Ashes
Christine Harris


T hose who say memories keep us going are wrong: memories make the past seductive and the future improbable and ugly. We live in my dreams. Why should I wake? I want you inside of me, every atom.

The night they burned you, I dreamt I was on fire. I woke hysterical and called Jeanne. She brought a bottle of valium. I wouldn't let her touch me because I thought she'd be burned. She dropped the pills in my hand. The water I took them with felt cool, and I wouldn't let go of the glass. Jeanne went to the bathroom and ran a cold bath. She called me in and told me to put my hand in the water; it calmed the pain of the fire. I crawled into the tub. Jeanne stayed with me, and I fell asleep in the water.

I keep your ashes in the teak wood box you bought for me on our trip to India for our thirty-seventh anniversary. The fragrance from the wood helps to mask the scent.

These young girls who are losing their husbands and boyfriends to Viet Nam have it best. Time saved them from what I know. Think of it, they lose their love before there's something to regret. Something substantial, something only years can bring: the gradual destruction of a life. I regret meeting you dear. I regret loving you. I regret our life together. Had I known that in loving you I was killing someone else, I would have rather not. I would have rather not and have remained pure. Whoever I was before I loved you, whoever she was, died. My love for you killed her, and now, I wonder who she might have been. If she wasn't dead, maybe she could help me find a way to want to live. I don't remember being a girl. I don't remember before you. Maybe we should have had a child.

The easiest decision I have had to make was how to join you. The scent of teak wafted from under the bed, and I knew. That night, I dreamt we were sleeping. You had your arm over my stomach. Our breath was in unison.

That was it.

I will ingest your ashes because it is as close to you as I can get for the time that remains. I will fill myself with you and choke from consummation. I know some will be horrified by what I do. Then, I hope that there are some who have killed as I have and will understand.



First published: February 14, 1999
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