Damn the Bone, damn my mother, damn Judah.
Three hundred dollars a night, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. She never left the house, never bought anything. Had she purposefully left the seventy thousand under my floor for me? Fuck her for not leaving a letter. You’d think if you ignored your kid for half her life, then overdosed, knowing she was the only one who would find you, you’d at least have the decency to leave her a note. I go to her room, find stationery in her nightstand, with birds of paradise in the margins. It is so old, the paper brittle and yellowing, water stained in some parts, like she’d been crying over the pages. I sit down at the kitchen table to write her suicide note.
I’m sorry. First, for just ceasing to be your mom when you were eight and needed me most.
I saw you desperately trying to get my attention, and I just didn’t know how to come out of the fog I was in … for ten years. I don’t know if you’ve ever kissed a boy, been in love, or what GPA you graduated high school with. I guess I don’t even know if you graduated.
I’m a prostitute and a drug addict. My heart broke, first when my dad left, then your dad left, then when everything in life kept leaving. I should have fought harder for you.
You were worth the fight. I left you some money. Do something with it. Get out of the Bone!
Don’t look back, Margo. GO!
In reality, my mother would never have written such an encouraging note. Even before she changed, she was a pessimist. Back then she would have told me to pray, but now she would have told me that there was no God, and we were doomed. Might as well strap in for the long haul of a miserable life.
I go to her room. It smells thickly of blood and flowers, and it makes me dizzy. There are dark stains on the wood where their bodies lay. They’ll never come out, no matter how hard I scrub them; they’ve simply been absorbed into the eating house. I shiver. She was so hungry; she took two lives this time.
There is a box in the corner, the one the mailman delivered just a few days ago. It feels like more time has passed between then and now. I open it and look inside, but it’s empty. I start putting her things inside of it. Bottles, books, slippers. I strip her bed and take down the pictures from the walls. Then I carry her things to the attic. The place where she stored her own mother’s things when she died. The Irony. An attic full of dead mother things. I laugh, but it gets stuck in my throat, and I end up crying instead. It’s just me and the eating house now.
I PICK UP THE ASHES OF MY MOTHER AND MY SISTER on a day so dark it feels like the sun forgot to rise. The clouds are thick and heavy, charcoal-colored. I walk to the bus stop and wait with my hands pressed between my knees, the balls of my feet bobbing, ebbing out my nerves. In a few hours I will carry two urns filled with body—hearts and lungs and funny bones—all burned to a fine dust.
Today we are here, and tomorrow we are gone, amounted to a handful of memories. It’s freaking depressing. I don’t feel my grief anymore, not really. It was sopped up the night Judah pulled me into his arms and told me I was worth loving. I am only numb now, doing what I ought: walk, talk, eat, pick up ashes. Check! Check! Check! Check!
On my way home from the funeral home, I stare at the urns—one small, like a bottle of perfume, and one large, like a bottle of milk—both sitting in an unmarked paper bag on the seat beside me. I consider putting them on the floor, but then think it disrespectful. I wonder if when I die someone will put my ashes into a jar or bury me in the dirt.
The rain doesn’t come; it seems the sky will be all threats today. I carry my sister’s urn to the garden. I can hear music pounding through the open windows of the crack house—something angry and fast paced. Looking around, I see that the trees are mostly bare—nowhere pretty to put my sister. I am wearing short sleeves, and I shiver as I search the yard for somewhere nice. There is a bush near the back of the garden, close enough to the woods to be considered wild. There are some blackberries and bright, bell-shaped leaves still clinging to the branches. I lean closer to examine it. Is that…? Judah calls to me from the sidewalk. I look back over my shoulder, and he waves. He’s wearing a red shirt; it’s bright against the gray of the day.
“Let me be with you when you do this,” he says when I walk over to him. I press my lips tight and nod. Sure. Yeah. Who wants to say goodbye alone?
I wheel him over the rough patches in the yard; we hit a ditch that almost rocks him out of his chair. He is quiet when I crouch down and empty the smaller of the urns around a tree whose leaves bloom red in the summer.
There is still a body in my oven. I want to bury that one, but before I do, I want some answers. I want to search the house to see if there are more. Maybe it was the first of us—my mother’s unwanted babies—but why had she put in in the oven? Why not bury it, or ask the father to bury it? The baby in the urn would have grown into a sister. We could have been friends. I do not empty my mother’s urn near the baby’s. She does not deserve to be put to rest.
“What are you going to do with her?” Judah asks.
“What would you do with her?”
He frowns scratching the back of his head, and then looking up at the rain clouds. A raindrop has landed on his mouth and he licks it away.
“I like my mom,” he says. “I’d want her to be somewhere nice.”
“And if you didn’t like your mom?”
He thinks for a minute. “Leave her somewhere in the house. Seems like punishment enough, right?”
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