By: Madison Reid
This week I began to fill out my taxes for the first time and had to check a box to affirm that I am, in fact, not dead. That I am me, not a loved one tying up loose ends.
Unfinished business, it seems, isn’t reserved for superheroes and wronged lovers; I know the same hands that knead the bread I eat and pass me Christmas gifts would close my coffin and fold my clothes for the donation pile. And I theirs.
Lately, the closest I’ve been to death was a glimpse of a man, covered in cloth, carried through a Chinese village. They lit fireworks to frighten spirits and fed the living with a vengeance, so set on satiety that they scraped food from the sides of huge woks with shovels and boiled rice by the kilo.
Or in Romania last October, where the bereaved wife grieved with six lungs and everyone spent half their paycheck on the flowers. The grandmothers traded their floral kerchiefs for black ones and the mourning passed out wine and bread. To thank us for sharing their sorrow.
I am far too young to make any predictions. If I turn my head too quickly I feel my hair, soft and messy, tickle my collarbones. I watch my grandfather doubled over like the women pulling weeds along the river, pinch the fat beneath my bicep to ground myself. My aunt is doing pushups for her bone density, my mother’s hair is just starting to surrender.
But parked cars are still warm and prove something, like where you are and were and how long ago you left,
And my new friends have taught me to keep windows open and tables full,
And we pick flowers for my brother’s birthday every year, the same way my grandmother mails another a card,
And the mundane follows us, right from home to heaven. Stir the soup. Sign the forms. Buy the milk. Lend you money. Kiss you on your way out the door,
And when my grandparents die, I’ll be there to dig through their broken tapes and mourn slowly, peel photos from the bottoms of boxes,
And when my aunts and uncles die, I’ll collect their children’s children in my living room and feed them jam and honey,
And when my parents die, I’ll clean the house and sell the car, leave deeper footprints than before,
And I’m going to have to file their taxes.