Some months ago, we decided I would be the one to take Kyle’s computer and put it to use. My decade-old PC is clearly on its last legs, but I don’t use it enough to justify replacing it with something modern. I was more likely to simply stop playing the few games I still enjoy than spend hundreds of dollars.
I was one of the first people to set foot in his room after he was killed, so it was of course exactly how he left it. His brother Percival and I needed to gather some things for the funeral display, thus disturbing the order, but removing his bass seemed like a step too far. I volunteered to come back the morning of the service to remove it then, at the last possible moment.
In the months that followed, I visited his room a small number of times, usually to retrieve a few more items. One time, our friend Hendricks regaled me with stories for hours in the tiny space. Another, I was there to work with Brian (remotely) to unlock his phone using his PC. I went to get his Magic cards when I was ready to go thru them. Each time, I’d leave with more knickknacks than I intended, but always metered by my emotional capacity that day to sort thru things.
When it was time to take the PC, I stalled. The PC was the focal point of the room. To remove it was to further acknowledge it was now a storage space, not a human’s place.
Yesterday was the one year mark since my son was murdered. When you write words like that, an entire year compresses down to mere hours. It still feels the same. Perhaps worse, because what was an intellectual knowledge that the pain would be forever is now viscerally felt and known in every moment.
To mark the occasion, our immediate family gathered at the grave where a portion of his ashes are interred. In the middle of the sunny field on perhaps that last truly warm day of the year, we sat and talked for two hours until we were sunburned and hungry.
I left a Magic: The Gathering (a game I taught him) card on his headstone. It was a card I opened in a pack the night before, Garrison Cat. That kid begged me for a cat so many times (I never could’ve refused him were it not for my severe allergy). The card’s effect is that it’s a tiny creature, but when it gets killed, it creates a human soldier token to fight on in its place. It continues to shape the game after it’s gone.
I tucked it (double sleeved, naturally) under the large Tim Horton’s coffee with extra sugar that Hendricks left the day prior.
Today felt like the day I could remove the PC without doing further damage to my soul. So on this rainy Monday I drove to the suburbs to silently pull the plug. Halfway across his room, I ran into cobwebs. It stopped looking lived-in long ago, but this drove home how untouched it had been. And in that moment, it felt like it may be the last time I set foot there. The things left not closely associated with Kyle became stuff to get cleared out of a space that was no longer for them.
I gathered up his PC and his many Asimov books, along with a spare toolbox, a couple pairs of shorts, and other knickknacks. But as I finished wrapping up the PC cables, I noticed I’d unplugged his alarm clock and worried its time would reset as I plugged it back in. Why plug it back in at all? For the same reason the LED lights wrapped around the support pole in the corner have pulsed in the darkness for a year. Every step feels like the furthest you can go. The alarm clock wasn’t part of this step.
As I turned off the room light to shut the door, I realized I’d left the closet light on. I went back and as my hand touched the pull chain, something made me pause and look at the top shelf a little longer. I pushed aside a few things when I saw the corner of a plastic shopping bag I hadn’t noticed before. I opened it, and inside I found five Magic decks, each individually wrapped in sandwich bags. I’d thought it strange I’d found no individual decks in his small collection; now I knew why. And at the last moment of perhaps my last visit, an errant light and an intuition led me to them. Not so different from the happy accidents that led me into the boys’ lives and the intuition that I shouldn’t leave.
So it goes. As so begins the second year without Kyle.