I watch and listen to the service. It's odd, being here. They're talking about me, but I feel very separate from it somehow. Probably because you look so separate from it.
"Kenneth Taylor will be missed by us all," the pastor finishes. I don't understand how he can say that; I never met the man in my life. I didn't go to church. I wasn't a Christian. Yeah, I believe in God, but not one particular denomination or creed. God loves me, beyond that I couldn't say.
You stand up at Kayla's prompting. If I were there, I'd give you a hard time. Tell you it's offensive that you're not crying for me. Teasing you like that would make you smile. But I can't. I can only watch you as you follow my mother and sister from the funeral home.
They pick up my casket and carry it to the hearse.
I know you blame yourself, but you shouldn't. I know you were driving, but you couldn't have known that man was going to run the red light. You couldn't have known your car would skid on the ice and flip. It isn't your fault. I'm glad I died and you didn't. I wish I hadn't died, of course, but I don't know if I could have lived without you. You were always the stronger of the two of us.
As you follow the others to the cemetery, your face is blank. You've made yourself numb, because numbness hurts less than acknowledging I'm gone.
It hurts me to see you like this, you know. I wish you could smile for me, just once more. I'm not in pain anymore. I was for those first few hours after the crash, those last few hours of my life. Agonizing pain. I'm glad the doctors told you I wasn't though. I don't know if they didn't realize I was in pain or if they were lying to make you feel better. I don't think it really matters. I'm just glad you don't have anything more to feel guilty about.
My mom and sister are clinging to you, somehow knowing your pain is greater than theirs, even though I'm biologically related to them and not you. But as much as it always embarrassed me, I always knew you were telling the truth when you told me I was your whole world. Kayla and Mom have each other and their boyfriends. You just had me, after your parents rejected you because you liked men.
But I can tell. They'll continue treating you like family, even though I'm gone. I don't think you ever realized it, but Kayla thinks of you as an unofficial brother-in-law, Mom thinks of you as a second son. You can come to them any time you want to, or need to. They'll always be there for you, you have to believe them when they tell you that.
I'll always be here watching over you. Even if the proverbial light shows up to take me to the other side, I won't go toward it. Not until you're here. Maybe that's sappy that I want to wait for you, but I will. At least, I'll wait until you find someone else. If you find someone else who can make you genuinely happy, I think I'll make peace with it and go on.
But knowing you, knowing how stubborn you are, knowing how honestly you make promises, you'll keep the promise you made to me, to be faithful to me as long as you lived. I'm gone, but you're stubborn enough that you're not going to move on from me, are you?
They lower my body into the ground and you toss in the first shovelful of dirt. I remember you arguing with my mom, telling her she should be the one to do it. I think that was the only real emotion I've seen on your face since the doctors said there was nothing they could do. But she convinced you that you should do it. Because I loved you.
She once told me that she was always waiting for me to find a girl and leave the nest. The night I brought you home, after you left, she just shook her head and told me that if I wanted a male bird to settle down with, that was my business. She really likes you, you know. She might not show it much, but that's just the way she is.
You watch as the men fill in the rest of my grave. Then they leave and you stand in the freezing wind, staring at the mound of dirt. Staring isn't going to bring me back. No matter how much you wish for it, I can't come back.
I know what I'd tell you if I was there. I'd tell you that even if you could wish someone back alive, you shouldn't, since you wouldn't want to be responsible for the zombie apocalypse, would you? You would roll your eyes and try to hide your smile, but I'd see it and know that I'd broken through the barrier you built around you. But I'm the reason you so desperately want the zombie apocalypse to begin. At this point, I think you might choose to have me with you as a zombie rather than go on without me, as foolish as that is.
But you should really go inside, you know. If you don't, you'll catch pneumonia and die. That would be unbelievably stupid, even for you.
Thankfully, you do go inside, as if you can hear me. I know you can't, but it seems that way. And I'm glad. Maybe if I stick around, I'll be able to tell you enough to keep you out of trouble. All I want now is for you to live a full life. Maybe you don't think you can, but I swear it's possible. You have to believe it too.
Four years later
Idiot. Idiot idiot idiot. You're a moron, you know that? I know you're still depressed, but that doesn't mean it's okay to swallow an entire bottle of sleeping pills. I don't want that for you. I want you to be happy. I watch, unable to do anything as you fall asleep in your empty apartment—our empty apartment as you still insist on calling it.
You're a fool. I love you so much, but you're still a fool. Killing yourself… that's not the answer to anything, you idiot.
And then suddenly you're here, smiling at me, throwing your arms around my neck. I want to chastise you for taking your own life. I want to berate you for not even trying to move on after I died. I want to tell you off for considering my memory worth more than your very existence. Instead, I can only hold you close and tell you, "I told you there was an afterlife and you didn't believe me."
"I told you so's, after all this?" you say.
"Would you expect anything else?" I return.
Your laugh—the laugh I haven't heard in more than four years—is the only answer I get.