Monday morning I woke up early, and the frost made it abundantly clear that it was too cold to go rushing out for my first cigarette. By 9:30 though, the sun had gotten strong enough to melt the rime and I headed outside. I sat on the step and lit a cigarette and mulled over the implications of the day. It was cold enough that I was having trouble figuring out when it was smoke I was exhaling, and when it was just my breath. It was Monday. It was the 6th. It was the 7 month anniversary of Nova's death. Less than a month to his birthday. It all always degrades to that. 7 months later and I still count the days and weeks, I still wake up knowing the 2nd and the 6th without looking at a calendar. Sometimes what the head doesn't know, the heart does.
There is a line of trees at the back of the yard that separates us from the railroad tracks. It runs from the east corner of our yard to the west corner of the neighbor's, and it's grown too tall to block the noise of the trains, the branches are too high above the noise to catch and hold it. The birds though, the limbs are perfect for the birds. And as I sat there sifting through the mental detritus, a birdsong filtered through. 2 actually. One coming from the tree directly in front of me, and one that answered from a tree on down the row. Dee dee dee doo.... dee dee dee doo. Dee dee doo... dee dee doo. Whatever the first said, the second repeated, syllable for syllable, until the fellow from the neighbor's yard fell silent. No matter how many times the first one called, all that returned was nothing. I don't know if I imagined it, maybe so, but the song seemed to grow sadder. The notes were the same, but they were somehow duller. He continued to sing. Over and over, over and over, but there was nothing.
There on my side porch, trying to decipher smoke from breath, my ass frozen to the concrete step, I cried for that damned bird, and for the brightness that had fallen from his song, and for the heartbreak of calling and calling, despite the absence. I cried for the pitifulness of his hope that if he just sang long enough, the other would return.
Later that afternoon Terra and I came home from lunch with Trish and some other women, and I gave Terra this toy I'd originally gotten to donate to the hospital on Nova's birthday. It's used though, and I can't donate it. Terra had heard it in the back of the van playing this obnoxious song, and when she asked what it was, I had told her that it was a toy for the babies in the hospital. When I gave it to her at home she recognized the song and reminded me that I'd told her what I was going to do with it. She played with it very happily, then looked up at me and said "Mommy, guess what!? Nova's gonna LOVE this when he sees it!"
Apparently, all this time, Terra was under the impression that he was still at the hospital, that we just left him there and stopped going to see him. She thought that he was still coming home and that all this talk of toys for the babies there meant we were going to visit him. I had to explain it all all over again, how he wasn't at the hospital anymore, that he wasn't ever coming home. I don't know if I believe in Heaven, but when she asked where he was that's what I told her. And she said, through big tears, "Dophalin had to go to Heaven Mommy? But whyyyyyy?"
He'd been gone 7 months to the day, but as far as she was concerned, she'd just lost her baby brother. She cried and cried and cried until she gave up and fell silent.
She was the second little bird I cried for that day. And damn it, I'm still crying. I just wonder when I'll finally accept that it's pointless to cry into the emptiness.