zoom out

She falls to the floor, weeping.

He looks down at her, tears in his own eyes, turns away. He walks around the apartment, taking a few things. A phone charger. A few shirts from the closet. A toothbrush. Some books and DVDs. A mug from the kitchen.

She cries harder.

He goes back to her, tries to hug her. It is awkward. He says something, then puts a key on the counter and walks out.


Zoom out. The neighbours hear her sobs. One rolls his eyes and hopes it doesn’t last too long. Another puts a few cookies on a plate and wraps them in plastic, to leave outside her door.


Zoom out. He pushes past people in the street as he walks, then runs away from the building. He is trying to hold his tears until he gets to his car. He fumbles with the lock, then gets in and yells, making the passersby turn and stare. He thumps his steering wheel. He waits until he is calmer before he drives away.


Zoom out. The city bustles. She calls in sick to work, and her boss warns her that she had better be in tomorrow or risk the consequences. He nearly misses a stop sign, and a mother pushing a stroller yells at him. He takes a deep breath.


Zoom out. She calls her mom, two thousand kilometres away. They weep together, the tiny wire tenuously connecting them. He drives to his college roommate’s house in the next province and asks to sleep on the couch.


Zoom out. There is a tragedy in a faraway country. The news, grasping at the human angle, repeats the story of a young woman who lost her husband and the father of her miscarried child over and over. The woman cries and cries. Both women cry and cry.


Zoom out. The earth from space looks the same as ever. Turquoise, swirled with white. Lit up by constellations of community at night. One tiny pinprick in a sea of stars. And yet, the universe is subtly altered.



The air is thick with grief in this house. Every move I make seems intrusive. I’m sitting on a chair that could be hers, drinking tea from a cup that once touched her lips. Am I being properly respectful? What should I mention or not mention?

There’s just the two of them now, mother and daughter. I don’t know about the father, but the sister has been gone just two weeks.  I have not met them till this day and unlike so many others to cross their path, I have no sense of what fills the hole. I had never met the dead sister, only been told of her charm, her outgoing personality. All I see here is the gap, this space where she once was, now filled by pain.

I’ve accompanied my pastor on this visit, in the hopes I can talk to the younger sister, be an ally in the days to come. My mouth feels full of marbles and sand as I try to talk to her. The two of us awkwardly set up future meetings in more neutral places. Coffee next week, lunch in a month or so. She twists a colorful friendship bracelet around and around her wrist and I notice that its lettered beads spell out her sister’s name.

Uncomfortable in my intrusion, I excuse myself to use the washroom. There are framed pictures all down the hall. One is of the two sisters, brunettes with matching eyes, the older one with her hand on the younger’s shoulder, her smile broad and inviting. I enter the bathroom and it smells of vanilla and patchouli, hairspray and Nair. There are bottles all over the bathroom; body spray and shampoo and body wash and essential oils – all in colourful bottles, arranged like candles on an altar.

I glance at myself in the bathroom mirror, my eyes full of tears. Catching my breath, I wash my face and go take my place again at the kitchen table, carefully, slowly, not wanting to make even a ripple in the air.