Going Away Party

It was Lydia’s idea to put skeletons on the cupcakes.

‘They’re darling!’ she exclaimed, admiring her army of marshmallow bones creeping across the kitchen counter. ‘Don’t you think they’re absolutely darling?’

I thought it was morbid, but I didn’t tell her that. ‘Darling,’ I repeated, because I don’t want to waste time arguing over things like frosting.

The party is Lydia’s kind of therapy, even though she says that she is doing it for me. ‘People throw going away parties all the time,’ she told me. ‘And dying is just a different kind of going away.’

So I spend the week watching her plan how I am going to say goodbye.

Lydia carries a camera everywhere she goes. It rides in her back pocket or looped around her wrist, and she will spontaneously lean down beside me and hold it out in front of us. ‘Smile,’ she will say, and I always do, because I want her to remember me as being happy. She prints every picture and hangs it on the fridge, a storyboard of my slow surrender. I wonder if one day she will gather up these pictures of the last days of us and make them into a bonfire in the backyard as a last attempt to let me go.

Lydia spends the nights beside me on the couch. She always falls asleep first, her fingers twisted through mine and resting between us. I lie awake and listen to her breathe, wondering what she will fill up the silence with after I am gone. I wish that I could be there with her, teaching her how to get over me. Sometimes I think I should leave her a list of don’ts: don’t sell the house because you think it’s too full of memories, don’t waste your days missing me, don’t leave your wet towels balled up on the bed – they won’t dry.

Lydia likes to keep the TV on all day, so that even when we are not talking there is something to listen to. Then it doesn’t feel like we are wasting time. Once, when she was nestled beside me on the couch, dozing off to the ‘Jeopardy!’ theme, I buried my face into her neck and whispered, ‘I hope that when I’m gone, you find another girlfriend.’ I don’t want her to dwell on me. I don’t want her to have to be alone.

Lydia stacks the skeleton cupcakes on a vintage serving plate I bought her at a charity shop. I got it cheaper than the sticker price because the base was cracked, but she repaired it with her glue gun and a couple of silk flowers.

Lydia has always been drawn to broken things.

 

Mackenzie Lee Van Engelenhoven