Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (10)


Unnamed Tattoo – 32 Years Old

Only tattoo the names of parents, children, or dead people.  Things that are permanent.  Things that are forever.  I don’t remember exactly what Derek’s tattoos look like.  I wish I had a picture of them.

The autopsy report doesn’t do them justice, just states that he has two tattoos, a dragon, maybe some fish.  It does list how much his brain and lungs and kidneys weigh, that his heart was in good condition.  It has a chart that details the type and quantity of drugs found in his system, his blood alcohol level. On a separate page, it says “mixed ethanol / opiate overdose” as cause of death.

He has a flat, ground level gravestone just outside the city.  I haven’t seen it since his parents put it in.  I wonder how his name looks, if it is Gothic lettering, or plain and sterile like most modern gravestones.  His mom said she engraved music notes underneath his name.

It is early fall, and the air smells of him. In the distance, a train scrapes against the tracks, metal pressed against metal, a pop, a squeal, a screech.  Train cars clink and bang in the train yard, like the collision of thoughts in my head.  Life on the outside slows down, colors dull, but shapes are crisp and sharp.  A leaf, the way its’ veins crawl and fan out, how blades of grass bend when their too long.  My bones ache and splinter, threatening to split through my skin, or so it seems.

A blur of memories – late night adventures, eating ice cream behind abandoned railroad cars, thick blankets blocking out the wind.  He taught me about the crows, the murder of crows that hover then scatter about the elm tree in our backyard.  A flash of black, the beating of wings, the cries of crows stabbing at the air.  I don’t forgive you, I say to the crows, to the ruined flower beds, to the grey, cold clouds that look like smoke.

Ezra’s nine and has lost his best friend, too.  He stands behind me on the porch, his hands resting on my shoulders.  “It’s alright, Mom.  Derek was a good man,” he says. “Don’t cry. Look! We have so much to remember him.” He points to the sky blue Delphiniums and faded, tangerine roses. The flowers are overgrown with weeds, but stubborn enough to rise above them, stalks and petals straining towards the sky.

I see the broken windows, the peeling paint, the piles of bills demanding money.  I see Derek’s ghost in the doorway, saying we’d all be better off without him.  But I remember his shy smile, his eyes that never directly looked at you, how he tucked Ezra into bed at night with comics and stories.  I see him playing dolls with Astera when she was smaller, helping her read music when she started playing the violin.  I have the notes he wrote me, the hand-painted cards he used to hide under my coffee cups, the stick-figure drawings he tucked into my purse.

I hear our last conversation, the promises he made – that he’d never ditch us like his dad, that he’d come to the kids’ Christmas concert, that he was getting better, stronger, that he was clean.

I hope to see Adam again.  I’ll tell him he was wrong. Only tattoo the names of parents and children.  Derek’s name, his memory is a thick scar that tears across my life. I shouldn’t have to pay for it twice.


7 Responses to “Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (10)”

  1. 1 BehindMyBooks

    This is extremely powerful, and extremely well written. I can’t even begin to express the emotions which you’ve invoked in me, but I just wanted you to know how incredible this is.

    • Hey, thanks. It was a difficult piece to write, but I’ve been sitting with it for four years now. Thought it was time to put it out.

  2. Yes girl you rock my world. Can’t wait until you EXPLODE on the world scene!! You’re gonna blow shit UP!!!!!

  3. Searing, in a good/hard way. Thanks for being willing to go there for others.

  4. You pack a ton of information in such a short amount of writing that is filled with imagery and nuances that take me from one emotion to the next. So good.

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