The gentle touch loosened itself by his arm, leaving a wake of numb destruction as it fell. The time read three, yet the room darkened to moonless midnight. He watched as faceless bodies gently laid what was once his sweet, strong, graceful mother, slowly pushing her lifelessness into the van. Questions whirled around his head, gravitating around him like a heavy crown, or a planet’s ring.
Hours passed and the color had not yet drained from her smile as she held her siblings, those who now wept as they watched their sister resurface in a box, plastered neatly with two hands folded just below her bosom. He wondered what string of memories had wrapped themselves around their throats as they choked and sobbed, for in this time, there had not been a single tear to fall down his cheek.
Had he not just seen her? She was back home, waiting for everyone to come with open arms and a full table, as she always did.
Pieces of a fallen ceramic plate surrounded his feet, followed by a string of curses as he fell to his knees. Since her death, life had gone on all the same, and he hated it.
Did no one care?
His feed showed reels and highlights of happy smiles and beach trips, copy pasta cliché quotes and well wishes. Everyone had moved on so quickly when he knew damn well that they had poured out their hearts as she was lowered down six feet.
Still, they moved on; the sun rose and set like it always had, as if nothing on the earth in its orbit had mattered.
He wanted to shout, to run, do something, anything that could take his mind off the way her mouth turned upwards at the corners as she watched him, smiling before she left.
How dare she smile at him, how dare she smile at the fact that she was leaving him, leaving everyone and everything she ever loved on this planet to travel among the stars. There was nothing beautiful about shining dots plastered on the color changing board called the sky. Nothing was beautiful anymore.
If only he had taken that medical course she recommended to him years ago. He could’ve become a doctor, someone capable, someone special and worthy of the praise she had spoon fed him since childhood.
What if the sickness had been found earlier? She would have still been here, celebrating what could have been her sixty-first birthday. He shouldn’t have gone to the reunion dinner with his high school class so he didn’t have to find her on the floor, reaching for him in . She could have gotten to the hospital quicker, gotten better faster.
The last part went unsaid, and hell if he didn't try to unthink it. Maybe he could have changed her fate, but that question remained unanswered, and will forever be so.
These days he laughed without a spark of humor, rather finding a trace of self-pity or loathing in them. He couldn’t tell; it was all the same to him.
All he had ever done in the year since she had passed was live. Live in the photographs of their adventures that brought a hollow ache which crawled into the marrow of his bones, rotting him from the inside out. Love in the hugs he shared with her in recorded greetings and farewells. Smile in the montages of birthdays, vacations to islands and five star hotel buffets.
The last traces of her hung in the curtains of his room, unwashed. Her mug stayed upside down, forever drying in the dishwasher. It was a gift for Mother’s Day, one she accepted with a hug and a kiss to the forehead, two of which he would only ever feel again in the sweetest of dreams.
His heart beat for a time that had already ended, and the song he sang had already been sung. An abyss had swallowed him whole, relentless, yet he found himself drowning in the light of memories no less.
His daughter cried as she squirmed in the crib, thrashing her arms around before being picked up and nestled in the crook of his neck. She was named after her, and surely did take after his mother; their smiles were the same, and so were their tempers.
Her tantrum waned with each hum and lullaby, letting the tune carry her off into a slumber under the midnight moon. The stars shined brighter tonight than it did before, the indigo canvas it had decorated harboring several different hues of light.
He realized with a start; for the years that made his dark night, all he had to do was tilt his head up at the stars, and gaze in wonder, because in that moment, everything was beautiful again.