Present Tense

I drove Hannah to high school this morning.  Driving out of our neighborhood, we passed the swarms of kids making their way to Pioneer Middle School.  It wasn’t long ago Dragon was the one beside me in the passenger seat on our way to his high school, and we were at this corner, passing by Hannah and her friends.

This morning, we saw a girl walking to school with a slim black instrument case.

“I should have played the flute,” Hannah commented, wistfully, watching the girl with the slim instrument case.  “Look, it’s so small!  You can even just put the flute in your backpack.  But noooo, I had to play the clarinet.  And then, I played the bass clarinet!  Do you have any idea how big and heavy is the bass clarinet??!” Hannah exclaimed, recalling the years she lugged the huge instrument case, to and fro.

“Well,” I reminded her, “Dragon also had it bad.  He had to lug around his trombone.”

“Oh no,” Hannah countered, with a knowing smile. “The bass clarinet is much heavier than the trombone. Even Dragon will tell you that.”

A pause.  A heavy silence. “Even Dragon will tell you that.”

Hannah’s use of the present tense threw me off.  For just a moment, my mind danced with the tempting possibility that Dragon would be there to talk to me about musical instruments.  “Really??? Will Dragon tell me that?” And then… No, I thought to myself.  HE WON’T.  Dragon won’t tell you that.

When will he tell me that??  After school?  After work?  Next month?  Next summer?  No, Dragon is not going to tell me that.  It short circuits my mind.  It still catches me off guard, because it is so hard to believe.  Dragon is never again going to be here for me to ask.  I have to wait until I’m dead to be able to get him to confirm whether his trombone was heavier than his sister’s bass clarinet.  I have to be dead to talk to our son again.

The big things are hard… when he is not here for graduation, when he is not here for his birthday, when he is not here for Christmas.  When the anniversary of the day he died comes around.  To an extent, I can brace myself for the big things.  But really, it’s the little moments that kill me.

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