The first year: I bring yellow roses because I’m mad.
I realized you are dead. And I am angry.
The second year: I bring red roses because I’m sorry for being petty.
I find acceptance.
The third year: I bring washed-out pink roses because that was the choice, that or orange.
They didn’t have red and I don’t pick orange because I am still sorry about the yellow.
And my chest opens with the swell of grief I told myself I had tamed. The deep longing of you, and us, and wanting to tell you, I love you so much. I’m used to you being dead but I can’t acclimatize to the grief. This is the year of longing.
This year, the first thing I notice is how handsome you are in your tombstone photo. Damn baby boy, I still haven’t seen eyes that blue.
I remember the first year. My ex-boyfriend commenting on how good looking you were, and at the time I wanted to scream “shut the fuck up” at him because talking about you in the past tense still tore at the edges of my heart not yet softened by time. That and I hated the photo they chose of you. It was taken too recent to your death and I felt it a betrayl that they commemorate the shell of you for reasons chronological rather than commemorate 20 year old you with your thick chestnut hair and peter pan smile and the flame of your fucking spirit still in your eyes. But yes, you are still handsome in the photo your family chose, you were more handsome before you shaved off all your hair and maybe that is the real tragedy that they didn’t pick a photo where you are more handsome.
It is the third year. I am with my friend. It is out of necessity I let another person in on my grief. Fuck, I need to learn to drive. I miss my ex-boyfriend a lot in this moment. He’s the one usually assigned to take me here. His absence is another little loss for me to bear but alas my ex-boyfriend is still alive so we can’t grieve that, not just yet. If only he were as dead as our relationship. I’m joking. I think I have subconsciously chosen the only other person on the planet that could be more oblivious to emotion than my ex-boyfriend. You’re still the best-intentioned babe. I love you so much. I do not want to be indulged. I’m still holding my vulnerability close to my chest. When we drive off, I have tears in my eyes that I only become aware of just before they fall. My friend doesn’t notice. I’m glad I didn’t cry. I am being brave against the grief this year. I want MB so badly.
My friend, the living one, counts out how old you were when you died and says: “He was 32, which is kinda sad cause you know if he died when he was 17 people would have talked about how there was time for a redemption story like you could make up in your head an alternate ending about how he could have turned his life around but at like 32, maybe the chances of getting better decrease and you’ve made your mistakes so you just don’t get that”. See, emotional oblivion. God bless him.
He continues, he asks if anyone at your funeral talked about how you overdosed. I say, “No, they gloss it”. I tell him I think they mention “your demons” but really I don’t remember. I don’t know if I am relieved that his presence is holding my grief at attention or maybe he thinks I’m tougher than I am and that this isn’t hard for me. Any of the peace I felt at year two has sunk into a deeper mourning I didn’t know existed.
Your grandma died. In 2018. June. And I don’t know how I didn’t notice, until this year. Why I didn’t notice in 2019. There she is buried next door to you. I feel like a bad friend. She died just over a year after you. I note. I’m falling back to the day of your funeral and the memory still makes my stomach seize. All I remember about your grandma is her wailing at your loss and I’m glad she’s dead for her own broken heart.
It’s been four years and that feels like a really long time and I’m scared that with each year that passes you drift further from me and I want to be able to tell you so bad that I’m doing good but I’ve come around full circle again and not in the good way. In the way that questions how can I be standing in the same fucking spot and it look like 2017. Cunt. It is really hard for me to feel like I am not falling backwards with your grief as the only measure of forward momentum. Congrats babe, you are not so bereaved you can’t eat or sleep. Excellent.
If you want to know. I use this ritual as my New Year. Coming, visiting your grave, this is the marker of time that I use to measure the last 12 months of growth, success, failure, love, heartbreak. Who needs New Year’s when I have you? I take the whole year and lay it down for you to see how I’m living. You cloak me from my own judgment as I reflect on what I’ve done and what I have failed to do since the last time I stood here to face you. I miss you so fucking much. Each year I never know what my grief will feel like, how it will mutate and adapt, how it will respond to you. What is the first thing that I will feel? What is the first thing that I will notice? What I will say.
This year all I want to say is “I love you”.