The orange parquet where you sat with your grandson, tickled his neck, his toddler belly. Where he dumped out the tub of plastic animals. Where he, the gorilla, saved you, the giraffe, from tumbling off a blanket cliff. The floor where your beer stood untouched for a time, where you continued to smile through the lifting fog, where it seemed some other weight lifted as well. The floor where I stood, watched from the doorway, swapped out my son for my three-year-old self. Where I wished I could capture the you in that moment, copy and paste it over so many years.
The door where Happy Easter hung from a hook. Where you stumbled and laughed as you pulled the zipper on your black leather boots, as we untangled together the thin gold necklace caught in your hair. Where we embraced around walls I’d built steel strong, where we talked about having picnics when the weather turned nice. Where I watched while you walked, crooked, to the cab. Where I exhaled with relief, then ached with guilt, love.
The oval-shaped platters and red tablecloth where I placed the cheese and the shrimp you liked, where I told you with food what my tongue could not. Where you laughed so loud and smiled so large that we could pretend, as we always had, that I was ok and you were ok, that your body wasn’t thinning, your cheeks weren’t sinking, that your life was still yours, that no one ever stole it from your childhood bed, that you were not drowning while I stood watching.
The table where I placed the sympathy flowers. Where I thumbed through a catalog to choose your gravestone. Where I found so many fonts for “in loving memory,” but so little color. You would have wanted color. The table where I sit, alone after dark, drowning these thoughts in a handheld ocean, darker than yours and in a fancier glass. Where my senses strain to summon from the emptiness: the summer sun in your melting touch, the winter sky in your grey-blue eyes. But all I can feel is the liquid in my throat, cool at first, then faintly burning.
The plunging basin, sickly pink, where I run the water to my chin. Where my body sinks in the sum of your tears, in the end too deep for you to emerge. Where I wonder if in your own tub your hands gripped the sides as your heart began to slow, as your breath refused to come. Where I remember a smaller tub, my smaller self splashing, mountains of bubbles and plastic funnels, you a canary perched on the ledge, singing, smiling in a yellow dress. Where I remember as well the powders and pills, the shattering bottles, the unseeing rage. The days you couldn’t wake, the nights you couldn’t stay, the men you couldn’t leave, the rent you couldn’t pay. The day I turned sixteen and we were homeless again, when I saw a path that diverged from yours, when you saw it too and told me to go.
The tub where my tears now merge with yours, where I wonder at the difference it might have made if we had cried together. Where I rise from the water as you’d want me to, knowing my rising was never enough, hoping maybe it is today.