I watch him lumber across the backyard from the kitchen window, and I wonder how someone so slight and thin could have such leadenness to his movements. It’s as if gravity has doubled for him and him alone.
I watch him and wonder where my responsibility for this phenomenon begins and where it ends, and this wonder is not mere curiosity but a freefall through guilt and loathing and flame and everything I have tried and failed to shield him from. I’ve turned to counselors, psychiatrists, motivational speakers, drugs with names dark like incantations uttered under a full moon. I’ve turned to the Pope and the Tao and the Stoics. I’ve turned to God, and when He forsook me, I turned to the devil.
None of them have been able to help my child.
I arrange his medicine carefully in a pill organizer, rationing out his hope for the week; it seems to bark at me as I snap its clasps shut.
I glance out the kitchen window. He’s carving something on a flat slab of rock he dragged from who-knows-where. There’s a second where I’m happy to see him playing, or at least creating, and then panic gets lodged in my throat as I curse a mother’s blindness.
It is all a blur, it is all movement; it is an automated journey with terror at its end.
The backyard tilts like a capsizing ship as I read his crude scribbles on the slab of rock: his name, epigraph, date of birth and scheduled death. I take him into my arms despite his size. He does not hug me back but remains limp. It’s as if the life has already left him.
He protests as we drive away; he begs me to turn back, pleads that he is fine, that he doesn’t need help. And when this does nothing to change my course, he weeps and screams and tells me he hates me and that I’m the one who’s hurting him, I’m the one who’s killing him.
And through all of this, he does not let go of my hand, and I feel the strength and blood coursing through his fingers as my own.
My beloved, of whom I will always be well pleased, do not loosen your grip. Remain, and I will walk with you through these sterile halls, and we will stare into the abyss until the abyss blinks. I know this place feels like a tomb, where men and women you hardly know seek to pry the darkness out of you with their prescriptions and their exercises and their talk. But beyond it all there’s a garden for you and I, free of concrete slabs, and when we arrive, we will laugh at how small your shadow has grown—we will bask in the light of your resurrection.
Blake Johnson’s fiction has appeared in Brilliant Flash Fiction, Ellipses Zine, Zizzle Literary Magazine, and several other publications. He grew up in Maine but has recently moved to Florida where he is carefully searching for a literary agent to represent his latest novel.
A Song for Blake