A declaration. Almost funny. The half smile; the half panic that
skimmed the upper edge of his deep voice when a plan was about to go
south. And maybe he saw me recognize him. Because my eyes widened
and welled and darted to the side. I held my breath. He hadn’t gone anywhere, I thought. He’d been trying to tell me, since I heard the front
door open that morning, that he died and came right back home.
“No,” I finally answered him. Out loud. And my heart threatened to
give way. To simply stop beating. “It’s not.”
The sound of ripping Velcro tears a hole in the silence of our kitchen
where I have been standing and staring at his clothes laid out on the
table before me. There are creases of dried blood and bits of soft tissue
that cling to puncture tears in the fabric. But only to the left sleeves.
Where something nearly ripped his arm off. I am pulling the patches off
every breast pocket and shoulder—his name, his rank, all the insignia
of his career and our country—they belong to me now. When I finish, I
go straight to my laptop and punch up the same accident pictures that
I saw the day he died. I want to see what I saw the first time I looked at
it—the Toyota’s front tires on top of the guardrail, the red BMW sideways across the lanes—but I know that I won’t see that, because I know
The front tires of the Toyota pickup are on top of my husband’s green
Saturn. They sit inside the jagged mouth of its shattered windshield and
look as though they came to rest on my husband’s lap. The Saturn is
crumpled like a pop can against the guardrail. Its trunk is popped open.
And the toys that he had hidden in there for our son lie scattered across
the highway. A white sheet drapes its smashed rear window, meant to
cover my husband’s dead body. Which, along with the part of me that he
said he carried with him, has not yet been extracted.