She should get on a plane and go. And she will. She just needs a moment to put her thoughts together. They’re already together, but she’ll tell herself they’re not. They shouldn’t be. Her thoughts should be wandering and dipping and falling and rising erratically. She should be shoving clothes haphazardly into a suitcase and running to the airport, not driving. Driving is for the rational, and she should be in hysterics. She is folding her clothes carefully, not wrinkling. She just needs a moment to herself, but she wants to be with someone. She should not be with someone. Alone is best.
It took him a week to die. It should have taken him twelve. She should not be glad that it’s done. Hysterical. She should be hysterical. She was, but it felt wrong. It gave her a headache and a sore throat, and she should have crumpled up on the bed and felt the wet on her face freeze and stiffen to a hard mask like raw egg whites. She tried to sleep but she couldn’t. There was too much she wanted to do. She should not want anything. She should think of him. She did think of him. And her face creased comically and her eyes squeezed out water and she made her throat hurt again. He was not a happy man. He was angry more often than not. She should not think of that. She should think of that, and then everyone would know how complicated it was. It was good to be complicated. There were fewer questions.
She should read on the plane. The Tibetan Guide to Death and Dying. It would be right to arrive with salmon ridges under her eyes and she would not talk to anyone on the plane. She would not smile. Smiling would make her cry, and being on the verge of crying was the best state to be in. She would break down at any moment. No she did not want a Diet Coke. A Scotch. She should be drinking before noon. They would not serve it to her, but she should ask. It would be right to ask. She should be tormented. May I have a Scotch? She should look scornfully at the guy next to her, the one who would judge her for asking. Alcoholic. She should look embarrassed, but he’ll see that she’s suffering and he’ll know he should be the one who’s embarrassed.
She should not be going out to dinner. That’s for celebrating. She needs to eat, and that’s okay, but she should not be laughing. She should be starving. She won’t laugh. She’ll laugh a little, but only less than her father. Only a little less. He isn’t drinking and he should be drinking. Mom is drinking for him. Her eyes are like pomegranates.
She should not be thinking of the ashes downstairs. They keep her up at night. She should not be imagining them crying. Why would they? It makes her stomach hurt, and she should not be hearing them crying. They are in a plastic decorated cube turned on its corner and she should not be thinking of them before she goes to sleep. She should be thinking of him. Her stomach hurts and this is how she should feel. She should feel on the verge of throwing up and she should not have been eating only hours after she heard. She should not be eating, but she should be throwing up.
She is sweating and dusty and she should not be thinking of sweating and how the wet is mixing with the powder on her face and streaking grooves of flesh color and gray into her cheeks and exposing her flaws. She should not be thinking of Hanukkah but those are the only prayers she knows. She should be thinking in Hebrew but she cannot follow her father when he prays. She wants to know what he says so she can cry more.
Baruch atah Adonai
But this is not right
Eloheinu melech ha-olam
But this is what it sounds like
Asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav
This is all she knows and she wants to pray along
L’hadlik ner shel
And it all sounds the same to her. She should have gone to Hebrew school.
They play Taps on the horns and they shoot in the air and her guts scream with every shot—and this should be her watermark for grief.
They go back to the house for dinner and her father points to a silver bowl sitting on a chair outside the front door. Everyone rinses their hands and she should, too. She waves her hands in the foggy tap water and watches the way her fingers wave under the surface of the pool. She should wave back. The grieving is over and she should be okay now. She should not feel worse than she did when it all started. Her father says the water is to wash away the old, the sadness, the loss. Is that all? She waves her hands briskly and wipes them on her skirt. Is that all? They walk into the house and look at old pictures and she should cry. She should throw up. She should drink. She should not talk. She will not talk.
Alone is best.