In the middle of the floor was a red Lego, cradled by a nest of dust bunnies. All the other toys were bagged and ready to be crammed into the van. The other rooms were empty.
I stared at the little red object for a long time as my thoughts wandered to things fading into the past. They were things full of children and laughter. They were things full of freedom and late-night giggling near the open living room window, breeze, so soft, blowing across the back of my neck. I shivered suddenly by that memory.
It was a shiver that not only signified the memory of the sensation on my skin but a shiver that seemed to portend something ominous. Something was ending, and that little red Lego knew it too. I awakened again from my daydreams when the Lego moved.
The words just jumped out. It’s the same expression I always use when something surprises me beyond possibility. But then I noticed the light changing and the Lego growing darker, disappearing within the frazzled mass of dust, hair, and cobwebs on the floor. It was just an illusion.
“I have to get going. I only have one more day before return the key to the landlords.” I said to myself and to whatever might be floating around, settling around, or sitting in other dust bunnies I missed while cleaning.
I was being forced to move, not by the landlords, not by the location, but because of something more sinister and depressing. Every time my mind dipped into the truth, it pulled back out again to keep from drowning in the truth’s darkness.
I didn’t want to leave. I really didn’t want to leave. The laughter of my three children was still singing in the walls around me…oh god, I didn’t want to leave. But I had to.
Everyone seemed okay about it but me. Maybe my youngest son was a bit sad because, as he said over and over, “I really like this little house. It’s sad.”
“I know honey. But you know, we can’t do anything about it. It would be wrong to stay and …”
But the words stopped right there. We weren’t going to speak of it again. That was that.
And so we started the process of moving, moved almost everything together and then school started. The last week of moving was my chore. So, every day, starting on Monday, I moved a van load of our things to the new house. In between packing, I sat and stared at the walls.
I could still hear her gasp as she fell back upon the bed. I could still hear my children calling her dying name. I could hear the first responders rushing down the little road in front of my ….the house.
I heard the voices, the machines, the cracking of the metal bed frame as they tried to no avail to push the breath of life back into her, and then I heard silence again.
I stared at the wall, then packed a few more books. When everything was packed, the entire house was clean, save for one room. I entered the room where death had come, and I saw the Lego. It was nestled in a bundle of…no, a mass of…no a nest of..the Lego was staring at me.
It was right there, right where the metal bed once stood. Funny thing is, I had already swept this room, many times, so how was this blasted Lego still there? I was finally letting the insanity take me under, I think. I turned away from the room to look toward the open front door.
The sunlight was coming back out from behind the clouds reminding me that even though my heart was heavy, the air was light. The sun was also warm. It draped across the first step, the only step visible from where I stood. I half thought she would walk back through that door.
“Here, put it in here.”
The voice came from behind me, in the dreaded room. The room where the bed broke, the screams started and the ghosts remained. I turned on my heel and dropped to my knees.
Standing directly behind the Lego, right where the head of the bed would have been was my dead aunt. She looked solid and normal. She held a little yellow plastic box full of Legos, all different colors and shapes. She smiled, but I could hardly breathe.
“These are the ones I got for him, I think. It was last Christmas. Oh mercy, I left a few presents for them. Did you get them?”
Her death had come on December 5th, the day before my brother’s birthday. She had just started Christmas shopping. I imagined orphaned gifts sitting upon her bed. Every single thought of her hurt so bad, even that one. I hated her orphaned purse, her orphaned car, and her house. They were stuck in history with no meaning.
She bent and sat the box on the floor, rescued the red Lego from the dust bunny nest and started blowing the nasty dust and hair away. She even wiped the Lego on her apron.
“I guess all these will have to be washed before he can play with them. Here, don’t forget them. You should never leave one behind, you know, it’s a complete set.”
She looked at something in the air to her right and spoke softly. I just barely caught what she said.
“I think those cousins of yours took the boy’s gifts. No one’s good anymore. I bet you didn’t even get the kid’s piggy bank I hid in the attic, did you?”
She stood again and said no more. Maybe she waited for my answer, maybe she never expected one. She said nothing…nothing, just stared at me as her smile faded. For a long time, I thought she would fade away, but she didn’t. Then she spoke again. But this time it wasn’t about the Lego.
“I told you I was hurting. You heard my voice and you knew it wasn’t right. It was slurred. You know what that means too. You knew, and yet you did nothing but watch Cupcake wars while I was struggling to stay alive.”
I was horrified. It was every thought, every pain, and every drop of guilt. It was coming from her mouth. All those people who told me that I’d done my best to save her were wrong, and I knew it. And yet, until now, I was never faced to face with the true blackness, the true load of what I hadn’t done.
“You left me alone to watch those kids. You sent me out alone to get them food. I would have never left you if you were dying. I’ve never abandoned you.”
“But I didn’t know”, I stammered. I didn’t know if I believed that or not, and I would never know if it was true. I guess I did kill her.
“You knew something was wrong, but you wanted to watch that show and you wanted me to stop talking about how doctors don’t care about us anymore. I wanted someone, anyone….to care again. It was an embolism, you know. A blood clot sat right there,” she pointed at her shin. “and it traveled to my brain. It took months…and you never stopped it.”
I screamed. “What am I, some doctor? I didn’t know what it was!”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I crawled around and pulled myself from the floor. I sobbed.
For a long time, I cried. Then for a bit longer, I just stood there, numb. My entire back felt the tendrils of what could still be right there in that room. Maybe it would come closer and maybe it would take me back with it…her, I mean her. Finally, I turned back to the room, holding my breath and expecting something horrible to face me.
She was gone.
There on the floor was a plastic yellow box with hundreds of Legos. Every single one was red.
I sat down in front of the box and buried my fingers down to the bottom, letting corners and edges of red legos scrape and scratch my skin. I sobbed.