I ran by Bob’s grave this morning. He died on September 10th, 2016. He was only thirty something. On his grave were some fake flowers and a small, stuffed Ninja turtle. Raphael, I think. It had red armbands.
Bob lived in the house across the street with his mom and stepdad when we were at our old apartment. He died on the sidewalk in the next town over. I have an image in my mind of him laying flat on his back on that sidewalk. It’s nighttime and he’s lit by streetlights. He’s wearing white shoes and his clothes are clean. He’s wearing a jacket too, maybe. He’s very still.
Bob’s stepfather was the one who told us that he had died. His mother had health problems of her own. They removed her colon around that time. I think they lost a dog, too. But they got another dog: Jerry.
Bob had a daughter, too, but I think we learned that after he died. Maybe from his obit.
Bob liked to play frisbee on the street with his friend. His friend used to come down on a bicycle and he’d have a fishing pole, too. He and Bob would sit on the porch drinking Natty Daddy and then they’d play frisbee on the street.
One time the frisbee landed in our little garden out front, and I yelled down at Bob from the window. Bob mumbled that he was sorry, and he gingerly removed the frisbee from the embrace of a kale plant.
I don’t think I yelled too harshly. I think I tried to yell funny to disguise my anger. My head out the window through clenched teeth: “Watch the goddamn garden.”
I liked Bob. But I wanted to protect the garden, too. It was small, and hidden behind a small hedge that went along the sidewalk for maybe ten feet.
After Bob died, and after we moved off that street three years later, our old landlords tore up our little plot and paved it over. I think they got rid of the hedge, too. Now it’s all paved: sidewalk, driveway, spot where the old garden was. We rescued the lavender, though, and planted it in our new yard behind some Japanese ornamental shrub that was already here.
The lavender is struggling now, four years on, but it’s still alive. It’s not getting great sunlight.
There are lessons here, and parallels.
The mental image of Bob on the sidewalk has become a sort of false memory that’s hardening into something real. I can’t see his face, skinny and pale with kind but fading eyes, but I know it’s him. I’ve come to visit.
Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight. He lives in Western Massachusetts.