I haven’t been able to read Sunny Moraine’s new story, “It Is Healing, It Is Never Whole” in Apex yet. This upsets me, because I typically dig Sunny’s work.
Last night, I stood shivering after coming out of the pool. Water sluiced off goose-bumped legs even after I wrapped my towel around me. It’s cold early this year; the trees have been dropping their leaves for a month already, stressed after a strange summer of rain. It’s almost like the sky knows — this summer hasn’t been right, too much rain and not enough sun.
I closed the gate behind me and headed toward home, but a neighbor appeared on the path. She’s new and doesn’t know many people, yet we’re vaguely familiar with each other, given that she lives by the pool and I am in the pool most summer nights more than I’m anywhere else.
She came out to let her dog nose around the grass — away from the dead squirrel, thank you very much. Rabbits scurried.
“Did you ever hear about that woman?” she asked me.
I knew before she pointed; she pointed toward the building where I live, and said, “so many sirens — two police cars and an ambulance and the fire department?”
“Oh. No fire department.”
“Then you did hear.” She looked eager — for gossip, or maybe just to understand something that happened in her new neighborhood.
She was not the first friend I lost this way; two others went before. They chose guns, one publicly, one privately; D’s weapon was drugs. Specific reasons I’ve never been partial to fiction about suicide. It’s different when you see it from the non-fiction side. When you’ve talked at length with the person who is no longer here. When you’ve tried to help them out of the pit they find themselves in. When you know you simply can’t.
I told the new neighbor quietly, as her dog, mostly blind, rooted around in the grass, crinkling leaves with every step. Just the basics — she only wanted to know what happened. Not that D was someone who loved to read and paint. Not that D was generous to a fault, that she loved my bean and corn salsa, that she spent countless hours stretched on a lounge in the corner of this very pool. Not that D told me to look after her elderly cat should anything happen to her, and that I was unable because the police carted the cat to the vet and the vet– Well. Sometimes, you don’t get there in time. I still expect D to be crouched on her porch, trying to hide her cigarette every time I walk past. And every time I walk past, I touch her fence.
No one else lives there yet; it’s still her fence.
I keep coming back to Sunny’s story. I’m not certain of the first part of the title — is it healing? Probably. I once had a friend who told me that to get over things, we have to bind our wounds tight and carry on as if they aren’t there. But a wound doesn’t heal well that way and even if it’s going to scar, if needs to heal.
The second half of Sunny’s title is true: it is never whole. It can’t be. This is true of many things, though; a body learns to adapt without what it has lost. There may always be that space, but a body adapts. We keep on.
It’s the last weekend to swim this season and I’m going to take Sunny’s story to the pool. I’m going to let some things go, and I’m going to keep on.