When I close my eyes, I see him.
Not merry pictures of the past. But that final glimpse of him falling.
I’m convinced I saw it happen. I want to believe that he wasn’t alone in his last seconds. My eyes had him covered, though they offered only horror. No outstretched hand, no gigantic leap, no way to reach him from barely twenty feet away. That wasn’t the farthest I had ever been from him. But that day, it seemed like an infinite distance.
I see what led to it in slow motion. He had just had his picture taken. His sister had made him pose while he munched on a snow cone. It had rainbow colors. Tall for his age, he looked neither a child nor an adolescent. His rosy nose and cheeks matched chunks of pink ice. His smile revealed two gigantic front teeth. He was my bunny. A beautiful boy.
It had rained the previous night. The hillside was slippery, muddy, patches of wetness greeted our gumboots. But nothing could ruin our weekly Sunday picnic. If only I had said no and lived with their sullen faces. At least, he would have been here today, in the flesh, not just a painful memory.
Why take a picture so close to the edge? How did I even allow it? The truth is I never saw it. My mind was occupied with the mackintosh sheet that would save our lunches from the puddles. It was too large, I was so clumsy, fumbling with the curled edges, weighing them down with the rocks we had found on the steep path.
Their giggles and shouts had made me even more careless. My eyes never strayed from the basket. My mechanical hands diving in and scooping out the goodies, arranging them on the pink and blue sheet with precision. I had just set down the jar of pickled ham when the corner of my eye caught it.
He had slipped. His half-eaten snow cone was still in his hand. I turned to look at him. I lunged forward, the air around me felt elastic. It stretched against my face and body, restricting me from moving forward.
Our eyes never met. The soles of his boots are etched in my memory. The black barely showing beneath the clumps of dirt and grass.
No, he never shouted out to me. He knew I couldn’t save him. The thirty-foot drop killed him. It’s strange how distances bear a new meaning for me. They size up my remorse and grief. The sight of his broken body will never leave me.
But it’s the fall that will always haunt me.