You can spend your time in the card aisle, but it’ll most likely just be wasted. There’s not much solace in those cards, not much heart or feeling or sincerity. Just little words like “Sorry” or “Condolences” that just translate to “I didn’t take the time before and I can barely be bothered now.” There’s no comfort in the hardware stores or the sweet shops. Everything seems to have no meaning whatsoever when you weigh those items against the loss of a wife and a son. What do you get for the man who has lost everything?
It’s been a year. A very long year. I drive by his house every so often, only one light on in the living room window. Sometimes I see him outside, sometimes I don’t. I couldn’t say a word to him at the funeral. I just stood there, in the back, looking over the grief. Two uneven sized coffins and various wreaths surrounding them. He was sitting in a chair at the end of the two front rows. He was motionless. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was for him, but I just couldn’t. What can you say to a man who has lost everything?
I was in the back, looking through the groups of people there to console and comfort. The viewing started in the late afternoon and went on into the evening. I was there for the last hour or so. I was staring straight at the back of him. From the front end of the parlor were the echoes of the sobs of her parents and the boy’s grandparents. There were the talks of the hang-abouts telling other hang-abouts that it was a closed coffin because of the accident, and how nobody claimed responsibility.
I saw him at the burial as the flowers that were on top of the coffins were passed out. Last little keepsakes; reminders for things you’d never forget happened. A hit and run.
I’ve driven past his house so much the past year. Slowly if I don’t see him outside, quickly if I do. I don’t know how he does it. Living on and on, without purpose or cause. I don’t think I could do that. I know what I’d do. I’ve thought about it a lot this year. I’ve thought about it constantly, over and over again.
Earlier in the year I would see some friends or maybe relatives coming in or going out. When they were going in their backs were stiff and their heads were high. When they were leaving they were somber, defeated. Eventually no one was going in or coming out.
I’ll bet he likes whiskey. Whiskey is a necessity for a time like this. Nothing too distinguished, and nothing too cheap. Just something that you’d expect a bartender to pour when he asks you, “What’ll ya have?” and you just say in that broken, melancholy tone that screams out how desolate and shitty the world can be, “Whiskey.” Nothing romantic about it. Just whiskey. Whiskey is what you get for the man who lost everything.
It can numb at just the right levels and kills all the right pains. You start out by the fingers: first one, then two, then three. Eventually fingers aren’t enough, sooner or later you get to “per bottle” measures. All the loss and regret can melt away for a little bit and you can sleep. It can keep the away the bad dreams and let you wake up just as numb as you fell asleep and you’re thankful. Thankful that you can forget about mistakes and fuck-ups and car accidents.
I’ll leave it on his porch when I see the light turn off tonight. I’ll park down the block, around the corner and ring the doorbell and run off like some dumbass kid. That’s what he’ll say at first when he doesn’t see anyone. He’ll say “Those goddamn kids.” Then he’ll look down and see it and say to himself, “Thank god.” He won’t know who, but he’ll suspect. In the back of his mind he’ll suspect, but he’ll never know.
About The Writer
Chris Ullery is a journalist and fiction writer from Cumberland, Maryland. He is currently an English major at Frostburg State University and plans to attend graduate school next year.