Why is the love song of the beraved. It is the last word to leave the lips of the grief stricken as they close their eyes for the night. It’s the question my Jude asked as we gathered the candles in our home in preparation to light them and set them on our front stoop.
“Why?” as he fiddled with the lighter, gliding his thumb over the smooth silver half moon that ignites the little flame at the top. Pressing down in an attempt to make it ignite.
When I was younger I wasn’t allowed to play with lighters or matches. I could burn myself. I could light my hair on fire. In a science lab in middle school we had to light matches for some kind of science reason and I looked at that little pack of matches with the fear of God. I could burn myself. I could light my hair on fire. I had never ever struck a match and had no idea how to do it.
“Someone with a lot of anger and sadness in his heart decided to hurt a lot of other people,” I retrieved the lighter from his hands and flicked it on.
“He killed them?” Jude’s almond eyes stared at the flame as I passed it over the wicks of the candles, lighting each one.
“Yes. And now, we set out our candles so that we can remember them.”
“Why?” Jude mumbled through the space in his fingers and the fibers of the couch. “No.”
He curved himself into a little mound with his arms and legs and head tucked in so that he became tiny. Too tiny. It’s a week later, a week after we lit our candles and set them on our front porch. A week after we had shed a tear and listened to the news of people being murdered in a club.
I had told him that Troy had died. I couldn’t let them watch me lie in bed anymore, or bite my lips and shake my legs or listen to them ask again, “Why are you crying? You’re always crying.”
So I pulled them together, my little warrior Jude and my dancing princess Delila, and I said “I have something to tell you.”
And I told them.
I told them both, “Troy was in a bad car accident, and he died.”
Delila crawled onto my lap and touched my face.
It took months for her to trust Troy. She hid when he came over. She giggled and clung to my legs. She refused to respond when he spoke to her. Then, one day when we were sitting in the family room watching a movie, she crawled up in his lap and sat there like she had been sitting there her whole life. Troy looked at me and we made the face at each other that says “aww” but without the words.
“He’ll be alive again though, right mama.” And I cried onto her fingertips and nodded my head.
“Yes, baby. Yes.”
I couldn’t answer the why for Jude. I still can’t. I ask it constantly and no answers every come. Just pictures. Like the flame jumping out of the tip of the lighter, they flood my eyes.
Jude is in Troy’s arms and his small arms are wrapped around Troy’s one arm, his hands are in Troy’s hand.
“You smell good.” Jude tells him without looking at him.
“Like honey and lavender.” And Troy looks at me with his eyebrows pulled together and a smile frown like maybe he’ll cry from how sweet it is and I cover my face with my hands because in that moment I really do cry.
Troy and I are in bed and my nose is close to his, breathing in all the air that he breathes out and I can see every freckle and his eyebrows and eye lashes almost touch mine and my lips are pressed against his lips and I’m whispering I love you I love you I love you into the soft space of his mouth.
I love you I love you I love you
How do you answer why, anyways? How do you put words to a question that is un-ending?
“I don’t know why, my darling” as I rub my hand down his back. “I wish I knew.”
The thing is, why is not a question. Why is a beg, it is a plea, it is a curse, it is a cry, but it is not a question. Instead I ask how. How do we do this? How do I face this one more time? How to I explain, and love, and live and not give up? How? My answers come in the darkness. Jude and Delila are in my bed again. I lock the door and check it and then check it again before I lie down between them. I watch their chests move in a little up down dance and I lean in, closely. Closer, and I can smell Jude’s skin.
Honey and lavender.