Walking to the Press Conference




For those who laugh when you see him on the ground, this is not for you. For those who reenact his death and post pictures, this is not for you. For those who say he deserved it, this is not for you. Grab your remote and turn away. This. Is not. For you.

It’s for those who have lost and still get up each morning. For those who haven’t lost, but know it can come at any moment. For those who cannot sleep and know why I keep hearing his cheekbone crack on the pavement. Why I turn my pillow over and over, hoping for relief.

You are my witness. You are my witness. You know this town. You know this place. You know what it’s like to touch your loved one’s face, then catch your breath. Knowing, every time he leaves, you could be left with final words, a video. A blinding image in your head. Night after night after night.

You turn over the pillow. This time it’s soft and cool. You rest your cheek and start to drift. And your mind rebels. And sends you back to the car. And you’re on your way to the morgue. And you know there’s been a mistake. Because they always make mistakes. And, suddenly, you’re in a room with chairs and two other people and a photo face-down on the table. And someone tells you what you’re about to see. And the room is small. Airless. And you wonder why there’s no body bag like the time your aunt identified your uncle. And they tell you to take your time. And they turn over the picture. And your throat closes up. And you whisper. And they ask you to say it again. Because they didn’t hear you the first time. And you see the scar on his chin—the one he got in Little League—and you clear your throat and say, Yes, that’s him. And you see what’s left of his face. His chest. His shoulders. And you want to touch his beautiful hands. But there is only one picture. And no more distinguishing marks. And no other room to go to. And they tell you to stay as long as you need. And you lean forward and grab the table. And the room spins. And spins. And spins.

Then someone who looks like your brother guides you to the front. You lean on his shoulder. And walk the tile floor. And the glass doors open. And you see the sweltering mirage of cars; your arms leaden, your heart weighted with stones, your throat. Closed. And you know he is gone.

Then, suddenly, you are home. Sitting in the chair where he leaned down and kissed your forehead, your cheeks, your lips. Making you forget, for a moment, they could take him from you. Reduce him to a photo. A stat. A problem that sets off riots. Something requiring subsidy to keep everyone quiet. There is nothing to reflect the muscles of his face. His smile warming the room like sunlight through an east window. Nothing to reflect his arms around your waist. His hips moving in time with yours; with the music, the settling of the bed, the sound of the coffeemaker telling you the night got away from you. There is nothing left. Except sleeplessness. And what must be said. Publicly.

Standing in front of microphones, I speak only to you. The ones who understand. The ones who will bear witness. The ones who will do the right thing, though there is nothing in it for you. I know you hear me. I know you hear me. And when I am through, I won’t look back. I won’t turn around. And I won’t answer any questions. You already know. How I feel.

© Darlene Eliot

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