I’m ninety-three today. I’ve lived longer than my parents or yours. Longer than our children and you. You were thirty or thirty-three when you died? I still forget which one was you and which one was Jesus.
I have a new boyfriend. You know the kind—one of those men who flirts with everyone, from the lady mail carrier to the colonoscopy technician. I’m not his only gal, but I don’t give a hoot if he has ten girlfriends. I never did much care about fidelity, did I? I knew about your affair. I might as well be honest now, what with me being ninety-three and you being dead: I was never attracted to you, Harold. Your trouser snake was no more appealing than a raw kielbasa from the butcher’s counter. I thought I was one of those women who, in those days, they called frigid. As it turned out, I wasn’t the problem, dear. You were. My boyfriend is a younger man, a youthful eighty-seven, but the plumbing isn’t completely up to code, so to speak. No matter these days. They have a blue pill for everything. If you were still alive, maybe I could find a pill that would let me see you the way you always saw yourself.
All these years later, I can’t remember what the girls looked like. Yes, I have the photos, but that’s not what I mean. What exact color were Karen’s eyes? Swimming-pool green or Irish-field green? Bonnie’s teeth were crooked, but which one was the snaggle? She cried when I read that fairy tale about the wolf. Or was that Little Loretta? Do you remember how she screamed when you took that ratty, typhoid blanket from her?
Cripes. Who am I fooling? I can’t be sure that what I just said about the girls is even true. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I’m losing them all over again, one tiny piece at a time. And here’s the hell of it all: All these years later, I still remember everything about you. Everything.
You took them swimming in March. Swimming! One by one, you held their little heads in that cold, brown water, the same spot we’d had a picnic with cold chicken and cherry nectar the summer before. It was a kindness, Father Don told me, that you took yourself after. A priest approved a suicide, Harold. What a world this is.
If God existed and granted me one wish, I’d bring the girls back. You too, Harold. I’d bring you all back. But there is a shameful fact. After I wished the girls alive, Harold, I’d take the breath from those precious lungs with my bare hands while you watched.
But you I’d keep alive forever, until your shoulders crumbled from the load of grief and your heart shriveled up into a raisin. Then you’d know the pain, what it is to have vinegar for blood, sorrow for bones.
Then you’d know.
Then you’d know me.
Christine Seifert is the author of The Predicteds, Sourcebooks, 2011; Virginity in Young Adult Literature after Twilight, 2015; Whoppers: History’s Most Outrageous Lies and Liars, Zest, 2015; and The Factory Girls: A Kaleidoscopic Account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Zest, 2017. She’s also published articles and essays for a range of publications, and am a Professor of Communication at Westminster College.