snapshot, 10

My father puts a cd in the player. He hits the small orange lit button tothe large black amplifier. He sits me in the middle of the room, on the floor, and hands me a CD case. The paper inside of it is red. He hits play and something about the world changes.

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My aunt and my mom stand around the kitchen table. There are bills and statements all around them. They are both on phones, on hold, and talking to each other. My mom is typing something into her laptop.

This is what death looks like.

A candle burns. It’s white and in glass. The wax is liquid and around the wick, sucking up whatever it sucks up and mixes with oxygen to burn and burn and burn. A discarded, torn black ribbon is on the table next to it. There’s a wicker tray with apples and mandarins.

This is what death looks like.

My cousin stands and speaks candidly, tears in her eyes, about a miscarriage. The rabbi faces her, but he looks elsewhere. He’s not making eye contact. The wind blows the clouds away from the sun and spanish moss sways like haze in the trees. The casket is on straps hooked up to a hand cracked rig. I wonder how they’ll remove the supports after they lower it into the grave. There’s a concrete box at the bottom for the casket to sit in. A cover nearby, a neon orange identifier spray painted on top. Men with dark skin and dazzling smiles speak a French creole and drive construction equipment and golf carts. My mom shifts in the way she does when she has to pee. I cross and uncross my legs, wondering what’s most polite. There’s a pile of dirt and two shovels. I want to grab a shovel and push it hard into the pile, lift it up, and dump it in. I want to do it again and again until the entire grave is filled. I’ll only be allowed to nudge a little of the dirt onto the body that belonged to my savta. A machine will bury her.

This is what death looks like.

The masticated mint and lime mix with crushed ice at the bottom of my glass.

This is what death looks like.

Pictures of a woman I never knew, with a long dace and a long nose. A wide jaw. Cheekbones under her eyes. Soft eyes. Curls in hair I’ve seen in my mom during humid days. A curve in her neck I’ve seen in my own. Or maybe I’m just reaching. A picture of a woman I knew from a time I don’t remember, with the same jaw and a slight smile. Her head is on the shoulder of a laughing man and her glasses are the biggest I’ve ever seen. Her cheekbones are hidden under softer skin and wrinkled lines.

This is what death looks like.

Phone calls and e-mails, facebook messages. “P’s in Berkley. Yeah, he lives with a wonderful woman. She’s older. They seem so happy together…C has a job at in the same department as her dad…A has a great boyfriend…S has made a family with a lovely woman and her two kids…m’s at MIT. She loves Boston…” Updates again and again. Ritualized conversations. “Hospice of Palm Beach County. It’s what she would have wanted. They took care of her. They took care of Dad in the end. Thank you, thank you.” Half-heard whispers of “prayers” and “sorry.” “She was…” Sympathy and love.

This is what death looks like.