When everything changes

I walk into the lobby with a boy that I’m just getting to know. He is dressed like Hulk Hogan and I am dressed like I’ve just been in a cat fight: ripped clothes, fake bruises, leaves in my intentionally messy hair. There’s a shuffle on the other side of the room and it takes me a minute to realize that G has caused it. G, who I’d broken up with a week before although I didn’t have the strength to insist that he stop sleeping in my room. G, who I’d been speaking to 45 minutes earlier and who’d promised me that he’d take his drunk upset self home and call me in the morning. G, who’d been dressed as autoerotic asphyxiation with a belt around his neck.

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Legacy

My great-grandfather Benness lived to be 102 years old, his was the first hundredth birthday party that I ever attended. When he came home from the Great War he started working in the mines in Cobalt and retired at 65 with a pension. He wanted his kids to grow up to have lives that were as secure, long and healthy as his own.

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Until my brain comes back

W begins to read me a letter that he wrote the night before. About how angry and worried and scared he was. How he was shaking as he wrote it, monitoring the vitals of my unconscious body. I’d blacked out and W had taken me home and put me to bed. He’s done it before and he will certainly have to do it again.

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(Re)defining grief

I’ve been cultivating this notion for about a month now that grief changes people in a fundamental way. I find myself asking new people about the losses that they’ve experienced, trying to locate them in my grief-binary. I don’t want to say that I will only ever feel truly safe with somebody else who has emerged on the other side of loss, but part of me is starting to believe that this is true. That the only way to learn how to support somebody who is putting themselves back together is to have fallen all the way apart yourself.

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These are the stories I tell myself

This is the story that I tell myself:

The first time that she calls to tell me, I am busy. I have girls over, and we are about to go out. I’m excited about this night because I am a pretty girl now. I’ve always been a smart girl, and when the opportunity presented itself to show up to college pinker and blonder than before, I took it. And I was amazed at how easily it all happened. Of course, this is a story that I tell myself too, because as a smart (not pretty) girl of 17, I’d already received a number of unsolicited I-love-yous and broken my first solicited heart. So she calls, and I do pick up — which I wouldn’t now — and we agree that we will talk the next day.

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What we call white girls

“Do you know what we call white girls?” shouts one of the hickey-covered teenagers loitering outside of the Northern Store. This is quickly followed by a few words in Cree and some teenage cackling. We frown at each other uneasily and wander back to our canoes so we can cross the river back to our campsite.

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All we get to keep

“It would be easier,” my sister hesitates, “if she just didn’t exist.” Although I know that this is where she was heading — it had to be — I’m still glad that it was she who said it and not I. It just sounds so flippant, so convenient. As if we are two petulant children wishing away our mother, rather than what we really are: a married 39 year-old woman with two children and a newly single 26 year-old girl (woman?), half-sisters who have both lost our fathers, who do not take the loss or dissolution of a parent lightly.

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