There’s No Right Way to Say This – Yen Radecki

The box had been placed in the living room, weighed down with flowers and reeking of patchouli. Jay’s mother, Eileen, stood at the door greeting people with pathological efficiency. None of us missed the way she looked over Arjun during introductions, up and down, up and down, as though a second viewing would resolve the discrepancy. Meanwhile Jay’s father stood at the buffet, cossetting puff pastries on a paper plate, and watching it all, atop the casket, a framed photograph had been placed: a baby-faced Jay at their first communion, squirming in their suit, pupils dilated by candle flame.

Afterwards, the four of us drove to Lake Nipissing at my suggestion. Although it was cold, the lake’s surface wasn’t yet frozen, and Marco took off his shoes and sat down on the rocky shore to wet his feet. The rest of us stood there in silence, the loss of Jay growing heavier and heavier inside us until I wasn’t sure that the car would start again when we piled back in.

“Sorry,” I said. The word was caught and dragged away in the wind, and I turned around to repeat it. “Sorry. I thought—this seemed to be somewhere Jay liked, so I thought we should come here.”

“It was a nice idea,” Libbie said, but I think we all knew it for what it was—an inadequate salve for still open wound. As though we could host our own, second wake by coming here; as though such a gathering, without Jay’s family in attendance, would be any better than the one we’d spent all day disparaging. “But I’m tired, and it’s freezing, and I could just about eat a horse.”

She shook out the car key on its ring as Arjun flattened a cigarette beneath his shoe.

“I’m going to go get the motor running. See you in a bit.”

They left us there, me and Marco: like they thought an apology and a handshake might be in order. Instead, we just looked out together across the water. The opposite bank was so distant we might as well have been at the edge of the ocean.

“You think Jay saw any of that? The wake? Everything?”

“No,” Marco said. He lifted his legs slightly and looked down at them, how the water had pasted down the long dark hairs of his ankles and shins. “I think they’re dead, and they didn’t see anything.”

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