Before the Sun Sets

Posted on: May 27, 2014

The text notification light on her phone blinked brightly. Grace must’ve slept through the familiar ping ping sound it made.

did u hear aaron from hs was killed last week?

Grace had to flip through her mental yearbook. Aaron Crawford? That was the only Aaron she could recall.

what happened??

She stretched and browsed her emails while she waited for a response.

botched burglary apparently

How terrible, Grace thought. For a moment she felt her heart drop and she thought she might cry, but she didn't and got up to get ready for work instead.

As she idled on the subway platform, memories of Aaron came to her in snapshots. There wasn’t enough to draw from for Grace to create a more animated memory of him. It was always a static image. And yet, she did recall he was plain looking, but not unattractive. He was also tall, and broad-shouldered, and Grace wondered how big the burglar must’ve been in order to have taken Aaron down.

Grace lifted her hand as her train grinded by. The loud screeching of metal against metal seemed distant, though it wasn’t. Stainless steel, glass, and light blurred by less than a foot away from her. Her hand hovered gently over the speeding train, garnering wayward glances from her fellow commuters who unconsciously shuffled back.

The veil of life is thin.

The crowded train jostled her against the wall of warm bodies that surrounded her, forcing a physical intimacy she rarely shared even with her closest friends and family.

How many people on this car are carrying knives? Or anything sharp for that matter?

She caught the eye of the man sitting in front of her and imagined what it would be like if he were to stab her at that moment. There was nothing she could do to prevent it. Grace shook away the dark thought as she pulled her leather bag tightly against her chest.

At her desk, Grace sipped her latte. She barely remembered waiting in line at the coffee shop downstairs or the barista from whom she ordered her drink. It had all become part of her daily routine, her life had become one big reaction, and she knew it. But she accepted it without a fight. This was life. She saved up her money, looking forward to her vacations and occasional shopping sprees.

It’s enough to be alive.

She logged onto Facebook as she did every morning, browsing the generally mundane happenings of every person that had grazed her life. The top posts were all remembrances on Aaron’s Facebook wall. She hadn’t even realized they were friends on the social networking site.

She scrolled through the litany of messages -- “we will miss you” and “you’re in heaven now” and so on and so forth. And she clicked on the text box to type her own message to the ghost of Aaron’s Facebook profile page. As she paused to consider what she would say, staring blankly at the blinking cursor, she realized how inappropriate anything she could say would be.

Who am I to be sad?

And as Grace doubted her right to that emotion – the emotion she felt was reserved for Aaron’s friends, his family, not his acquaintances, not strangers – she questioned whether she was sad at all.

Her day proceeded as it always had, but Grace couldn’t shake the feeling that it had turned into a murmur of itself. Snapshots of Aaron continued to come to mind at random intervals, even when she thought she had finally forgotten about the whole ordeal. It was around noon when she realized she wasn’t remembering Aaron at all. She was remembering photographs of Aaron, actual photographs of him that she had probably seen online, posted by mutual friends.

Had we even known each other?

Her workday ended around five. It was still light out as she left her office building.

How was your day? Someone would ask.

Same old, nothing new. Grace would respond, but then she would realize and continue, Well, Aaron died.

With a great deal of concern, Someone would ask, Who’s Aaron?

She would hesitate before replying, I’m not sure, but we went to school together.

Grace wasn’t certain where she was going, but her stop on the Upper East Side came and went, and yet she rode on. It was only after the train came above ground – a curiosity primarily of the outer boroughs ­– that Grace realized she was on her way to her old Forest Hills neighborhood. It was bucolic for an urban suburb, with its heavily tree-lined streets and unusual quiet. She hadn’t been back since she went off to college almost ten years ago. Her parents moved out soon after she left, and most of her close friends migrated into the city proper. There had been no reason for her to return. Yet, as she got off the 75th Avenue station, she navigated through the streets as if she had never left. Grace found herself unexpectedly in front of a house she recognized, but not her own.

This is where the Crawfords lived.

It was getting dark now, the streetlights were clicking on. She had never really forgotten about that sky blue house with its bright red door. She only needed to be reminded. Grace wondered if Aaron’s parents still lived there and imagined that they did.

It was early spring. The trees had just begun to sprout their new leaves. Some leaves had already fallen, still green, but separated now from their only source of life. For the first time that day, a paralyzing sadness and anger overwhelmed her. She still wasn’t certain if those emotions were for Aaron.

Written by: Sam Chow
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

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