I hadn't cried much since my brother died just a few days before. I felt the need to be strong when I was at home, didn't want my parents to comfort me when it seemed they needed every ounce of strength just to keep breathing. And even though it seemed like the three of us would never feel anything but grief, we are, in the end, merely animals, and our stomachs still growled and throats got dry. I needed to replenish the house with bread and peanut butter. Needed to make sure there was toilet paper and coffee and diet coke for the people who might stop by. So I volunteered to go to the grocery store.
Driving down Ventura Boulevard, I marveled at the number of people out in the middle of the day, going about their business. I was shocked that the world looked exactly as it had the last time I was out. A beautiful, young man, an important person, had taken his last breath, and all these people were eating lunch and going to work and getting gas and everyone was just driving, driving, driving.
I wanted to yell at them. I wanted to scream and cry and curse at the world for letting this happen, and then at all these people for going on with their lives. Instead, I found myself singing. Not a prayer or something spiritual, just a pop song, something old and familiar. The radio was tuned to the station I always listened to when I lived at home. And the tune came spilling forth. The words had been etched into my brain for so many years, the singing was automatic, effortless, normal.
Singing was better than crying. It reminded me that the past that included my brother would always be there, no matter how many days would continue to pass without him. It was a small token of regular life, away from the cancer and fear and death that had overtaken my every thought for the last few months. And, ultimately, singing along to the radio was something he would be doing if he still could, something that we had often done together.
I have cried many, many times since that day. But that afternoon, driving in the sun, I sang. And it felt right.
This week's memoir prompt was to be inspired by this sentence: The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing.