by Alexandra Zaretsky
It was, after all, only a tree, and a weak, stumpy tree at that. Bare of leaves, bare of life: only the notes that papered the bark distinguished it from its ordinary, unassuming neighbors. DHen, the notes asked, why? Candles sat at the base of the tree like guard dogs, defending this ethereal spot from the outside world. Cars rushed past so close that the notes fluttered gently in their wake, and still the scene itself remained strangely serene.
The invisible cloak of denial, and the protection it offered, slid silently from my shoulders as I stood in the spot where truths I had known and trusted were shattered in the midst of broken glass. My eyes traced the sudden, unexplained skid marks, searching the landscape for answers I would never find. When my Aunt Harriett asked for a speech on behalf of all the Zaretskys, my family looked to me. “You’re good with words, Alexandra,” another aunt remarked, as if it were that simple. “Why don’t you write it?”
I used to believe that scope of words to convey meanings was limitless, that nothing was too great or small to be nailed in place by a few well chosen words. But standing in this spot, I saw only pictures. My cousin, my larger than life cousin, with his all-encompassing smile, his inordinate capacity to love. My cousin, overcome by tears of emotion at his sister’s bat mitzvah-could it have been just two years ago?-in defiance of all rules that governed the conduct of fifteen year old boys. My cousin, who surfed and partied and played soccer and lived each day to its fullest potential, who wrote with flair and wisdom beyond the scope of most professional writers. How could I commit him to a two-dimensional sheet of paper when he lived and loved so entirely in three dimensions? Words, useless incompetent words, could do no justice. And they changed nothing.
My father put his arm around me and gently turned me so that my back was to the tree. “This spot,” he paused, grappling with larger concepts, “this spot isn’t Dillon. It’s not what he was about. He’s not here.” He steered me across the bridge to my aunt and uncle’s house, a scant quarter mile away. We walked in slow silence, a silence more eloquent than any number of words, filling in the gaps between words and meanings with the essentials that would otherwise slip between the cracks.