed. I bought her coffee to thank her and then dinner, and then a house and insurance.

 

            She laughed about our meeting and life, kneeling on my grave, with the breeze rising, kissing her hair, moving across her lips. She remembered all those things.