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by Kyle Boelte

Still you are fading, falling, drowning out of sight

Still you are fading, falling, drowning out of sight. Photographs collected in boxes and binders. Stories told by mom and dad over lunch. Memories holding on by a sliver.

You are in the basement as I am coming home. You are down there now and I am on the bus. You are there alone and I am surrounded by school children.

It is the last day of classes before winter break. I had a party in homeroom. You had a meeting with mom and the principle. Then you went home. She returned to work. Now you are in the basement.

I will be the last to get off the bus. Now it is full of excited children eager to begin their vacation. They get off at each stop, one by one. Two by two. They are stepping off the bus. I sit near the back with friends. Arturo is driving.

You used to sit in the back, too. That's where the older kids sat. You and I would move up to the front seat after everyone else had gotten off the bus. We used to listen to Arturo tell stories about Puerto Rico. Then you transferred to another school. You don't hear Arturo's stories any more.

You are in the basement and I am on the bus. You are moving boxes around the basement. You are measuring distances. I am laughing at a joke on the bus.

You are down there and I am getting closer. I am hungry. I'll find a snack when I get home. Maybe a bowl of cereal from the kitchen. Or I'll run downstairs and get a burrito from the freezer in the basement.

What did you eat when you got home? Are you peeling back the plastic wrap from a frozen burrito? Sticking it in the microwave. 3:25 — You think about a girl you used to know. 3:10 — She let you come over to her place. 2:45 — She took off her clothes. 2:10 — You were wearing a blue hoody and a black and red Braves baseball cap. 1:50 — She motioned for you to come over to the bed. 1:20 — You hesitated, seeing her like that. 0:45 — You look up at the microwave. 0:00 — You are 16-years-old.

The bus is empty and I am sitting in the front with Arturo now. A bandage covers the bridge of his nose. He says that before he drove a bus, he spent years working in the sun. Then he tells me a story about the time he ran with a gang called the Latin Kings. He smiles thinking back on what a reckless teenager he was. His memory appears strong, vivid. He will die years later of cancer. I will hear about it from a friend when I visit Denver in the spring after the ice has melted and everything is green.

I open the front door and call out to you. "Hey Kris," I say, but you don't answer. I go into the family room and turn on the TV. I sit down and watch "Saved by the Bell". Then I get up and pour myself a glass of milk in the kitchen. I take a sip and it is cold against my lips. I walk through the house. Around the first floor and then up the stairs. Where are you?

Mom is at work and dad is at work and you are in the basement. I am upstairs walking from room to room wondering where you are. There are wrapped presents in mom and dad's room. They are for you and me. Christmas is just five days away.

"Where are you?" I'm thinking. You are in the basement but already you are a memory fading, photographs in boxes and binders, stories told over lunch.

I sit down in front of the TV, staring, but not really watching, until the phone rings. I get up and walk over to the kitchen. I pick up the receiver and mom is on the other end and she is talking to me. She asks if you are around and I say I haven't seen you. She is worried. I hear it in her voice. She says there was a meeting at school.

I hang up the phone and sit back down. I stare at the TV for another two hours. I look over at the clock often. I am 13 and have not yet had a girlfriend or seen a girl without her clothes. The world is out there all around the house and I am in front of the TV. I am here and you are in the basement.

I am 13-years-old. I do not yet know the limits of memory and so have not looked closely at you. I have not etched your image in my mind. I have not recorded your voice to play back later when I no longer know its sound. I am 13 and I sit in front of the TV with the whole world outside. And you are fading.

Mom comes home and dad comes home. They are worried and wonder if you might be at a friend's house, maybe Molly's. Mom makes calls to parents but no one knows where you are. We are there in the house with you but you are not there with us.

Mom asks again if I have looked in all the rooms and I say I have. Then it occurs to me that I haven't been downstairs. Dad is opening the door to the basement. He is walking down the wooden steps one by one. He is bracing himself against the railing as he steps down. I am upstairs with mom and you are in the basement.

Dad's steps on the stairs are slow and deliberate. He is walking down the stairs. Now he is in the basement. He is screaming now. The world is crumbling in on us. The rafters are being pulled down by your weight.

Mom is dialing 9-1-1. She is talking to the dispatcher. The dispatcher asks if someone can cut you down. It doesn't matter, though. You have faded.

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Articles in this Issue

Red Shirt, by Ellen Collett
The Anatomy Lesson, by Bill Hayes
The Fallen Sky, by Christopher Cokinos
Zombieology, by Michael Atkinson
Photography, by Maureen Ann Connolly
Communications, by Kyle Boelte
August 2009


Kyle Boelte frequently writes about the environment and social issues. His essays and creative nonfiction have appeared in publications such as Orion, Etude, and The Christian Science Monitor. He is currently working on a long-term project about Sudanese refugees around the world. Find out more about the project at www.acrossfourcontinents.org.

Where loss is found.

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