This is Kiyomi’s third and final year editing for Saxifrage. She is a current senior studying English Writing and Communications with a minor in Hispanic Studies. Kiyomi also works for PLU student media and the Writing Center, and is a member of the PLU swim team. In her free time she enjoys hiking, swing dancing, and eating chocolate.
April 2020 I read an article yesterday about grief. We’re all experiencing grief, it said. That heavy pressure on your chest threatening to crack through your ribs and rupture your spine is normal. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying, and we’re all mourning the loss of something. My mom told me endings are messy, that we don’t know we’ve lost something until it is gone. I think about the metal joints invading the cartilage of her hips, the deteriorated bone and tissue now removed. Could she feel the arthritis slowly turning her body against her, whispering cruel words until the joint became inflamed with rage? Or did she wake one morning to fire burning through her skin, like I once woke to a sunburn glowing like embers across the small of my back. I’d fallen asleep, cushioned by sand and the sound of waves dancing under a wandering breeze. Eyes closed, I imagined the burn growing up my back, entwining around my vertebrae and singeing the small bleached hairs decorating my skin like ornaments. The last time I spent Christmas at my grandma’s house my teeth were still adorned with metal braces. We visited my grandpa in the hospice, unconscious from years of Alzheimer’s and a fall in the shower he couldn’t remember. Blood clotted in a corner of his brain like it was afraid to travel through his frail body, and when his fingers tightened over my hand I too was afraid. Afraid to lose a man I loved but never really knew. Does grief feel the same as regret? My dad slept in the hospice and woke one night to silence, another life burnt out and dissipated like smoke. I heard only one death that night, but now I am assaulted by thousands. My rib cage shudders under the weight of scattered statistics as I scour words for glimmers of hope. Bloodshot eyes memorize charts and red arching curves that rise and fall like scorched sand dunes in the desert, and I wonder how we learned to grieve numbers instead of lives. The pressure grows in my chest and threatens to burst, but my eyes remain wide and hungry, blinking only to stop the tears.
A small notebook, I don’t remember the color. It sat on the nightstand by my parents queen-sized bed, the one on my dad’s side. Perched next to old glasses and tattered paperbacks, the notebook retained the scrawl of my father’s hand and the young chicken scratch of mine. I slept in his place when he was gone working, traveling for days or weeks to exotic places like India and Illinois. Before he left, he wrote a little letter or two in the notebook, like a secret message meant only for me. In the light of my mom’s reading lamp, my tired eyes scoured his heavy ink, and left a note for when he returned. When I wrote in the notebook, I knew he could feel it, like I was pulling on a string attaching us on either end. Head full of magic novels, I imagined the ink seeping through the thin white paper, falling into empty space and whisked away by wind until my words reached my father’s temple and leaked into his mind. I’d fall asleep next to the closed notebook. Pages of writing hugged each other in between the thick covers which reached over the paper to touch, like two people holding hands.