A gunshot is a deceptively simple thing. Mix a few basic chemicals, add heat, and create a minute, controlled explosion. One just big enough to detonate an entire world.
We never spoke about it, after it happened. Once the shell shock faded, we emerged from the rubble, dusted ourselves off, and reassembled our lives as best we could, each of us sealing the cracks and filling in the missing pieces with whatever caulk we preferred. A party, a jilted ex, a well-crafted machine designed solely for one purpose: these were things of which we did not discuss, content instead to let the days fall off of the calendar like autumn leaves.
As though the turning of the world could carry us away from our grief.
What fools we were.
Nothing stains truer than blood. It mars concrete, cloth, and memory. It is indelible and defiant, resisting time, and sun, and weather, diminishing but never quite surrendering. It is a signpost, demonstrating what you’ve lost: a human being, so full of chemicals and bone and meat and love, rendered down to just this discolored scar on the world.
By unspoken agreement, we avoided it whenever possible, taking alternate routes across the lawn or driveway rather than the main walk. We knew there was nothing we could do about it.
But still, we tried. Galvanized by intermittent compulsion, we would take turns attempting to scrub it away, as though be doing so we could heal the damage. In solitude, we would kneel on the hard pavement with brush and bucket, our backs bent.
This is how we prayed.
This is how we grieved.
This is how we served our penance.
This is how, finally, we begged for forgiveness.