Life As He Knows It

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Funerals for the Dead

We had her funeral two days later at the cemetery. Her grave was under a huge oak tree and surrounded by natural flowers. I knew Aubrey would’ve picked this spot out herself if she could have.

I soon realized while I was there that just because you can’t see a person doesn’t mean they aren’t (or weren’t) a person. I saw people on TV all the time thinking that they were just ‘the people on the TV’, but never really got that they were actual living and breathing people.

I couldn’t see Aubrey, and yet she had been a person.

Josh cried, which made me even sadder; his dad didn’t come, which made me even angrier. ’How dare he not come to his own daughter’s funeral!’ I wore a black suit that I had gotten for my eighth grade graduation, which I never got to wear until then; I promised myself that I would never wear it again.

Josh lain his head on my shoulder and I hugged him. He looked so vulnerable while crying, like a newborn kitten; but it was just another reason for me to be there. I swayed back and forth, my boyfriend (it was weird calling him that) tightly held in my grasp.

“The future doesn’t exist,” Josh stated as he cried. He looked up at me with sad eyes.

“What?” I asked, totally confused.

“The future: it doesn’t exist. Everything is either ‘today’ or ‘yesterday’, no future. ’Cuz even if we talk about ‘tomorrow’, it will turn into ‘today’ and ‘today’ into yesterday. It doesn’t stop and it doesn’t exist.” We looked down at the mound of dirt that was covering Aubrey.

Josh had stopped mid speech to cry, and I didn’t say mine, couldn’t say mine. I was too sad.So I said it then, when I was looking at my beautiful big sister that I never had.

“Hello, everybody” I said, my voice quivering, “I am Aubrey’s little brother by choice and not by blood. She was the best big sister,” I started to cry, “and I know that Josh agrees. Aubrey was the freest spirited girl I had ever known, even though I don’t know many. It was a privilege to have those weeks with her, to have found her was a miracle. In truth, I would probably be the one dead if she hadn’t found me.” I looked at Josh and he had stopped crying, but I could tell that he was waiting for me to go on. “I am both sad and happy about that.”

She gave me hope; hope to live, laugh, and love. And boy did I love her. It would be a pleasure to have a few more moments with Aubrey, and I would take those few moments in a heartbeat.”

I shoved my fists into my eyes and tried not to break down. Sadness, pity, and love are an odd combination of feelings to have at the same time, and it was also a confusing one. I wanted to die, for her to come back to life and for me to die. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end; we were all supposed to be one big happy family.

“Ben?” Josh said, leaning in more into me, “I love you.” He started to cry again and we hugged each other.

I love you too,” I answered him.

I walked around outside for a while after the funeral, in a dreamy haze that left me with a headache. Everything seemed to be going too fast, but I already knew that life didn’t slow down for you, no matter what you did. ’Life’s an ass.’ I decided, and it really was, life hated you as long as you hated it.

That made me smile because it was the truth with people as well: If you hated someone and had been rude to them then they’re going to hate you too. It was the way everything worked without everything falling apart. It was also the reason that I don’t believe in love after hate, you always hate the person no matter how nice they are to you afterwards.

I sighed and sat down on the curb outside my house. Cars drove in and out of puddles from yesterday’s rain, the bottom of my pants got wet from getting splashed too many times. A butterfly landed on my knee, and I wished I had a camera to take a picture of it. It was a beautiful creature; with blue on the inside of the wings and a black trim and body.

I smiled and held out my finger for it to walk upon; it obliged. I held my finger up to my face and smiled at the butterfly as it stared at me.

“People should have more moments like this,” I said to the butterfly. “Where they sit down and examine the beautiful life this Earth has created for us.” I swore I could see the butterfly smile at me, but I wasn’t sure if butterflies could smile. ’Can butterflies smile? Now that’s a good question.’ I smiled wider at the butterfly.

“Ben,” my mom called from her bedroom window at me, “It’s time for dinner, love!” You could hear the tears in her voice, and it practically tore me apart; my mother had no right to be sad, she was my happy-forever mommy.

“Alright,” I yelled back. “Be there in a sec!” The butterfly flew off my hand as soon as I shouted, which made me even sadder. I stood and started for the house, feeling a lot worse than I wanted to.

It was pizza for dinner, since no one wanted to cook; Josh didn’t eat though, he stayed quiet in our room. I didn’t want him to be in there alone, so I went up stairs to eat my dinner with him.

He was playing Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, by The White Stripes when I got up there.

Dead leaves and the dirty ground

When I know you’re not around

Shiny tops and soda pops

When I hear your lips make a sound

When I hear your lips make a sound

Thirty notes in the mailbox

Will tell you that I’m coming home

And I think I’m gonna stick around

For a while so you’re not alone

For a while so you’re not alone

If you can hear a piano fall

You can hear me coming down the hall

If I could just hear your pretty voice

I don’t think I need to see at all

I don’t think I need to see at all’’’

I set my plate onto my drawer and sat behind/beside Josh on my bed. He was on my laptop playing a weird maze game.

“How’s it goin’?” I said him, bouncing a bit. He turned and looked at me with a blank glare.

“Not good,” he answered and went back to his game.

“I love you,” I said, worried. No response. “I love you,” I repeated. No response. “Josh, you need to talk to me.”

“I don’t need to do anything.” He snapped at me, tears in his brown eyes.

“Josh,” I said and wrapped my arms around him; he shoved me off. I wanted to punch him, but I quickly got over my rational violence. ’He’s your boyfriend, don’t get mad. Yeah, but he’s being a really big jackass. Whatever, get over it, would ya’?

I sighed and grabbed my pizza from my drawer. It had pineapple, pepperoni, and extra cheese on it; my favorite.

“Can I have a bite?” Josh asked me, suddenly feeling better.

“Maybe when I’m done,” I said because I really liked pizza, not as much a pancake, bacon and maple syrup sandwich though; yum. My stomach growled and I took a bite. The cheesy goodness exploded in my mouth and I could see Josh watching me from the corner of his eye as I chewed.

“You have grease on your chin,” he said to me and then wiped it off with his thumb. I flinched away from him because a) I didn’t like being babied and b) I was surprised. He looked hurt and went back to his game. I scooted forward so I was directly beside him, and hugged him around his shoulders. Josh smiled and rested his head atop mine.

“You guys are cute,” my mother said, suddenly in the door. I grunted in response, I didn’t feel like talking. She laughed and I grunted again. I pressed my forehead into Josh’s shoulder and breathed slowly through my nose. He smelled like watermelon shampoo and my Irish Spring deodorant. ’These smells of home are my favorite.’ The song changed to Helena, by My Chemical Romance.

Long ago

Just like the hearse, you died to get in again

We are so far from you

Burning on

Just like a match you strike to incinerate

The lives of everyone you know

And what’s the worst to take

(Worst you take)

From every heart you break

(Heart you break)

And like a blade you stain

(Blade you stain)

Well, I’ve been holding on tonight

“You boys should stop listening to this type of music,” my mom said and sat down beside me on the corner of the bed. She sighed and pushed the hair out of my face. I turned and smiled at her. She had more freckles than I remembered, probably from the sun; in the summer my mother’s freckles always had a bunch of children. It was insane how many she had and that I didn’t have any, except for a cluster on the back on my right hand.

Josh looked at her and shrugged his shoulders. “I like our music,” he stated. “It’s unique and soulful.” My mother scoffed and looked out my window. ’That’s where I get it from.’ She looked sad and lost in thought, so I left her there. I had no idea what to do when another person was upset, but I knew exactly what I wanted when I was upset. It was stupid, but I had to deal with it. Josh turned off the music and took a bite out of the pizza I was no longer eating.

“Hey!” I shouted. He smiled at me and shrugged, I let it slide.

“I was so worried,” my mom said, still lost in thought. “I didn’t know where you were, or who you were with. I was so scared, Ben, so scared.” And then she started to cry.

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