Lily didn’t breathe much anymore. I tried bringing a few hearts to class once, maybe to make her feel better, but it didn’t work very well; it was just messy. I painted her many times in her frozen mind but I couldn’t get the tongue to move quite right or the shadows in the cleft of her shoulders. But these didn’t help her much either and she just kept sitting still wherever she went in a way that leaves sit still when there’s no wind to rustle them around.
One day she told me many things about the world and I learned from her as if it were the last thing I would ever do. I told her often that she was beautiful and she would say that clocks turn twice as fast as you ever think. I didn’t find this very encouraging. She frequently used the word “dry” in her sentences but I don’t think I know exactly what that mean though she seems to.
“Sometimes I dry out from the smoke your always blowing into my face.” I stopped smoking after I dropped a cigarette on my keyboard.
“You spelled “you’re” wrong.”
She liked games very much and her favorite was one we made up when we were little and never stopped playing. I would run to a door and stand there with it closed behind me while she opened the rest in the house and marked them with red tape to say that they were not meant to be opened by me or anyone else. When she found me, I shouted “Game!” and that was the end of it. We had to keep using new houses to find new doors to stand in front of, and I ended up moving around a lot as a kid, unless someone happened to remove the tape and we could play there again if she forgot about it.
“Are you real Lily or a fragment of my imagination? Because I have a pretty damn good imagination and I’m sure you could have come out of somewhere in there.”
“No, I’m real. You can pinch me.”
It was a Sunday in June when we bought lawn chairs from the retro shop a couple blocks down the street. I sat in one with a blue and white popsicle, and she was bringing lemonade out from the house. A car drove by and honked at her but she got up okay, and we continued on like it never happened. This is the day that she said to me what I can’t seem to forget: “We look nice sitting in the sun together.” And I thought from then on I never wanted to do anything but sit in the sun with her and look nice while we did it. She chose a raspberry popsicle for herself and ate it all before it could melt. But these days were before she wasn’t breathing much and I liked these days better than I like the ones that seem to pass by now and will probably keep passing by later on.
“Why won’t you breathe, Lily?”
“I’m not ready yet.”
“Will you be ready soon?”
“Depends how soon “soon” is.”
“Are you going to die?”
“I expect so.”
We didn’t talk very much later on; I found that I never really had a lot to say and if she wasn’t speaking, I didn’t feel like it either because all I really wanted was to hear her voice and talk about that. There are many things I wished I had told her: I like that you wear your watch on the hand you write with and always complain that it gets in the way. I think it’s funny.
She stopped breathing all together at some point, and I suppose I did too, but we didn’t get to do it together like I had always imagined we would. And sometimes I wonder why I remember the things I remember about her and I wonder what she remembers about me.
But I remember when we walked through the rose garden and she said the air tasted good.
“Lily, I think you are very beautiful.”
“Thank you, Colene.”