Saturday, January 9, 2010


They held Jessica’s wake in the basement of her parents’ house. Her alcoholic uncles, dried out from the sun and with faces full of three days’ stubble, came to shake Jacob’s hand and to hug Amy, Jessica’s mother, who spent the evening sitting on a cinder block in the darker corner of the room. She looked like Jessica. The women had shared a nose, gently sloped and wide at the bottom, and they had shared eyes, green on the outside and grey in the middle. Jacob couldn’t bring himself to console her. Jessica’s father was the only man in the room who gave the appearance that he was prepared for what had happened to his daughter. He was framed like a stout building and shook the hand of everyone who came down the swaying wooden stairs. A couple of times he even managed to draw a thin smile across his face.
     Her parents had opened Jessica’s room so that her friends and family could remember the way she used to live. It was immaculately clean, and Jacob knew that it wasn’t Amy who’d kept it that way. Jessica had taken great pains to live a life of order, up to the day she died. Her Pirates tickets were arranged neatly under the glass of her desktop, the pillows on her bed in order from largest to smallest, moving away from the wall. A thin pair of socks with dogs catching Frisbees draped over the cushion of a chair in the corner. He remembered that, out at the farm, she’d folded the blanket she was laying with when the paramedics knocked on their front door.
     A light weight came down on his arm. Amy’s hand slid down his wrist and she put her thin fingers in his hand. Her face was black, her cheeks, and her hair fell limp down her neck. She squeezed his hand hard. “What are you going to do, Jake?” she said. Her voice was like an old record, quiet and brittle and popping.
     He looked away from her and up the stairs and blinked away tears. “I’m going to go home, Amy,” he said.
     They left out opened bottles of wine and piled up pre-cooked shrimp and toothpicks. Someone had brought a dog with them and it slept underneath the stairs, tethered to the railing. Jacob shifted on alternating feet and left his hands sweating in his pockets while the world of people who knew and loved his dead wife swirled around him in fast-forward.

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