Sound of Pulling Heaven Down

Currently Listening to: Sound of Pulling Heaven Down, Justin Furstenfeld

I had a long list of things I always wanted to do: fall in love, travel the world, learn how to make French pastries. But only one thing was at the top of that list – publish a book.

When I got the news last April, I thought it was a dream. There were plenty of times during the draft where I wanted to give up. And in recent months, I’ve been worrying about every possible thing that can go wrong. Despite all this, though, I can’t help but be excited.

With the publication date being announced, I’ve been able to let my hair down a bit and start planning the launch event. This morning, I picked up my cell phone, scrolled not too far to find her name, and hit the number.

“The number you have dialed is not in service.”

*

In the three years since my cousin Alanna passed, I haven’t learned how to live with grief, I merely walk alongside it. I don’t always see or feel it, but I know it’s there.

There are days when I see a bakery or a store and think, “Yeah, she would have loved that.” There are days when my heart is so heavy I can barely open my eyes. But more often than not, there are days where anger burns through me like a fever. Days when I’m afraid I’ll scream at the next person who crosses my path. Days where I look to the sky and wonder what kind of god takes a 34-year-old woman to heaven before she’s had a chance to live. But today, all I could think about was my book – my dream – and who I wanted to share it with.

In the minutes leading up to the call, I chuckled to myself thinking of all the people who told me this would never happen. My high school biology teacher, Sr. Pat, who told me writing was an impractical profession. The TGI Friday’s manager who scoffed when I told him I was going back to school and reminded me I could be on the management track in a few years time. And then I thought about Alanna.

Alanna wasn’t what I’d consider to be a know-it-all, but when she absolutely believed something to be true, she was confident and not to be trifled with.

During my second year of graduate school, I was seriously considering dropping out of my program. Alanna had come to visit my grandmother, and we found ourselves talking on my deck one night.

“I just think it’s a mistake,” I said. “I mean, I’m not getting what I thought I would out of it.”

“But you’ve been writing, right?”

“Yeah, but it’s not any good. Maybe everyone’s right. If I drop out now, I can still apply for the medical coding program at Molloy…”

“You’re not doing that,” she laughed, shaking her blonde locks in disapproval. “You’re going to stay in school, write your book, and be a New York Times Bestseller, and then you’re going to come visit me more.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she smiled.

The sun was going down. I can’t be sure if it was Alanna’s hair or her smile, but somehow the deck seemed brighter. I knew she was just trying to be nice, so I decided not to roll my eyes at the ridiculous fantasy she’d laid out.

“Okay,” I agreed.

*

I think of Alanna every day. I don’t know what happened today – I don’t know why I thought I could call her to make absolutely certain she’d be free on the dates I had in mind. I don’t know how I could forget…but I did. For the briefest of moments, she was here and she was alive and she was who I wanted to share this with. And then she was gone all over again.

It took me a while to pull myself together. It took me longer to sit down and write this post. And then I remembered the promise.

“I better get back inside. Am I going to see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll be around,” I said.

“One more thing before you go, you have to promise me that when you’re all big and famous and your book is coming out that you’ll save me a seat in the front row.”

“Of course I will! What kind of question is that?”

“I’m serious, Laur. I’m not going to be able to see over everyone if I’m in the back.”

“How would you even end up in the back?”

“I don’t know, but you need to make sure I’m in the front.”

“Like I said, where else would you be?”

As I said before, I’ve spent these three years learning to walk alongside the grief I feel each and every day. But today, I feel something else. It’s not healing or happiness…I think it’s love. And all I know is I promised Alanna a seat in the front row, and a promise is a promise.

I love you, Alanna…and I miss you like crazy <3.

About LJSharks

Lauren J. Sharkey is a Korean American writer from Long Island, NY. Her debut novel, INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER is forthcoming June 2, 2020, and is based on her experience as a transracial adoptee. Sharkey's creative nonfiction has appeared on DEAR ADOPTION,, Blind Faith Books' I AM STRENGTH collection, and others.

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