I remember. My face falls.
I remember. Tears swell.
A lump, centered in the throat, grows into the nasal cavity. Breath becomes short, hard to catch.
She is here, a trace, faint like the colors on the edge of a rainbow that shift the entire sky. The last ripples of a stone that skips into the water off the shore of Cayuga Lake, its reverberation felt by hydrilla, rainbow trout, panfish, aquatic moth, weevil, seagull, purple martin. The call, shrill, of a red-winged blackbird weaving its way through Cass Park.
A change in form, in the form of things.
I focused on my form nine years ago on a sunny April morning. Something felt different as I laced my Asics, pulled my dry-fit shirt over my sports bra.
I opened the door, the cool spring sun already warming. Down Spencer Street, back up towards Cayuga. Past the library, the Commons, Dewitt Park, a routine that situated me, grounding me into the world for that day that began like any other day. That day like any other, except I knew already that it was not. I felt its difference strongly, it beat into my shirt as I rounded the bend past Boynton Middle School. I knew. I thought, “Zitzi is going to die today.”
My feet, grounded by routine, carried me back home. Past the high school students, entering. Past the Cayuga Gimme customers, sipping. Past the long-haired woman in Dewitt Park, strolling. When I got to my apartment, my hands moved in front of me, opened the door.
My phone rang.
“Jules.” My father’s voice was serious, weary.
“Jules, I’m at the hospital with Mom. It doesn’t look good.”
My mouth opened. No words.
“They’re going to operate on her.”
The conversation ended. I put down my phone, took off sneakers, climbed stairs. My feet, again moving by routine, walked me through the activities of the day. A few hours later, I found myself at Cornell, about to give a presentation on pedagogy. I opened my mouth to speak. Again, the phone rang.
Silence acknowledged my presence on the other end.
“Jules.” The gravity of the word indicated what I already knew. She was gone. My dad's voice cracked into the circumstances, described how everyone was with her, at the hospital. How she had been suffering, now she is not.
My Aunt’s death did not bring closure. Eleven years later, I can write down what happened, I can revisit emotions in memories, stories. But I can’t say I have come to peace with not having her in my life. I imagine her and miss her everyday. Often I still think, “I can’t believe she was here, and now she is gone.”
If I could, I would travel back in time, walk into the Turkey Trot with her on Thanksgiving morning, cigarette and coffee in hand as she got ready to run five miles. I would sit down with her in my Nanny's basement and gnaw on a pork hock drenched in sauce. I would paint with her. I would hug her.
Although I know she is still here with me, her subtle and constant presence reminding me to live true to myself, to not waste away my life, I wish she were less subtle, more tangible. I wish she knew my children on this Earth. Although I know that she is still here with me, dispersed in a million form-shifting pieces, I still miss her.