"My name is Karolina Ross & I'm a recent college graduate originally from Frederick, Maryland. I'm trying to reconnect myself with creative writing after earning my degree in English. I love the use of narrative as a way to cope with and understand ourselves and our experiences. I haven't decided if I think I'm actually a good writer or if I'm just good at using a thesaurus."
Try to ignore the spider inching across your ceiling. You have peacefully coexisted in this pastel room for the past several days, and the thought of crushing it beneath the bristles of a broom seems unspeakably cruel, seeing as it has done nothing but lurk stupidly behind your dust-covered piano all weekend. Now, as it draws dangerously nearer to the boundary of comfortability, you consider whether or not you should just leave the room and hope it is gone when you return. But then, of course, the terror would be intensified by imagining it suspended from a web above your nose while you sleep, or skittering over your comforter and onto the nape of your neck. You slink off the bed and over to your closet.
Downstairs, your extended family whispers comforting musings into their coffee mugs. They stare at each other through heavy, swollen eyes. You tug awkwardly at the hem of your sweater, but you’re not young enough to be this awkward anymore. The fringes of maturity are still just beyond your grasp. Now, feel a creeping embarrassment begin to form about the posters lining your bedroom walls collecting dust. You think about whether now would be a good time to tear them all down, but then are reminded of the spider traveling along your ceiling and decide against it. The sunlight from your window suspends the dust particles you stirred from their rest in twinkling beads, like a sporadic rain shower that got lost and wandered into a sunny day.
The stairs creak in that way they do when your mother is creeping up them gently, and you hurry over to lock the door. She grazes her knuckles against the frame in what can barely be described as a knock and whimpers something sad into the crack of the door. You feel guilty. You will be down in a minute, you tell her softly and too awkwardly. She retreats in the same gentle way she came but this time sulks into her own bedroom, which you can tell by the distinct melody of the creaking floorboards.
When you were young enough, you threw a fit when your parents wanted to uproot the carpet you loved passionately for no understandable reason. You heaved guttural, mournful cries when they loaded it into your minivan and it disappeared under the shade of your tree-covered driveway. But now the wood floor was all you could remember, and if your parents threatened to replace it you would probably throw a similar theatrical tantrum. You trade the green sweater you’re wearing for a black one, something you think might be more appropriate. You have changed your outfit four times already and you can’t explain why. Your first outfit, an oversized t-shirt you slept in, was soiled with dampness on the left shoulder. The second, a pink long-sleeved shirt, was dirty around the wrists from you twisting it around your thumb and raising it to your eyes and nose as a tissue. The third was a green sweater, which didn’t have anything wrong with it. In fact, it was your favorite sweater, and maybe you didn’t want to spoil it with the memory of a bad experience.
You unlock your door and reluctantly meander downstairs, giving the spider its privacy. The low hum of polite murmurings is only occasionally interrupted by a running faucet, silverware clinking against porcelain, and a muffled sniffle. Your cat flicks her tail
at you in disdain. She sits annoyedly at the foot of the steps glaring at the congregation of people in the foyer. Beyond the front hall in the kitchen, people gather in silent worship around a cluster of picture frames erected carefully on the kitchen table, your aunt’s kitten heels scuff the linoleum.
You are too young to understand how to grieve. When you woke up that morning to find the sun lower in the sky than usual and yourself uncharacteristically well-rested, you suspected something was wrong. Your father’s voice speaking quietly on the phone downstairs paused when he heard your footsteps on the staircase, and he met you in the foyer with a frown. You are now shepherded through the crowd by your uncle, whose arm has found its way across your shoulders. The familiar faces of your relatives are distorted by distractingly bloated pink eyes that pout at you as you are ushered slowly through the procession. Although It’s not technically a funeral, some people, out of awkward formalities, are dressed in black. Your mother’s best friend, who you have been authorized to refer to as your “aunt,” surveys the scene from overtop a casserole dish. Your older sister weeps loudly on the couch, clutching a damp tissue to her chest surrounded by a silent audience who occasionally take turns offering soft condolences. When your mother reappears in the kitchen after enjoying the fleeting moments of privacy in her bedroom, the attention is once again drawn back to her. You yearn desperately to return to the company of the spider in your room.
Later, as the weight of bereavement curls up and nestles itself on your shoulder, you will cry. You’ll feel the unrelenting heartache of loss in its fullness. It will crash against you unsuspectingly in waves even years later when you have thought you have
moved past it. And one day, you will struggle to remember the person you lost, but you will remember with unwavering clarity the feeling of the first death you experienced, and your first funeral.