|A full moon on a sleepless night. dee|
My brother, Jared, was killed on the night of his graduation from Whately Prep. His girl-friend survived the crash, but she is confined to a wheel-chair and has to live with the knowledge that she played a part in his death. I have worked hard at learning to forgive her. I have not fully succeeded. I had another week of school before summer vacation. I had plans to nanny for a family from Amherst. They had a house on Nantucket and I was going along. That all changed. Jared’s death changed the course of my life.
I can not sleep tonight. My thoughts and memories are swirling in and out. Sleep seems just out of reach. Impatiently, I swing my feet to the floor and get up to change my nightgown; it is soaked through with perspiration. I choose the softest one in my drawer, an ancient sleeveless silk gown from Hanro.
I hear one of the children when I am in the bathroom. I peek in their rooms. The boys are both asleep on their stomachs. One of them has a sweet little rattle as he breaths out, not quite a snore. The noise is coming from Sarah’s room. In two years, I can count the number of times she has slept through the night. I am too tired, worn out, ragged, to exercise the strict no-child-in-my-bed to which many people subscribe. I pick her up. She wraps her legs around me. Her crying subsides immediately. She hiccups, then a final sob ripples through her. Sarah puts her head on my shoulder. I inhale her salty tears and sweet Johnson and Johnson scent. I carry Sarah back to my bed. As soon as I put her down, she crawls close to Declan. Instinctively, he puts a protective arm around her and they both settle deeper into sleep. I, on the other hand, see Jared.
He is seat-belted into place, unable to release the catch, trying not to breathe water.
Despite his best efforts, his body reflexively takes a gasp. Rather than getting nitrogen,
oxygen and carbon dioxide, Jared inhales hydrogen and oxygen. It has been twenty-five years and I compulsively replay my version of what happened that morning at 4a.m.. Gerta escaped the depths of the river despite damage to her spine; it broke upon impact when she hit the steering wheel.
I refocus my thoughts on more pleasant things. It takes all of my effort, but I manage to summon the face of Carl Lattner. I smile at the memory. He has been a good friend. Never a cross word has passed between us. I imagine climbing the rickety rungs of a ladder we nailed into a tree. Three boards were slung into the crotch of a chestnut tree; we called it our tree house. My muscles twitch. Sleep is settling in at last. I find myself in the tree with Carl, sharing a peanut butter sandwich.