Lately, the tears have been unpredictable and unquenchable; I feel like a hemophiliac, terrified to break my thin skin because once it’s cut the liquid doesn’t stop flowing. Four rough days in a row: another 13th, marking 11 months; a Friday, like every Friday since the Friday Alex died horrible; a 15th, month marker of Alex’s birthday; Father’s Day, another normally innocuous and commercialized holiday turned deadly by the marked absence of a necessary participant.
11 months gone. Next marker a year. Things must’ve changed in those 11 months but it’s hard to say what. I recently noticed that the taller, broader, big-haired void next to me of my brother is no longer the first thing people see about me, although they still see the shadow his void casts. I have a new friend who I hung out with a record 3-4 times before mentioning that my brother was dead; I was both proud of myself and ashamed that I had acted like a normal person until then. But even though I can now talk to people for several hours in a social setting without telling them of my void, I must still wear it. Several times over the past few weeks people on the street have called out to me to cheer up, including, once, a homeless man on the sidewalk who told me, “Whatever’s troubling you, beautiful, it’s gonna be all right. The man upstairs never takes a vacation.” Apparently I look so piteous that someone literally on the ground feels the need to give me a hand up.
The aforementioned friend, when I said how long Alex had been dead, said “Oh. That’s not very long.” I don’t know if it is long or not. It’s probably been the longest 11 months of my life. That Friday the 13th does have a surreal quality of place and sense memory that belong to another era, or another person’s story; I think I couldn’t cope with being in the same town and driving the same streets otherwise. But, whether or not it’s the first thing I tell people, it also still feels like the most important fact of my existence.
In a month we will dedicate his grave in Jewish tradition. I have been to the unmarked grave 3 times since he died, around Dia de los Muertos, around Valentine’s day, and on Mother’s Day. This time it will be only Alex’s day. I’m terrified for it to hit the year marker, I want to pull on the breaks and lean backwards hard. Just like when the minutes slid into hours, and days, and weeks, and then a month, the transition into larger units seems to eclipse any chance I had for this to be reversible, for someone to pop out from behind a door and explain that the whole thing is a horrible joke, or for Marty McFly to appear with a souped-up Delorean offering to fly me back to 7am CDT on that Friday, where we will call an ambulance with enough time to make a difference and my brother will be put on a strict diet of relaxation and whatever miracle medicine can prevent healthy 29 year olds from dropping dead.
But Back to the Future is less the movie of our childhood that I think of than Flight of the Navigator, beloved by Alex and hated by me. Alex is now in orbit, forever 29, while the Earth spins on at a more rapid pace below him and we are forced to move with it, no matter how we try not to. I can still hear his voice and anticipate his thoughts, and when I talk to others who knew him well I feel like we create him in our conversational spaces. I hope that remains as the months become years, although I wish he could age and grow with us, even in my head.