Empty bank account, barren fridge, tattered clothes and I brace against the ever-greying windy October skies. Summer seems so long ago with heat that reddened my delicate skin in less than ten minutes. I also miss that yellow fireball that kept me warm. But the sun has shrunk back distancing itself from earth. I shiver in the cold.
Cold has descended on this part of the world. I watch in quiet agitation as the frigid air has turned many people into impatient drivers that press their palms to horns. It’s a scream at the operator in another vehicle for a mistake made or worse yet, just because the palm-pressing-horn-blower left too late and will now be late for work. I know this to be true: because I’m one of those people. This city where cars race up and down streets, parkways, and highways are everywhere. We are in a rush to get nowhere.
This is a difficult time of year for everyone but I dread this month most. It’s October – a time of year when everything changes; leaves shift with colour and people become more entrenched in back-to-work and back-to-school routines.
But for me, this month is the worst. Triple heartbreaks of loved ones who were diagnosed with something that meant their lives were at risk; or in a cruel sense of irony, one of them I had no idea was sick. He died suddenly with a 3:45 am wake-up call that said he was gone. No time for I’m sorry, or last good-byes. Just a call that said: He died tonight.
Tonight, there is blackness that I have never felt before. I turn my eyes upwards in search of the Black Moon. I don’t find it. But what I find is a cold breeze that licks my face and sweeps my hair everywhere. The stars are however, brighter than I’ve ever noticed before. My eyes move back to the pavement where I watch as leaves hold hands together and are swept around in circles like Greeks do when they dance.
I secretly wish that I could be the moon and hide away from everything. It seems unfair that it gets to have some time to take a break for one night and then reappear brighter tomorrow. I wish I could get some quiet time: to breathe, to think, to feel. Instead, my days are spent checking off never-ending tasks and to-do-lists that leave me short of breath and stuck on a treadmill.
But maybe, that’s for the best.
“What’s going on with you?” He asks red-faced and half-smiling at me.
“Nothing,” I answer defensively. I stare down at the ground avoiding his eyes. I hate it when he just pops in unexpectedly.
He’s watching me. I know it. It’s really a silly question on his part, because he knows what’s going on with me. I spin around and revise my answer to his question and in a crisp, growl of a voice I say, “I hate October!”
“Why?” He asks with that mischievous grin. It’s the same look he had when he knew the answer to the question he just asked, but wanted you to say it.
I’ve decided I’m calling him out and answer, “You know why!”
“I’m not here. You know that, right, kiddo?”
“Yes you are,” I answer lifting my chin in defiance. I’ve locked the swelling tears in my eyes in and hold them back like floodgates. If the floodgates are released it will be a catastrophe. Someone will drown.
“Kiddo, just use your blue, happy-light. That’ll work,” he says chuckling.
I turn and face him saying, “I hate that you know about my blue light.”
“So, you’re not suffering from SAD then?” He’s stopped laughing now and scrunches his face in my direction. I notice the crinkle in his nose. The lingering remnants of mischief sit at the corners of his lips and it’s the same look he had whenever he was making fun of me. His eyes swirl with trouble. He’s a little more red-faced than a few minutes ago and full of life.
It’s the way I remember him.
He just wants me to say it. He wants to hear those words. But he can’t make me do anything now.
“Leave me alone,” I say deflated.
He’s suddenly serious and he softly says, “You know it will be alright, right, sis?”
“Only if I decide to keep going,” I retort. I look down at the ground and stare at small rocks that are sprinkled along the payment.
“October’s a triple whammy for you. But you’re made of tougher stuff.”
My head snaps up in his direction as I square off with him again. If he were here, I would put him in a headlock right now. Or, I would try to. I would probably lose. He was close to 6 feet tall, 200 lbs, and worked in construction. I am 5 feet 2 inches, 140 lbs, and am a slightly pudgy office worker. He’s bigger and older than me. The cards are stacked against me. But I would try just the same. We’re siblings. It’s what we do. We fight.
My five-year-old has returned and I say, “Why does everything have to be so hard for me?”
“Hard for you?” He questions me in a tone that reminds me of Dad. It’s the tone of: You’re being a spoiled brat.
With his look, I turn my eyes away from him and say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean that.” His words sting me and it leaves the lingering burnt sensation as if I’ve had my knuckles rapped by the headmaster.
When we were kids, I absolutely believed I stood on higher ground than my brother. (That’s the way I saw it back then. I fully acknowledge now, there’s a good chance I was wrong.) But in the last few years of his life, my brother was brilliant, still funny, and much more resilient than me. He also had a better understanding of the world: what mattered, what didn’t, and how not to brood about your shitty luck. And today, he’s calling me out for sounding ungrateful when my life isn’t always that bad: just parts of it. I miss him.
I miss all of them.
“How’s Dad?” I ask changing the subject like my family always does. It’s a defence mechanism: Let’s not talk about the serious stuff like death, loss, and grief.
“Good,” he says quickly and without any hesitation. “He’s smoking as much as he wants to now without you nagging him,” he answers as he swings his head back and claps his hands together. Clearly, he’s entertained by his own joke.
In a few moments, he’s gathered himself and continues, “Oh, speaking of which….” he pauses for a second as he fumbles in his coat pocket, pulls a cigarette out of the package, flicks his lighter open, lights a cigarette, and inhales on it.
I half-smile and turn my head away from him. Mumbling, I sarcastically say, “Nice.”
He deliberately blows smoke in my face and throws his head back in laughter. I can’t smell the tobacco smoke. For that reason, it doesn’t set off my allergies. In that moment, I know he’s right. He’s not here. This realization makes my chest contract and my face crumbles.
I blurt out, “I miss you guys.”
The floodgates have opened.
His cigarette dangles between his two fingers and rests relaxed by his side. He’s serious and says, “Triple whammy for you, sis.”
I breathe out and watch as white wisps of my exhale float in the darkness as droplets of water tumble down my cheeks.
I answer in a whisper of a voice as I try to gather my emotions, “Yeah.”
“Tomorrow night, the moon will be back.”
With his statement, I turn my gaze to the twinkling stars that sit above us and use my gloved hand to wipe the dribbling from my nose. I quietly continue my gaze upwards for a moment longer, and then turn back and look at him. I’m smiling now, and with a giggle, I answer all the questions he asked me earlier that I either gave a smart-ass answer to, or never answered, while also providing a reply to his statement about the moon.
My answer is this: “I know”.