I can’t wear my black V-neck to take yearbook pictures today because I wore it to a funeral last Friday, so now it’s my funeral shirt. Which is crazy, I know, because it’s not like I’ve worn it to…
This is the first—and maybe the only—story I’ve ever handwritten before transcribing it into my laptop. I wrote it sitting outside the library with two of my classmates from my MFA. Near us, on a public bench, was a bouquet of wilted red and yellow flowers. Who left those behind? we wondered. Why did they leave them? Really, those flowers could be a story by themselves. And though there are no flowers in In Memoriam, they are what triggered this story for me: they represented what was left behind after someone had gone.
Looking at those flowers, it was as though an inventory formed in my head of the things—and people—that remain when someone dies: family, friends, text message conversations, half-read books, refrigerated leftovers.
And, if that person is an abuser, survivors.
My narrator struggles to mourn Ryan’s death, and for this, she feels guilty, despite the fact that it is Ryan’s premortem actions that have made her so angry and unable to miss Ryan. In a world where accountability for sexual assault is so rare, she has been cheated of her chance for justice, and this is the loss that she feels, more so than the loss of her classmate. But of course, coming to terms with this anger and loss—and the true source of it—is difficult enough for a teenager whose wound is so raw and whose world rarely supports survivors. So ultimately, she projects these feelings onto the loss of her favorite black shirt, which Ryan’s funeral—but more so, his actions—have tainted for her.
Writing this story reminded me that there is often a difference between how our characters understand something and what is actually the truth. We as writers may see the full depth of our characters’ emotions, motives, and psychological grounds, but this does not mean our characters do—yet. The narrator in In Memoriam has the puzzle pieces, but she hasn’t put all of them together, and this is true for so many kinds of trauma. In shaping this story and trying to make it as true-to-life as possible, I suspected that this disjunction is where I needed its emotional core to lie.
KYRA KONDIS is an MFA candidate in fiction at George Mason University. She is also the proud owner of three (3) small cacti, and is the assistant Editor-in-Chief of So to Speak Journal. Some more of her work can be found in Wigleaf, Pithead Chapel, and on her website at kyrakondis.com.