Callie S. Blackstone
I lifted the box from the hole. Earth clung to it and worms inched across the top. I knelt and gently lifted the insects, placed them back in the pit, and watched their pale movement against the soil.
I wondered if he could feel them crawling over his coffin. I wondered if they were crawling over his skin.
I waited in silence for several moments, but there were no answers to my questions so I returned to the box. I intoned his name over and over, I called him to me. Despite knowing better I expected some external sign–a tempest, a tree falling, anything really–but there were none. There was just the box, me, and the moon, ever watching.
I paused my chanting to look into the full moon, to thank her for guiding me, for accompanying me when all others had abandoned me. When I had abandoned myself, the grief left me ungroomed and wild, repugnant to others, who had stopped checking in on me long ago.
It was just me, the moon, and the boy in the ground.
Jay. Jay. Jay.
I opened my backpack and removed the carefully folded flannel, pushed it to my face. It had been a year since he died, but I allowed myself to pretend I could still smell him on the fabric–his laundry detergent, whiskey, musk. I lost myself in his fragrance but I had to carry on. This trip was not for pleasure. It was all business.
I delicately unfolded the shirt and placed it on the earth with the sleeves spread out like he was waiting to embrace me again. I knew he was waiting to embrace me again. My eyes drifted back to the hole.
No matter the distance, no matter the amount of soil piled on his corpse, I had continued to sense him. Many people believe the soul departs the body when it dies. Others believe the soul dies with it. I knew different. My boyfriend’s soul was trapped in his coffin, circling over his eyeglasses, his decaying flesh. He was trapped and he was crying for me to let him out so he could run free again–so he could run amongst the birches in the woods of his childhood, so he could soar next to the planes he had loved, so he could hold me close.
Love is forever, right? That’s what lovers always promise each other. For better or worse, in sickness or in health. Well, I was his lover, and the words we exchanged in the woods meant everything to me. I would not abandon him. I did not stray, no matter how many of his friends offered comfort during my dark night of the soul. I loved him, I approached his grave wearing only my best (down to the peach lingerie he bought me that last Valentine’s). I spread my legs to his soul and the full moon, imagining my hands were his own. I loved him. I never stopped loving him.
I stood over his shirt before I continued and thought of the last time I saw him in it. He had insisted on taking a series of selfies, he had beamed right into the camera, he had forced me to follow suit. I hated my face, my body, I had always been told everything was wrong with it. But he took that language and re-shaped it in his mouth, told me my pale skin made me moon face, my wild hair made me the girl with lake black curls, he told me, he told me, he told me so many things, then he shot himself in the head.
My eyes drifted from the shirt to the casket that contained what they said remained of my boyfriend. And in a way, they were right. I could feel his soul swimming in circles, around and around. The moon was full. It had been one year since he died. The moon was full, and it was time to release him.
I lowered the box to the altar of his shirt. Energy emanated off of it, strong energy, so strong I began to tremble and my stomach began to churn. It was just like how I felt before our first date. I never told him I was so nervous to meet him at the coffee shop that I took a shot before going, just to smooth out my body, smooth out my nerves. Carnivalesque laughter left my mouth and clashed with the silent night. I couldn’t wait to tell my dead boyfriend about the liquor–about how long I brushed my teeth after the shot, how long it took me to readjust my hair out of fear I had messed it up. I was going to tell him about our first date, about everything. I imagined that he would remind me of how much he loved my dark, wild curls–I was sure he would bury his face in them.
But something stared me in the face before I moved forward. Yes, my love had carried on for him–I had visited all the places we had gone on dates together, built a small shrine with the gifts he had given me, combed over his social media time and time again. I poured whiskey into the ground for him in the woods.
I had decided to follow him into the spirit world and bring him back, no matter what it may have cost me.
But did he want to be woken up?
His spirit churned round and round in his coffin, a goldfish circling a bowl. I wanted him back so badly. The idea of another man was a joke. It was him or nothing. It was him, or my own emptiness, my own death. I wanted him so badly that I had pushed everyone else in my life away–I had been unable to shower, unable to keep a job, unable to do anything but talk about him and sob about him. While everyone else moved on, I was still there with him in the graveyard. With the moon, the boy, and the box.
But he had taken his own life. What if he did not want to return to it? What if my fear that my love was not enough came true? And what if he was angry when he woke up?
I gazed into the moon, I gazed into his grave. I opened the box I had buried next to his grave.
Jay. Jay. Jay.
Callie S. Blackstone writes both poetry and prose. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Plainsongs, Lily Poetry Review, Prime Number Magazine, and others. Callie is a lifelong New Englander. She is lucky enough to wake up to the smell of saltwater and the call of seagulls everyday. You can find her online home at calliesblackstone.com.