The trouble with you humans is that you are so concerned with staying afloat. Go ahead, be gouged open by love. Gulp that saltwater, sink beneath the waves. You’re not a boat, you can go under and come up again, with those big old lungs of yours, those hard kicking legs. Laura Lamb Brown-Lavolie

February 2014

Jimmy is dead. I am trapped by that truth, dragged down by it like a deep-sea diver wearing a too-heavy weight belt or an overloaded boat, unstable and unable to move.

The skies are dark and moody, leaving the air thick and heavy, making it impossible to draw a deep breath, even inside the house. I keep the lights off, grateful that the dim, wet world is honoring Jimmy’s departure, too.

It has been ten days since Jimmy drew his last breath. Ten days that feel like ten years that feel like a lifetime. Yet I cannot stop pausing to listen for the soft release of air as he exhales, the only proof towards the end that he was still here.

Laden down this way, I am unable to go anywhere, leaving the daily drives to drop Molly off at high school and pick her up after softball practice to Dan. With my skin turned inside out and everywhere a wound, I cannot venture out into the world for fear of being seen, especially by someone I don’t know well. “How is your son?” a question I cannot answer. “I’m so sorry” an offering I cannot hold.

It is Dan who convinces me to leave, gently urging me out to walk the horse trails near our house, using Buster’s need to burn off his border collie energy as the tipping point I need to put on my sneakers. I trudge behind the two of them, head down, oblivious to everything, terrified of seeing a neighbor or someone I know. My feet follow the well-worn path as my body stays in motion, proving Newton’s First Law now that Dan has broken through my inertia.

The lake is low, starved of love and water, bone dry in some places, an oozing mess in others. Parched and ugly, it endures, holding onto what’s left, offering what remains.

The loud splash of ducks as they run on the water breaks my trance, and I pause to watch them land and gather. Twenty, thirty, I cannot count them all before they dive as if by some silent command into the diminished lake, returning to the surface in odd beats, like a tune without rhyme or rhythm. Ducks’ tails, drakes’ tails, through the rushes tall. Dabbling, diving, up tails all! Just like the ditty from my childhood.

The sun warms my face, easing the tightness around my chest. The purple lupine blanketing the hills sways in the afternoon breeze. The clouds have cleared, leaving the air fresh and clear. Light dances on the surface of the lake, broken by the spray of diving ducks.

I turn back to the trail, hustling to catch up with Dan and Buster and feel Jimmy alight next to me. Moving at his own pace, he matches his steps to mine. Slow down, he seems to say. Let yourself rise. I’m all around you now, if only you’ll let go and look up.

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