In the Future We Will Call This Deja vu
It was before church when I told you I had a dream about your father crashing his car into the ravine after driving off the bridge. There had been an ice storm and he lost control. You told me it was only a dream.
We were holding a special meeting for you, thinking we could draw a miracle from the sky. You didn’t want to go, so I picked you a flower; the only bribe I could think of. You were sitting with your back to the window. The morning light touched the freckles on your shoulder. You were reading. You looked up at the flower, then at me, and decided to go.
We prayed over your body. They prayed over your body. I watched. I didn’t believe too much in God or magic then, but I believed enough in you and that you’d get better.
After the praying ended, I took you out to a café for breakfast. You said you didn’t feel any different. While we were eating, I told you that I had learned a new song on guitar, and that I was going to play it for you when we got home. I imagined that you were about to say, “That’s nice” when a bird flew headlong into the window by our booth and killed itself.
When we got back to your house, I took out your guitar and played you the song, and you said it hurt. “Why?” I asked. You said you suddenly couldn’t remember the words to any of your favorite songs, acting like it was the worst of your complications.
I asked what you’d like to do instead. You said you wanted to go pick raspberries. Later we found there were no raspberries to pick anywhere. You said that it was okay because they always had bugs in them.
You always smiled when it rained. You said you were happy that everyone had to stay indoors, because you always had to stay indoors. But then you pulled me outside, and said that if everyone had to be inside, we were going to be outside. You didn’t want to jump in puddles. You just wanted to stand in the rain.
Your favorite color was green because it reminded you of Christmas cookies. You used to always make me read, ‘Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus’, because you thought it sounded better with my voice than in your own head. Do you remember that editorial? We think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by our little minds.
One night in your bedroom you said you’d never kissed a boy, and you looked at me. We grew up next door to each other and you never looked at me like that, even though sometimes I imagined you did. I told you that I knew where we could pick some raspberries and you didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night.
I didn’t see you for three days. I didn’t think you were alive and I thought you were all better at the same time. You were always somewhere in the middle. During those three days, I tried to learn a new song. One that wouldn’t hurt. You showed me pictures you drew for your mother during the time I was gone. She said you were going to be a famous painter one day and that you’d forget all of us. She laughed when she said it, but it made me tremble
When I saw you again, you asked me if I had any more dreams about you. I could only remember one where we were married and had a child. I was teaching myself piano and our child was shaking presents under the Christmas tree. You were outside painting a picture of me teaching myself piano and the child shaking presents under the Christmas tree. You tore the picture up and started painting again. You painted a picture of yourself alone in a room, and I disappeared.
On a Saturday night while I watched you cut out stars from construction paper your mother came into the room and told us that your father crashed his car. He drove into a lamppost that wasn’t lit. I left when you and her cried. When you saw me two days later, you slapped me. Then you left and told me not to follow you.
I found you sitting outside in the grass the night of your father’s funeral. You were wearing a brown dress and you had some dirt in your eyelashes. You called me names and I called you names back, but they were only names and now they don’t matter. But back then, they did. I didn’t see you for a month.
You came to my house and your hair was short and you asked me to come outside. “I’m sorry,” you said. Then you said, “I think time’s running out” and you began to cry. I wanted to hold you, but your skin was raw, and I didn’t want to catch your disease. I said, “Thanks for coming by.”
I was outside the next morning helping my dad plant bushes in front of the house when I found a dead bird lying in the grass beneath our window. I went to your house and asked if you still hated me, and you said you were about to go and pick raspberries with your mother. I asked if I could come with and you said no. I went home to bury the bird beneath a tree and stabbed a broken stick in the ground above its grave. I named it after you. A week later a dog had dug it up. I buried it again, this time a little deeper.
There’s a store in Brussels, Belgium named after you, too, and when I came to tell you, you lost your nerve and hit me in the chest. I reached forward and touched your blouse. I was going to tell you that I didn’t want to be another complication, but you told me to shut up first. We were neighbors, but I believed that someday we’d be lovers.
When you died four days later, I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry until I saw you lying in your coffin and you didn’t look at all like yourself. I screamed and when my father came over I kicked him in the knee and left.
I’m writing you this letter because I was told one time that spirits forget everything after they die. And so I know you’ve forgotten me. You may be in Heaven, or you may be living your next life, or you may just be dirt in the ground. Either way, I know you’ve forgotten.
I will forget too. I already have, for the most part, until I see my son shaking his presents beneath the Christmas tree. He asked me if there was a Santa Claus last night and I told him the truth. I told him that the most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.
By Erik Bergstrom
- Erik’s recent and upcoming publications include stories in Typehouse Magazine, Coffin Bell Magazine, and the STORGY: Shallow Creek anthology. You can follow on Twitter @erikbbergstrom or find additional stories at https://erikbergstromwriting.com/