A LIST OF THINGS THINGS I’VE WATCHED DIE
Along the caulking of lime bathroom tiles, one ant carries the body of another ant, scurrying to avoid droplets of sink water.
I cup tsunamis in my palms.
Splash first against my prickly cheeks then against the wall.
Two semi-colons rinsed away into the holes of a sink strainer.
In a looming Catholic church, my siblings embrace me. I remember a game my grandfather and I used to play: we’d each stand six feet from the refrigerator and toss souvenir magnets at its belly. The only way to lose was to miss. Neither of us ever lost.
We’d laugh beside a table with a cheap metal frame around its edges and laminated floral print, riddled with coffee stains.
My grandfather’s mustache still had black in it.
I cry in the church. But not because I miss my grandfather. Instead, because my siblings cry, all circled around my awkward little body.
They talk about camping trips I never attended. Restaurants I never ate in. A Pinto I swore I sat in once. A faint memory of me waving at my father from a car seat, him walking across the greenest grass.
*We got rid of that car before you were born*, my brother says.
Inside a box of cherry wood, a monument to a different family that looks eerily similar to mine.
My father cries. I know to hug him. And so I do.
Perhaps I know this too much.
My first dog is Winkles. The ‘R’ left out on purpose. As my mother puts the Subaru in reverse, retreating finally from the Almadale house, my father approaches.
*I’ll see you soon*, he tells me.
*But where’s Winkles?*, I ask.
In the hallways of our high school, a boy spits on me and calls me a poser. This same boy in middle school Language Arts tapped me on the shoulder and said *Look* with his tongue out. On it, a small tab of paper.
In his house when we were both younger, his younger brother cursed like wildfire and ran along burnt carpet. I never met his parents.
This same boy will see me on the streets of our hometown when we’re both twenty-four.
His hair will be long and he will wear his plaid shirt open with no t-shirt underneath. Torn shorts.
*Dude, you live in New York now, right?*, he’ll say.
*That’s real cool, man.*, he’ll say.
*Yeah, gonna move out to Vegas or Bakersfield or something. Just somewhere.*, he’ll say.
*Clean for six months.*, he’ll say.
*Thanks, man.*, he’ll say and walk up Mayflower towards the hills.
A week later, his friends will raise money on websites for services. I wonder if I should attend but don’t.
His sister explains it all in writing, that tolerance subsides as quickly as hives.
I learn too late that my Uncle was married once.
I wonder if chunks of his liver ever clogged up the shower.
I wonder if he prayed to the collage of images of my grandmother framed behind an urn of her dust.
I wonder who will get his car, a Chrysler with solid metal rims.
I wonder if it’s disrespectful to drink the leftover beer.
I wonder where the birds beneath the towel that chirp incessently will go. Will they recognize the absence of my uncle’s well-groomed beard? Will they shed feathers on newspaper or be let go? Will they remember their instincts? Are these things pre-loaded? Or will they just continue to yell out for seeds served up in Dixie cups?
Under anesthesia, we do not dream.
Countdown from Ten.
*Okay, we’re back.*
Was anything moved? I hobble to a recliner and watch Judge Judy for forty minutes.
Someone on the radio says, void an afterlife, death would be much like this pause.
We just would never know.
*They just melted in the olive oil in five minutes. That’s it. What a pitiful life.*, I say.
*A delicious one.*, Melanie says.
I don’t respond.
*You must be in a bad place to not be able to handle making an anchovy sauce.*
Fall leaves line the bridge above the boat-sprinkled pond deep inside Central Park. They’re never this color back home. I choose the best one to take home to a girl who wears the thickest black eyeliner I’ve ever seen.
They don’t keep this color, I realize. Brown and broken in the bottom of my bag just a few hours later.
Leaves yellow when their connection from a tree begins to dim in the Autumn months. The leaves need chlorophyll to stay green, but constant exposure to the sun would otherwise bleed them of it, would leave them faded like paper, if not for the trees. The tree replenishes its children.
The yellow is always there though. When the chlorophyll is gone, other already present colors are merely being released. Orange and yellow and red.
When the leaves die, something isn’t taken. Nothing stolen. Instead, something that was always living underneath is revealed.
Timothy Gomez holds an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. His work has appeared in Connotation Press, No Tokens, Epiphany, and others. He currently lives in Whittier, CA and teaches at Aspire Ollin University Prep Academy in Huntington Park. He also co-hosts a podcast about friendship and feelings entitled Fairweather and writes at his website timfinite.me.