She craved simplicity and innocence but she was always left sitting in the cold, solemn and worried like an old woman. Wet leaves stuck to her from the playground by the blue tables beneath thick oak trees. We all once played there when we were just children and the sting of loss had not yet settled deep within our unscathed skin. She felt that she would faint whenever she thought of the past; perhaps that is why we always saw her alone, lying weakly in chalky playground gravel with a mischievous, faraway smile.
Indigo was odd: a spectacle for wary adults, and a mystery to her peers. They used to watch with incredulity when she stole ceramic dog figurines from the dollar store. This time it was a Great Dane with a gray muzzle. He laid contently, eyes shut, as if he were slumbering by the fire at Christmastime. Mr. Ferris, the gray-haired manager, opened his mouth for a moment as if to say something, but closed it again in a huff, his wiry mustache billowing comically. The afternoon cashier, sixteen-year-old Katie Boglin from Sunday school (who was in the grade below me), watched with curious eyes and laughter on her lips. Nobody stopped Indigo as she walked out of the store with eloquent indifference: not this time and not ever. Whether it was out of pity or amusement, she never did find out.
She claimed to love books but burnt them in her backyard when she was home alone and caught in foggy introspection. “Setting words on fire makes me feel like I’m not so pointless, like how even the dirt is more beautiful than any of us care to see,” she whispered to me in class one day. She always spoke like that – in strangely articulate and puzzling riddles, so that nobody would talk to her for too long. She turned back to the front of the class before I could think of what to say, anyways, and continued to feign straight-backed attentiveness to Ms. Connolly’s lecture on some ancient American war.
Looking at her could make anybody feel strange and lonely. I heard Jacob Cookerson tell another boy in English class that he stared straight in her eyes once and he felt the same as he did late at night whenever he was alone in his room with his aged Spiderman night-light on. I knew what he meant. I stared at the back of her head when she sat in front of me in class, and it made me want to peel apart the cheap linoleum floor tiles and write sentences underneath them that nobody had ever thought of before.
October fourth, that was the day it happened.
I was driving home at night coming back from my best friend Amy’s house like usual. It was silly, really. A deer darted out into the highway, I jerked the wheel, and that was it for me. There are flowers still hanging on the telephone pole that I drove dad’s car into.
When I died prematurely, many people came to the funeral. It’s a small town, after all, and the death of an adolescent is the greatest loss there is (at least, that’s what I kept hearing older people say at my midday memorial service). I wasn’t sure that I felt very tragic about it, as they said we all should. Maybe that’s just the difference between the living and deceased: there are those who are cursed and blessed to feel, and then there are those who are free, but must remain eternally silent. I guess I am free now, though sometimes I wish I had said more before all of this happened.
For the sake of sparing sorrow, nobody visited my grave after that for a while. Not even Mom or Dad, or Amy, all of whom were feeling painfully restless at the sight of my dusty room, with my clothes still scattered across the floor, and pictures from magazines stapled to the wall. It wasn’t until months later that many of my loved ones and acquaintances came back to pay respects on occasion.
I think it was purely out of guilt that they visited, if you ask me. There they were laughing and enjoying the way the sun warmed their backs, hair tangling in the wind, sometimes drinking water or holding freshly cut flowers that were more alive than I. There they were carrying on with everything as though every breath were a casual occurrence, and there I was lying under their feet in an itchy white dress that my mother bought for me to wear only once and for forever.
The grass was damp that day when they visited. There came Jacob from English class, along with Amy, and Katie Boglin. They didn’t bring flowers, but had agreed to walk through the cemetery on the way home from school to see my grave, and to visit Amy’s grandpa’s too. When Grandpa Jeff first died, we were thirteen and I would uncomfortably accompany Amy through the graveyard every day after school, just the same as they are still doing now. She’d stare blankly at his inscription for five minutes while I shuffled my feet warily, then we’d continue home without a word. Wishing you could see someone who is gone away forever renders small talk insignificant, I decided.
So there they were, chattering amongst themselves, school bags bouncing with each step to where I lay. They gathered in a suddenly solemn semi-circle around my mound of dirt, intrigued at what they saw.
It was placed meticulously between two parallel vases of wilting flowers, and a few picture frames of my smiling face that had become dirty, now, from the rain. It’d been raining a lot that November after I passed. I knew that my dad probably told my mom that the sky was mourning for us; he was sentimental like that. I imagined that she’d gingerly reply, “maybe so,” from behind the morning newspaper, attempting her usual need to appear level-headed, even though they both knew she was still reading the October edition with my obituary on the front page.
When they saw it, Jacob felt panicked like he does when it’s too dark to see. Amy stared blankly like she did when her grandpa passed. Katie recognized it right away, the familiar bubbling of laughter rising in her chest. There in the midst of many cemetery relics, a ceramic Dalmatian with a bright red frisbee in his smiling teeth sat obediently; it had been set down in the grass by soft hands. It was a light-hearted contrast to my shiny, gray-marble headstone, engraved with October of that present year. The figurine was sitting on top of a soggy piece of notebook paper.
Written on blank margins was an urgently scribbled note. It simply said, “The dirt has made you beautiful, what a shame that they can’t see.” In fact (I’m not sure that anyone has realized quite yet), every new headstone at the town’s cemetery was gifted with a 99-cent canine effigy that was never paid for. I guess Indigo is the only one who really understood us.