My grandpa died two days ago. On Tuesday.
I wish that I’d written this that day, to capture what it felt like. But I didn’t, so this, this two days later perspective, will be the one forever captured on the internet.
I can’t write how I felt, but I can write what happened.
That morning, before going to school, my mom told me to go tell Laoye that I loved him. I am ashamed to say that I was somewhat embarrassed. He wasn’t responsive. I said it, feeling like I was talking to a wall. My mother was getting all emotional and I was just standing there, feeling that it was pointless. He couldn’t hear me, I thought.
I went to school.
During break, I got a call. I didn’t even register that it was odd that my mother was calling me. I was in the middle of talking about formal with SS and MB, and I picked up.
“Laoye is dying. Come to the circle. I’m picking you up.”
I jerked. I actually jerked. I did this twitch, and hung up without thinking. I turned and ran, without a word to my friends. As I ran, I called my mother again.
“Are you sure?” I breathed into the phone.
Her answer kept me running. I ran to the circle, turned, and saw my brother walking, fucking walking. I screamed at the idiot.
We burst into the house. We burst into the room. He’d stopped breathing. I sat by his bedside and told him I loved him. I told him what an inspiration he was, how he was like my father when my father wasn’t around. I told him that he was a great man, a humble man, so humble that I didn’t even know he was great for most of my life. I told him how many lives he had influenced. I told him that we were all well, so he could leave feeling good about his life, that we would take care of Laolao, and that he had nothing to regret. And then I started to tear, so I stopped before it got bad.
Everyone had their rounds of last words, even when he’d not been breathing for an hour. I played piano, all his favorites. Arabesque. Nocturnes. My mom kept saying something about how ‘hearing was the last to go; he can still hear us’. What bull. He was dead. When I felt him, he was cold. His arm flopped sickeningly when we moved it. Like a broken doll.
You know when there are dead people in the coffins at funerals? That’s not how they look when they die. All the books are always talking about how ‘peaceful’ they look and shit. That’s not true. He looked awful. His legs were bent all wrong, and his eyes were half open, and his mouth was agape, his chin receded from the unnatural position, his emaciated chest sunken in. And he was grey. His face looked waxy.
The fucking hospice was fucking short on staff. What type of fucking company is that. The dead body lay there for three hours. Three hours. Three hours it sat there, while we ate lunch.
After lunch, I went back. I think I’d removed myself, mentally, from the situation. The dead body had to affect on me.
When they carted the body off, I played Arabesque. His favorite. I played his favorite piece for the last time, for him; I didn’t turn around, not when my mom told me the truck had pulled away. I finished the fucking piece, because that’s what I fucking do.
I went back to school. Why not? I wasn’t crying. Everyone was had just retreated back into their rooms.
I got there. The fucking English teacher, who hates me, raised her eyebrow when I walked in. You could just tell she was ready to go mark me extremely fucking tardy. “Well, hello there. Welcome,” She said in this voice dripping with sarcasm that made me want to scream.
I kept my head down and went straight to my desk, sinking in. CK and WB uttered fucking witty remarks, like “Welcome back,” and “Just in time.” I didn’t respond. I kept my eyes down.
And guess what? I’m an idiot. Because the second I sat down and looked at the prompt on the board, I started thinking. And I could feel my eyes start to do that thing. I looked up at the ceiling to keep them from falling out, and when I looked back down, I glimpsed the fucking teacher staring at me. You could tell she was taking note of my ‘off-task/not paying attention’-ness, so she could point it out later.
I raised my hand and asked a question about the prompt. My voice was shaky.
“Well, if you read the prompt…”
“I read. The. Prompt.” I hated her. I hated her. Why the fuck would I ask if I hadn’t read the prompt already?
“Well, then, just do the best you can. And you may want to review the chapter in the book, if you didn’t retain it from last time.” She smiled at me. I hated her.
The whole class looked at my sympathetically. “Page eighty-one,” a girl whispered to me. I nodded, my head down, and buried my eyes in the book. I was about to lose it.
I tried to read. I really did. But I couldn’t focus, and I was trying so hard not to cry, and I couldn’t see the word, anyway. I sat there staring at the prompt, reading it over and over again and not absorbing anything. I could feel people staring at me, coming to their own conclusions about why I was tearing up.
The teacher came up to me. “Can you come outside?” she asked. I looked at her. Made eye contact. And lost it. I got up quickly, grabbed a tissue on the way out, and ran out, tears streaming down my face, strategically letting my hair fall to hide my face.
The second I stepped out, I started to sob uncontrollably. She shut the door quickly, but not before I saw all the staring faces from the room.
She gave me a hug. I took it. I sobbed. I couldn’t fucking stop, no matter how hard I tried. I tried. Really. You think I want someone who hates me to see me cry? Hell no. Hell. No.
I stayed outside, just crying, sitting on the cement. A teacher walked by, and paused hesitantly. “You ok?” he asked. I kept crying. He passed.
I sat there and thought about what an idiot I was for coming back to school. For thinking I could hold it together. For being totally cool until I got to a public space. Why did I cry, not in the house with everyone else, but only when I got to a place where people would see me?
The bell rang, and I stood by the door trying to hide my face as my classmates left. None said a word. I suppose they didn’t know what to say. I walked out, head down, crying softly, smiling quickly at friends who waved at me so that they wouldn’t notice anything.
What a wreck.
Yesterday, I went to school. My lab partner asked me if something was wrong. “Nothing,” I said.
I cheered right up. I was fine through 2nd period. Then, break. ED asked if I was ok. Made eye contact. I started to cry. I told her. I stopped. Then PD came and asked. “It looked like you were crying yesterday…” Made eye contact. I lost it. I cried.
DS came. “Hey!” she smiled. “How are you?”
I wiped my tears quickly. “Heeeey,” I said. “Great!”
“Whhhhyyy’re you crying?” She drew out, giving me this knowing look, and then I lost it again.
“Why is everybody asking that?” I cried. I sat on the floor and cried. The bell rang. I wiped my tears, and by the time I got to my next class, I was dry.
And nobody knew a thing.