Death of a Moth

it left me crushed.
i lived that summer trying to imagine what i could possibly do with my life, and trying to forget what i had already done.

i heard nothing from her, and i almost resigned myself to believing i never would. but in time for her first day of college, she returned. it was as if she had never left at least for her.

she liked to believe that she had partial amnesia. and i couldn't quite bring myself to confront her about those lost three months. i worried that if i asked her why, she'd leave again. so i tried to recreate our past to accommodate and please her. and i thought it was working.

i woke up that morning anxious to see her, for some unrecallable reason. i hurried through breakfast, hoping to see her as quickly as possible. but before i could finish, a call had come

i wouldn't be seeing her that morning
or ever.

her death was hard enough for me to accept.
her suicide was too much for me to believe.

my parents -- with the threat of physical restraint -- prevented me from rushing to her house.

i felt this overwhelming need to see her, to realize that this was all a lie: a joke.

my mother eventually forced me to take valium and everything after that is hazy.

they wouldn't let me attend her funeral, and then
they wouldn't even allow me to mention her name.
to them, her sin was unforgivable.
to me, her act was unexplainable. and i began to place all of the blame on myself.

i tried to convince first myself, then others, that i had killed her. i tried to convince everyone that i was a murderer: that Maudlin's life had been taken by my own hand.

my parents grew worried.
they feared for me.
they even feared me.

on advice of friends, they forced me to seek help. they hoped that a trained professional could convince me otherwise.

i wasn't convinced.
i dumbfounded the professionals.
i disappointed and embarrassed my parents.
i no longer had any friends.

my life had shattered,
and the blood was on my hands.

my sleep filled with nightmares.

my head filled with images of me slitting her wrists and cutting her throat. i traced every curve of the knife with my mind and i gently stroked her blood-soaked hair.

my sheets repeatedly stained with pools of her blood. each word i spoke, was heckled by the chant "murderer." there seemed no hope: nothing i could do would alleviate the pain. and so i thought i deserved it, and that i deserved more.

no one treated me the same. i was seen as an oddity: as crazy as they figured Maudlin must have been. and they feared that i would take my own life, as she had. but i couldn't accept that way out. i had convicted myself to life imprisonment, with no chance of parole.

i had to make myself suffer.

they took away any knives, fearing i would slit my own throat. and they removed all other sharp objects. they were afraid of what i could do to myself. and i was afraid of what i could do to others. whenever i saw the blood coating my hands, i broke apart in tears -- and thought of that moth.

and i knew that my tears were not the same as they had once been.
and i knew that my tears were not enough. had never been enough.

she had used to tell me that there was nothing scarier than death. to her, death was the end of everything. the instant you died, you were erased and forgotten. and now i'm quick to add that all of that was true, except for the person who caused the death: who committed the murder. for them, it would never be erased or forgotten. and now, when i picture her face, it is pale, slightly purple, and lifeless.

and for a moment, i think that she looks the prettiest ever.
and then my wave of regret comes crashing back into shore.

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Matte Elsbernd
copyright © 1995