Usually it starts with me surrounded by my family. This sickening feeling in my brain churns as I start to imagine if it’s possible. Could I have ever killed her? Was it me?
I try within the dream to think back in time. Where were we last? I see her straight, dirty blonde hair parted in the middle. She’s standing in jeans and an Abercrombie sweater. She’s nineteen.
It’s impossible. I realize, I wasn’t there.
She’s been dead for sometime now, at least a half a year or maybe it’s several years. But the judge wants me to testify. He wants me to stand in front of the jury and look them all in the face while I try to explain why I’m here and she’s buried outside our hometown.
Were we fighting? Did I hit her over the head?
It’s impossible, I say, looking at my father. I never would have hurt her. How can I explain to them that it wasn’t even an accident. I wasn’t even there! I scream.
She fell. Inside the bathroom of her college apartment. The shower running, the curtain half pulled back in anticipation for her to enter. The steam rises as water stings sharply against the white, plastic tub. She is slumped down, her back against the sink cabinet. Her left hand gripping the sink’s lip. Jaw slack with vomit.
I usually wake up here, cold from sweat and clinging to the sheets. It’s true, I think in that moment between, I killed her. It’s my fault, I think. I wipe my hair that sticks to my face. It takes a few moments until I can understand my surroundings.
I am in bed. I am alone. I was not there. I am innocent.
When Brooke died she was nineteen. I was a freshman in college living several hours away from her. Although we had fallen out from the passionate and often tumultuous friendship we once shared as children, we were not strangers. It had only been a couple of weeks prior to her death when we last spoke. I remember the thrill of seeing she had called me. We hardly spoke outside of the cul-de-sac connecting our homes. I called her back immediately and she asked if I were planning to go home for Fall break. Temple didn’t have a Fall break, and after she chided me for having to stay in class while she went home, she said she would see me at Thanksgiving. Before we got off the phone I told her to tell her brother, with whom I shared a birthday, “Happy Birthday”. She laughed.
She died the day before our Birthday. Brain aneurysm. It tasted metallic in my mouth. Aneurysm. I had never heard of it before. I had to look it up on wikipedia. Brain aneurysm. A cerebrovascular disorder in which weakness in the wall of a cerebral artery or vein causes a localized dilation or ballooning of the blood vessel. For months afterward I would lay in bed imagining this hot, red balloon swelling inside her brain, filling with blood, until POP and then the lights would go out.
I dream about Brooke’s death infrequently. It will be a sunny morning in April and I’ll wake up to then realize she had been there. Usually she’s sick or she’s strange, standing in the background, possessing an undead quality.Othertimes I show up at her house and she’s there and I ask her where the hell she’s been. She usually replies that she had gotten sick. She had to go away.
But the worst is the trial dream. I’m always defending myself, afraid I will go to jail and terrified I actually committed her murder. Even after I’m awake, and the dark shadows which cling to the crevices of sleep have drifted away, she still lingers there with me. Nineteen. She watches me from underneath her headache, a red balloon swelling inside, wondering when I’ll admit the truth.