CW: allusions to death, house fires, and light drug/alcohol use
If They Knew | Flash Fiction
They don’t know what I’m missing. Then, I start college in the fall, and no one knows I have someone to miss.
I play with the strings on my hoodie in English Comp while my professor talks about loss, threading them between my fingers each time she says heartbreak or worldly possessions or death, waiting for her to say house fire or tragedy or dental records but she never does.
Our classmates in high school knew about us, but they didn’t really know. After the fire trucks sped through town that night, everyone sat vigil outside her building, waiting for the news they could all see in front of them. They lit candles like some kind of sick joke. A few people asked me why I wasn’t there. Why I wasn’t at the funeral. But they knew why.
My parents’ perfectly unscathed split-level awaits me in December, and my childhood bedroom envelops me in so many of the good kind of memories, the before her kind of memories, youth soccer trophies and Taylor Swift posters and middle school yearbooks, so if I never leave I might never have to face the bad kind of memories ever again. But her hair is still in my brush from prom. The vodka she snuck into the house for the post-graduation sleepover is still under my bed. The half-empty matchbooks litter my drawers because she could never bear to finish one. The deep purple lipstick my parents found smudged on my blouse, still hanging in the closet, on her last night.
The hoodie she gave me, with the strings she used to chew when she got nervous, is back in my dorm room. It smells like weed and makeup and it smells like her, and she can’t come back home with me. It would be too cruel to bring her back here.
Sometimes, in my dreams, she’s pressuring me for another night, one last go at life before she has to go away again. And sometimes I say yes because, in some ways, her death is the best thing that ever happened to us. And when I say no, it’s because I want to move on, from her to someone living, to anyone living. Those nights, I want nothing more.
But I wake up every morning, wearing her hoodie, drenched in our sweat. And I cry because I’m awake, and I cry because no one will ever know her — ever know us — and then I go through the motions in a world where no one knows the difference.
Christine M. Hopkins is a Haitian American writer and musician living in Iowa. She works at two libraries and writes about women’s basketball at Swish Appeal and High Post Hoops. Her poetry and prose have appeared in FIVE:2:ONE’s #thesideshow, IO LIT, and more. She tweets @hoptine.