November 10 2010
I found myself reminiscing as I sat in the hospital room in a grey corner with Copen strapped up across the room, small tubes coming from his arms like straws and sleeping, content and quiet. The two-pane window on the south wall was fogged and streaks of rain pulled down its smooth surface. I found myself staring, watching each slide down the glass, accumulating more and more speed at every drop encountered and I started to remember different nights we had spent together. On a Thursday night: this, and on a Friday night: that.
Some odd Friday evening we were sitting on his couch in the velvet den, side-by-side underneath the Christmas quilts Camilla had been given after Eliot’s passing. A movie had just ended and we were both surprised to see it so dark outside. There had been clouds gathering over his house; dark, anger-harvesting clouds. I had been propped up against him like a bookend and we both stared at the black TV screen.
We just sat. Not saying anything, not looking up to disturb the silence, just content to be near each other when I got up, interrupting it all. In one fluid motion I circled around the plush chair he still sat in and looked out the sliding door. I could feel the cold emanating from the glass, fresh on my face. The clouds were heavy but it only sprinkled; small dots peppering the concrete patio. I could see the lights of the field behind his house, glowing up against the greyness of the sky and he came up close behind me, stood for a moment and then opened the door to push me out.
He crossed behind me to sit at the table facing his open backyard with a perfect view of the skies. I sat down next to him, hip-to-hip like we always sat; like we couldn’t afford to be merely an inch away from each other and it seemed that as soon as we became situated in the misty cold, wrapped in Eliot’s quilts, the first bolt struck. And we counted out loud until the thunder grumbled, and the thunder came quicker as the bolts came closer and more brilliant, and then it slowed, leaving only a strike here and a strike there. That had been January, and now in August only some things had changed. The weather: the same, but Copen and I, we were changed forever.
May 22 2011
I kneeled on a Tuesday, at the open end of the cul-de-sac on 33rd and Bay, in the heat of some August night under a broken street light which had been only days before broken by a neighbor with a tennis racket and baseball. The street behind me panned out, allowing cats with green eyes to saunter across the asphalt, vacant of any human life in the stifling heat. Most were cooped up inside their two-stories’, watching re-runs under a grated vent that propelled cold air through the slots, and rightly so, for the only escape even after the sun had gone underground were the thermostats on their neutral colored walls.
On my lap was Copen’s head and neck and we waited with his eyes blankly turned upwards towards me for the ambulance to arrive. That summer, Copen was big. He had grown right in front of my eyes; at least 200 lbs., 6’2”-3” with short blonde hair, two dark eyes and a crooked nose in the middle of his face. I loved him and he was typical, except not at all. When he laughed, I could feel it. It didn’t matter if I was close by or a hundred yards away, it didn’t even matter if what was said was even remotely humorous, his laugh shook me.
Many people were wary of Copen. He normally stayed quiet but when he told a story every syllable was so deep it made people wonder if it hurt to talk in such a way. It was guttural and rough but hard to imagine his voice sounding any other way. Most people listened and waited for him to clear his throat, suspecting something odd to have caused that depth. The neck in my lap was all muscle, defined and cut; it twisted and bent and turned under a round jaw when it took the time. And further up, his eyes seemed to hide, deep-set under hooded lids and when he looked at you without a smile, which was often, you wondered in which indirect way you had crossed him sorely when really, he was just looking at you like he would anyone else, any other person.
From his temples I could see the pain and I knew we hadn’t much time. And just then I heard the sirens, only minutes away and I examined him closer, taking in every freckle and pore. His face was home to a small mouth and even smaller lips, a constant scowl or furrowed eyebrow that spoke of an unceasing discomfort. But the majority of him was legs; legs that went for weeks and kicked up to his back in tandem with his elbows when he ran. The simplest things were complicated by him. His walking stride put his feet in rocking chairs, long and curved and fluid, making his whole body bob up and down.
I saw every inch of him in those last minutes, even straight to his spine where pain was splotched like pigment in his skin. I could see it now; the pain, tangled with urgency and curiosity like electrical wires and as the ambulance turned onto 33rd with flashing lights, his lips split and behind the pearls of teeth I could see shadows of words being formed, and like a wave coming to shore, the syllables surfed across his tongue and brought my name, “Avery.”
June 20 2011
That summer the heat enveloped us. It stuck like syrup on our tanned skin while overhead the air smelled like anything was possible and with the way our clothes pinned to us, it was uncomfortable to be outside for more than twenty minutes at a time.
Every June the weather was annually just so that the greyness of the morning sky would linger into the afternoon. It smudged everything into a clouded haze and left it that way until the sun decided to make an appearance. The sky wasn’t blue; it was blank, dull and rejecting any color the hiding sun had to offer. But in the afternoon, late, when the roads slowed down and children came in from play, everything changed.
The sun would burn off the gloom and shine violently on everything with an orange glow from the western sky just before sunset. The corn fields catty-corner to 27th and Thomas under the town’s water tower would turn the most vibrant greens and goldenrods-and against the burning sun, the colors were blinding but too beautiful to look away. On the horizon, the deep red silhouetted hills slowly became speckled with the porch lights of town homes and grocery stores as the sun continued to fall.>>