Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ashes to Ashes

Dear Alice,
If you are reading this letter,
then I am already gone.
Until the day of my death,
this letter will sit
in a safety deposit box
with my will and the title to my car
and a $15 savings bond
my grandmother gave me
for my ninth birthday,
which I never cashed in.
I am writing you this letter
to express to you
what a good friend you’ve been
all these years
and how much I appreciate
that you have always been there
in good times and bad.
You are a wonderful listener
and always made me laugh,
and you are the keeper of all my secrets,
except one.
Now, Alice, after my death,
I am going to tell you my final secret.
The problem is,
I don’t think you’re going
to like it very much.

You were vacationing
in the Bahamas with Mark.
Remember him?
It was a good thing
you didn’t marry him.
Anyway, I was housesitting,
and I collected your mail
and fed your dog
and watered your plants,
but while you were away,
there was a bit of an accident.
I’ve always been terrified of spiders,
as you well know,
and you were always giving me fake spiders
and sending me pictures of spiders as “jokes,”
and it always really pissed me off,
but that’s not the secret.
I saw a spider in your home,
a really big black one,
with whisker-thin long legs,
climbing the wall just next to your mantel,
above the faux fireplace,
and with shaking hands,
I aimed at it with one of your slippers,
and it jumped, Alice—
it actually jumped,
jumped about two feet to the right,
and I could not spend another minute
in a house with a jumping spider.
Do you know how far that is,
for such a little thing to jump?
It would be like me leaping
from one side to the Grand Canyon
to the other.
So I paused, wanted to give it
a false sense of security,
and attacked again,
except my aim was not true,
and I wound up sliding a bit
on your hardwood floor,
and I knocked over the urn
containing your father’s ashes.
They exploded in an enormous gray cloud
that choked my lungs and made my eyes sting
and slowly drifted to the floor.
I swept up what I could,
and put it back into the urn,
but you know,
you never really sweep up everything.
And I didn’t think it was likely,
that you often looked inside the urn,
but I was paranoid that what I had collected
didn’t look like enough.
So just in case,
I ran out to your patio
and filled the urn with some ashes
from your charcoal grill.
And I always felt such shame,
but I could never tell you.
I liked your father a lot too!
But I don’t think you ever really noticed,
Or if you did, you never said anything,
and thank goodness the urn didn’t break, right?
And really, what is the point
of keeping a person’s ashes, anyway?
There isn't really anything to do with them.
They just sit there,
and I’m sure your father is always with you
in spirit,
whether you possess his cremains
or some soot from a Weber grill.

So now that I’ve told you,
I hope that you’re not too angry.
I want to try to make it up to you.
So, here’s that $15 savings bond,
enclosed in this letter.
Last time I checked,
it was worth about $13.48.
I’m also going to leave you
that necklace that you borrowed
and never gave back.
And I’m leaving you my ashes,
for you to remember me by.

Love always,


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