“Matty, come here!” There is alarm in her voice. I sprint across the few hundred feet that separate us, jumping logs, dodging branches, stumbling over rocks.
“What , what do you see?” I ask as I approach.
“I don’t know, it looks like clothes, but I am not looking again.” Elizabeth has turned to face me, and is pointing over her shoulder.
“Ok, ok, I’ll look.” I say as I pass her in a hesitant rush.
I look out over the forest floor, but my eyes will not cooperate. I can see something large and blue, but the whole of its shape does not make any sense. I am looking at something just fifty feet away, but I cannot tell what it is, there is a disconnect between my eyes and my mind. I take a few steps forward.
“Is it him?” Her tone is soft and pleading.
“I don’t know, my eyes won’t focus.” I take a few steps closer, rubbing my eyes.
“Don’t go any closer.” Elizabeth warns.
“I won’t, I just can’t…” My eyes suddenly snap into focus, and I know that I am looking at a blue blanket. One corner is folded up over something. Shoes. They are shoes, sticking out from under the corner. My mind moves cautiously, the puzzle’s picture taking shape with each new piece that snaps into place. The legs are crossed at the ankles, the corner of the blanket laying over the feet, creating the odd form that made no visual sense. Jeans. I stop and focus at the waist. I see a black belt, with two rows of silver grommets running around its length. I know that belt.
“It’s him, it’s him, it’s him.” I am stuck in slow motion.
“Oh, no,” Elizabeth begins to whimper. She reaches for me as I take a step closer.
“Matty, don’t go over there.” She pleads.
I look at her for answers as I begin to cry.
“Oh Jared, why, why, why?!” I am now shouting, sobbing, gasping, and I fall down. No strength, no control. I stare across the forest floor at the blanket.
A great shift has befallen me, sending me to my knees. There is a tightness in my chest with each anxious, life-giving breath. Strange, feral, sorrowful sounds are coming from my throat. Through blurry eyes I see long strands of spit dripping from my lips, and as I watch them coat the dirt beneath me, I marvel that I don’t care.
My mind leaps across time. From one memory to another, a rapid, fitful slide-show of the past thirty-six years flashes before me. I am trembling, weak, defeated. Something touches my shoulder, a reminder that I am not alone. Elizabeth is with me, standing close, her hand on my back. It is there to comfort me, but also to hold me in place. I thank God she is here, with me, in this moment. She knows me, that I will want to run over there. To scoop him into my arms. To hold him. To fix him. I lift my head up, and my knees press into soil. My arms are limp and useless, my chest heaving. I look over at him once more, and another growl escapes my throat. I fall forward, and my forehead touches the earth. A deep breath, and I begin to wail. I am surrounded by darkness as the whine of a distant siren blends with mine.
My brother Jared lies dead on a blanket in the woods.