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What If?

We followed a silver Mustang to New York on Friday. My mother and I. Traveling from my home farther south. The boys buckled tightly in the back. It had black stripes on the hood and the windows were too dark to see inside.

Like his.

We joined minds, spoke without speaking, and imagined the unimaginable. That he was still here.

That it was his. His Mustang, zipping up and down the Belt Parkway in Canarsie, in Flatbush, in his Brooklyn. Visiting this and that, her and her, blasting his music, picking up the pieces, the bits, for the collection, for his soul. We imagined, jointly. It’s like we both heard the whisper; a soft, silent whisper, “What if?”

“What if?” it said.

What if October 22, 2009, never was? The cloudless sky on that sunny, sorrowful, unexpected day. The day my brother’s soul ended its tangible journey beside us. The day that concluded us as we were and began us as we are.

“What if?” we whispered. He whispered.

What if . . . he was here all along? What if it was as simple as catching up to him on his drive? What if we would find him watching a waterfall in Saratoga? Eating a Klondike bar in Elmont? Outside of a repair shop, getting a car service that took a little too long. Or what if we found him parked in my mother’s driveway in Queens at home? At home . . .

What if we had just been blinded by a bizarre streak of glaring sunlight? Cast from a low-flying plane? It was possible because we grew up by the airport. What if we had missed him standing there all along, and that man we watched leave us on 10/22 wasn’t my brother at all? It was someone else’s brother, someone else’s son, someone else’s . . .

What if when the glare cleared he would appear? Smirking. Buffing a small fingerprint from his side-view mirror and walking over to us with his heavy steps to make some joke about the latest current event. What if we had another chance to kiss his warm cheeks and cover him in our embrace? Make my mother smile again . . . from the inside? What if he could tickle my sons and meet my dear Wesley, his namesake?

We raced alongside that silver Mustang. Watching and waiting, wondering and willing, wondering and willing . . . life. We wondered, What if? We tried desperately to mask the quick sounds of our breaths as we chased this dream. We chastised our souls for wanting to bound toward him and dance in the unimaginable. To morph what wasn’t into what is, and make this impossible our possible. But it wasn’t . . .

The universe curses us with unexplained gifts.

That driver snuck off at an exit before we could see for ourselves, before we could answer, before we could reason . . . but left us . . . imagining, even for that moment, that second, in that small sliver of unmovable, imaginable, glorious, beautiful space . . . What if?

 

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