The People I Became in the Wake of Matt's (Accidental?) Death
Mateline, Age 40
Day 1: If I focus well enough I can feel the bus moving along the road at its sluggish pace, honking as it weaves in and out of the other cars. I like to feel the wheels pulling on the asphalt, feel them turning and moving and vibrating as I float from place to place. I stare straight ahead. I don’t dare look to my left for, if I did, I fear I might see that I was no longer on the bus, but instead I was back in the car, tumbling down the hill as I thought of only one thing: where was my hat? It’s an odd thought, I know, but it made sense at the time, I think, as I had been very concerned that I had somehow become without my hat, which, at the time, was my sole possession I most favored out of all of my things. It was given to me by Matt.
At first it was hard to breathe. But, as I rode the bus more, I felt my lungs loosen like two Ziploc bags (the kind with the actual slide mechanism) being slowly opened up. There is an equilibrium to the bus that reminds me of the day I entered Kindergarten: with the whole world in front of me and not a thing gone wrong. The bus is the same, the people are the same, the route is the same. As such, I do not dare say a word to anyone for fear of upsetting said equilibrium.
The silence of the bus is necessary as my staring straight forward, though if I do happen to catch a word from some doom-seeker I am careful to not let it upset my inner sanctions, which forbid my speaking at all but leave a certain grace period for those around me. There are rare days when an ear plug falls out and I catch wind of entire conversations. Admittedly, on these days it is hard to maintain composure mainly because me putting my ear plug back involves a certain amount of neck contortion that more often than not places my gaze toward the window. As you can imagine, this, more often than not, reminds me again of the moment I was missing my hat as broken glass cut my face and arms and my body slammed into the ceiling of the car.
It was dark then, and snowing, and though everyone was concerned about me and Matt, I never understood the wholehearted reluctance to search the car, or the snow around it, for my hat. Most often I imagine this is because they believed my obsession with finding it to be slightly neurotic, which I can understand. Though, on second thought, not really, because as soon as I was better enough I made every effort to leave my house and search for my hat on the side of the road, which led to many nights spent running through the woods until I was only semi-warmly received by those unwilling search parties at some odd hour of the morning. In other words, it makes no sense to me that I, being so willing and eager to find my hat, would be left alone to do it without the help of anyone but a few policemen who mostly came to sift through the snow with one foot and ask me back home.
I was told once that the bus driver’s name was Mac, and there is nothing so terrifying as when Mac reaches to itch his head. It’s usually around stop nine that he does this, and if my focus is good I notice him doing it only during official stops. On bad days he does it just before the bus stops moving, which, consequently, makes me flinch and do just what I did before I sent the car careening over the edge of the hill.
Though I do understand why windows exist, it does seem that they are slightly bigger than they should be, for even in trying to avoid looking through them at all costs, something is bound to catch my eye at some point, or I flinch, and then something catches my eye, and then I swerve, and Matt screams. My earplugs do not work against those.
Day 2: I am focusing today on the bus and I cannot figure out what I want to be but I have to be the best person possible in order to focus on the front of the bus. Matt always said the bus was for lunatics. Today Mac scratched his head just before we stopped at the second stop, which was McClaren St., and I flinched, which made my earplug shift, which made me hear the person in the seat next to me saying “No, no, there’s no issues here,” which made me look the opposite direction out the window (!!) which made me shut my eyes and put my head between my knees and scream like I remember Matt screaming before and after the accident.
It was really cold, then, I remember, and though I was bleeding and Matt was bleeding I couldn’t stop screaming at him to get out of the car. His blood was dripping on me from the front of his head which was mostly smashed except for his lips, which were almost as they were right before we crashed.
Doing what I am told. Doing what I am told to do. My head between my knees and screaming “not my fault. Not my fault. Not my fault. My fault. My fault my fault my fault. My fault? My fault. MY FAULT!”
Mathea, Age 25
Day 1: Today I counted twelve people holding hands. The first was a couple who seemed to be around 43, though she looked slightly younger, and they each were wearing red shirts that had small black horses on them. The second was a couple. They were holding hands criss-cross, and they were smiling at something. After smiling for a few seconds, one of them said “what time is the movie?” The third couple was walking around the mall even though it was sunny outside. They left the bookstore and went upstairs where I went in with them into a different store with many posters and dark clothing. I watched them both go into one dressing room while still holding hands before leaving. The music was too loud. The fourth couple was sitting on a bench. Not smiling. Not even laughing. Only sitting. The fifth couple was silent, too. Both of them were crying. Their hands were stacked on top of each other’s. The sixth couple was holding hands with kids on either side of them. They were small. Brown hair. I asked them to skip with me. The couple looked at me, so I went away. The seventh couple was dancing on the sidewalk. They were holding hands more loosely than the others. The eighth couple was just sitting. Person one had a hand on person two’s knee. Person two had a hand on top of person one’s. The ninth and tenth couples were sitting at the tables outside of Ten Wing Chicken Stop, and talking in animated voices. They were holding hands discreetly under the table, which I could see if I went far enough away. The eleventh couple was on a poster for a move called Bright Eyed Sunday. They looked happy. One of them was a robot. The twelfth couple was me and Matt, in the picture of us at a friend’s house. It was from my purse. The picture is cut, so it is just our heads, our faces, and I look at it each hour on the hour if I am watching for couples, which happens most Saturdays.
Day 2: Today I witnessed four couples holding hands. The first was a small, fat woman with a smaller, fatter man. They were sitting on the park bench caddy corner to me across the walkway. He was smiling. She was smiling. The second couple was walking. I knew them. They are the fitness couple, and they are usually running (not holding hands), but this time they were walking, holding hands, and I could see that she was pregnant. That’s why they were walking? He was smiling. She was smiling. Her belly, bulging with life, was smiling. The third couple I saw was the couple I always see at this time of day. One was a teacher I knew from the local high school; the other was a bank teller. They always walk through the park on Thursdays. They were not smiling. They were talking. Then he laughed, and his boyfriend laughed. The fourth couple I saw were standing, shifting from foot to foot uneasily. They were not smiling either. They were crying. No. She was crying. He was whispering in her ear so I could not see his face, and holding her arm tight as he whispered louder and louder. She tried to pull away, but he pulled her back to him. She kept crying. She tried to pull away again, this time harder, and as soon as she did I saw his face. He looked like Matt. Matt. Angry and upset and a little drunk. She pushed at him, and he caught her arms and squeezed her tight, not wanting to make a disturbance. This was Matt. I remembered Matt, but Matt wasn’t him. It wasn’t my fault. Wasn’t my fault. Head between the knees, it wasn’t my fault. Doing what they told me to do. I screamed: “MY FAULT MY FAULT MY FAULT.”
Mattie, Age 8
Day 1: “Matt, you are my favorite,” is written on my wall in red crayon, which is my favorite because it is the color of lipstick even though I am not old enough to wear it. I ask every day and even though I will soon be 8 years-old there is nothing that I can do to make time go faster, which is mainly because time works only one second at a time, like on the clock when I count the seconds up to a minute. There is nothing I like better than to sit with my red crayon and think about Matt even though he is not here, but I cry because sometimes it feels like he is! I lost Matt. Usually when I cry I end up going to sleep after because my crying makes me very sleepy which usually means that I am tired and need to get good sleep so I can be better for the next day. I sometimes go to bed and then the next day I wake up and have to go to the doctor because my mean helper makes me.
Day 2: Matt is my favorite. Sometimes, I imagine him being as big as me, and we play together all day, and he gives me all the hugs I want because he is soft and squishy! Normally, Matt and I get up and have breakfast together before mommy goes to work at the desk. This is when Matt’s face gets all messy, and I have to wipe it off with a wet napkin which mommy helps me get because I cannot reach the sink. After this, Matt and I watch our favorite show which is Bear in the Big Blue House because I think that the bear looks a lot like Matt and it makes me think of him a lot! After that we go to my helper who asks me questions about me and my mommy and my mommy’s friends, and I tell him all about the times I went with Matt out to the woods, and about the time that Matt and I got in a little accident that turned him into a teddy bear. After this my helper lets me go to sleep on his big comfy couch!
Day 3: Today my helper took Matt away from me and I can’t think because I love Matt and now my best friend is gone. I have cried a lot and asked mommy to get him back for me, but I can’t think of anything else to do. My helper tried to ask me why I loved Matt so much but I just cried and asked for him back a lot of times but he just kept saying that I’d get Matt back after I actually told him why I loved him. I love Matt. I love Matt. I love Matt. I love Matt. My helper asked me my birthday and I told him that I was almost eight years old and then asked for Matt back but he wouldn’t give him to me because he said I had to answer more questions. I said Matt died. Matt died in an accident. Matt is now a teddy bear.
About the Author: Tyler is a writer originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado. His work has previously appeared in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, Chicago Literati, and the Clackamas Literary Review. He currently resides in Portland, OR. Read more about Tyler here.