DIFFERENT NOW James Braun Oakland University
— for the Little Man
Even after everything, my apology was reduced to a signature with some smudged words next to it, lost among the comforting constellations of prayers and short-lived letters. We’re all praying for your recovery. You’re going to pull through this, we just know it. You’re close to our hearts, wrote one family I’d never heard of. It seemed like even the most distant known acquaintances of Easton’s had something better to say than what I had to offer. What I had to offer: Get well soon... What the hell else are you supposed to say? I mean, I was the reason he was getting the wellness card in the first place. My words might as well have melted off the page. But even after all this, after the images to be saved for later, after the accident, and after the hospitalization, those were the words lying on the page: Get well soon. I wrote that simple clichéd phrase as a preamble to whatever else I had to say, but turns out I didn’t have anything else. My words were all used up. Looking back now, I wish I would’ve written something to make Easton smile, to make him laugh. I had a gift for that, you know. Laughter. If I could’ve just found some way for him to split the air with his lungs during the hell I made him walk through, maybe things would be different these days. Maybe we can become closer in the future, when we can forget these degrading times. But until then: Get well soon. Kristen held the camera up to her full-rimmed glasses, and with a simple click, made the moment last forever. “Smile,” she said. Click. “Get in with your father.” Flash. “Alright, all together now.” Snap. The last picture Kristen took just then she would later put it inside a scrapbook; she loved to keep the past all in one place to one day find it again. The photograph shows my father, Kristen’s second husband. His right arm is wrapped around my stepbrother Easton, whose smile is peeled back wide enough to grow another face. Easton stands a little more than half the height of my father. The other arm attached to my dad is wrapped around me, a tall lanky fellow, gaunt behind a nose for a face. All of us are bundled in sweatshirts and camo jackets, frozen just like the winter around us.