My brother dies weeks after Hurricane Katrina, when the bodies of the animals floating in the water hurt him in a way that is no less than the way his own body hurts me when I go to claim it.
To him, animals were easier to love, and so that first year even the small deaths undid me, the mice caught by traps, the sound of snapping hinge as they closed shut, the fur on roadsides with flies circling, even certain cuts of meat in the grocery store, the blood pooling in that plastic packaging the way it had beneath his head on that white sheet. More than a decade later and the edge of this image has not blunted itself in the slightest. His will be the last dead body I see.
I spend that year alternating between sorrow and anger. Wonder what shape sorrow makes when it sleeps. I tip over whole bookcases and then realphabetize them; take hammers to tea cups and turn them into mosaics, because half of me wants to break something that isn’t always my own heart and the other half wants to fix everything, or at least make something beautiful out of the pieces.
When I think of that other man, the one who had once held my hand, and, when looking at it, said they fit together rather well, don’t they, I break no things. I’m no longer the girl who, as a child, stole figurines from her mother’s house to smash on a rock in the woods. Not the first year wife with the dead brother silently flinging books in the office because it was easier to be angry than to find words. Not too the one in the garage with the plates and the cups, that busy hammer swinging. I break no things.
But still, I think again of that year, the one I spent thinking about what shape sorrow made when it slept, wonder if it had ever looked like mine.
If sometimes, it had looked just like mine.