I had a dream while you were gone. We went on a road trip with some friends. We met up with a guy I didn’t know, but I soon recognized him by the cloud of selfishness and narcissism around him that sucked up all the surrounding light. (Perhaps we all knew him, but have forgotten.)
Despite this, you were so kind to him in response to his every wrong thing. Perhaps we had met him before somewhere, decades ago. We all remember him being so cruel, and so ignorant, toward all of us, but particularly to you. He pulled out an orange and stabbed it with a pocket knife and left it sit a moment before withdrawing the blade and peeling the skin. (Something about his fingers disgusted me.)
We drove the van down a dirt road in the middle of a vast salt marsh that stretched infinitely in every direction. (There was nobody around but us, in that van, in the center of everything, the moon rising in the east, the sun setting in the west.)
You weren’t drinking, but you brought a handle of cheap whisky. We sat, five across, on the rear bumper, between the open doors, passing the bottle around, and pouring it into coffee mugs and solo cups, mixing it with off-brand ginger ale. We all sat there, looking to the sunset in the west, turning the sky orange, then pink, then blood red and black purple. Your friend continued to make everyone uncomfortable in action and word. (We all looked to you, and you communicated silently with a look in your eyes. We said nothing in return and allowed the dark cloud around him to grow larger.)
Eventually, as the sun was below the horizon and the sky. Your asshole friend was at the head of a trail, holding the three-quarters empty handle of whisky in one hand, a solo cup in the other, and begging you to go for a walk with him. He kept the handle of whisky in one hand, and placed his empty solo cup over the neck of the bottle, and grabbed you by the arm. Our hearts leapt forwards and we all prepared to take action but you looked at us and we all saw and knew what you wanted to say and we were frozen. We sat back down, uncomfortably, on the cool metal of the bumper, and you left with him, disappearing into the tall grass, the sound of you and he moving through the stiff, dark, fibrous leaves of marsh-grass hissing, and then slowly quieting as you walked away, blending in with the songs of the cicadas and frogs in the hot summer night air. And soon you were both gone. (We became as still as the air and talked quietly, but our words were half-hearted as we strained to listen for your return.)
Enough time had passed that we were ready to go after you, but you soon returned with knife in hand, covered in blood. You stood just a moment, and we rose to our feet to follow. We walked with you, calm, and in silence. It was low tide. Digging into the soft black mud of the marsh, the stench from decades of rot and fester came to the surface and stung our eyes and turned our stomachs. The black of the soil combined with the blackness of drying blood. We tied down the body with ropes and cement blocks and covered it over with clay and silt. You washed the salty blood from your face and arms with the salty water at the bottom of the trench as the tide began to slowly creep in and turn the flow of the river backwards, and we all burned our clothes. (Salt and fire have purifying properties.)
Large marsh birds, as tall as people, dressed in flowing white linens, walked on stilt legs through the marsh. We left that still wild place in silence. Not to honor the dead, but because there was nothing to say.