On the porch of the house on Thelma Street, you hold my hand and your wife holds my other. She’s my mom but what matters is that she’s your wife, who will leave you in a year and take me with her.
In this one, soon after, more hands. You wear a suit (your sister’s funeral) and smile helplessly. As does your wife and, in the middle, me. Binding us together for now.
Your father takes me into the dark backyard, points to a star and says, “That’s your aunt Shirley, she’s winking at you. She loved you so much.” This goes on for years. I hear in Gramps’ creaky voice how he misses a woman I don’t remember, the one – you will tell me – that he wishes you had died instead of.
Later, in this one: you and Gramps and me on the sofa. Shoulder to shoulder, some awkward holiday. Secrets pump through us, a closed circuit. I hear him again: “She loved you so much,” and in my head I bend the phrase so that he’s talking to you, Dad, about your wife, and with the same small trick – like turning over a card – I can make him say, “I loved you, too,” but I can’t make you believe it.
Randy Osborne’s writing is listed in the Notables section of Best American Essays for 2015, 2016, and 2018. His work has been published in four print anthologies and nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, as well as Best of the Net. It has appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, Full Grown People, The Lascaux Review, Flyleaf Journal, 3:AM Magazine, Empty Mirror, Fiction Attic, Identity Theory, 3Elements Review, Bodega, SLAB, Lumina Journal, Loose Change, SunStruck, Green Mountains Review, 34th Parallel, Spry Literary Journal, Scene Missing, Thread, and other small magazines, as well as the Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal Constitution, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He lives in Atlanta, where he recently finished a book-length collection of essays.