You are no flea in petrified amber, no exoskeleton for the world to fossilize. You are not the serendipitous cadaver whose arrival on a research slab will result in the healing of cancers. You are merely a woman of twenty-nine years. If you go, there are few who will mourn you. There will be Marcheline and there will be Hadley, whose eyes will, at first, bubble over like hot springs ever time the number nine is mentioned. Then, over time, even they will only remember to weep for you as they push their fingers into pie crusts and recall your fondness for doughy fruit cobblers.
Your lover will suddenly realize how desperately he wishes to marry, despite the eight vowless years you spent coaxing him toward that commitment, and four months after your burial, he will make some 22-year-old virgin from an AME church his wife. They will have the two sandy-skinned children with coarse, copper hair you’d hoped for. Cumin-colored freckles will cover their angular cheekbones, and one day, while they surreptitiously rummage through the box their father keeps tucked in the attic, their fingers will flutter over the scrapbook cellophane protecting the only photograph of you that he’s kept. For days thereafter, they will wonder who you were, but they will fear their father’s mercurial moods too much to investigate.
Your own father will drink vodka until it renders what’s left of his recollection sterile. He will not allow himself the sobriety required to mourn you, but occasionally, he will find himself plumbing the vestiges, after dementia has scooped out the meatier parts of his memory like a melon-baller. Before long, you will receive word of his arrival in a district adjacent to your own, and when you meet again, you will be strangers.
But none of this should weigh upon your decision to return to Marcheline or to Hadley, to your lover or to your father. None of this has much bearing at all. The illness was congenital. That you would one day find yourself overexerted, then tumble balletically into unconsciousness was inevitable. But the myriad comforts you’ve discovered in this comatose state were not intended. And some day quite soon, you will be forced to emerge, either with open eyes and independent breaths or divorcing from eyes and becoming breath itself.