The Big Green Square

I’d heard about the big green square that came to people when they were sad or lonely, particularly after someone close to them had died. A homeless man who sat next to me on a bench, with clear eyes and a young face hidden behind muck, to whom I gave my container of pineapple, said he had realised life was a never-ending cycle thanks to the big green square, which came to him when his mother died. But I had never asked any further questions. When people grieve, you aren’t meant to ask them questions. You are meant to be awkward and make them pity you for not knowing what to say. So I never knew what the big green square was until you passed away.

It sat on the end of my bed and let out a slow squeal, like a leaking pipe in a reservoir. I tried to touch it, but it shrank away. I felt awkward, on top of my deep empty love for you. My caldera chest quivered at the big green square’s weird whining. I slept, and it sang me to sleep. When I woke up I got up and I looked at the big green square. It was deflating, or so it seemed, but still it followed me downstairs to join my sisters’, and father’s. They collected on the sofas, and as it got further from me I felt a great sense of relieving dread. This is what is right, I thought. I buttered my toast and remembered you, and when I dropped the knife and the butter fell to the floor, the big green square carried me back to bed. I slept some more.

I was hungry when I woke up, and the big green square sensed it. It offered me a plate of itself, green lumps and bumps that had the texture of tofu, jiggling about the plate. I was full by the end, and the taste of plastic pervaded my body. It was preferable to the taste of bad breath I had had before. Seven days passed, what I used to call a week, and you still weren’t there, because you had died. The big green square had started to annoy me, though I couldn’t deny that it alleviated a lot of the bad feelings. It was my companion in grief, an evergreen life machine that could only be turned off by closure, a prospect so far away that I had trouble remembering the word when it asked me what I needed. I now understood why no-one talked about their big green squares. It was mine. It was like a child to me, a second parent, a pet. I needed it. It whinnied when I wept, and reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to. That you would not have wanted me to. It showed me the afterlife, and the gardens of a thousand posies, and how you would sit in the branches of trees like you did when you were younger and sip cola and watch the children that hadn’t run fast enough play catch beneath your feet. I hated the green square for showing me that, initially, because I hated that you had a life without me. But now I take it as comfort. You are happy in a tree I will probably not reach until I am old and weakened.

When you had been gone for a year, the big green square got smaller. It reduced to the size of a small car, and it no longer knocked all my books on the floor when it went out the door. It looked fuzzier, especially when it came with me to band practice, out in the open like that, being stared at by my sympathetic, awkward friends. Its outlines were fading into the real world, and though I would miss its cumbersome shape, I was glad to have a more portable big green square. I knew its size was a symbol of my grief, and that I was getting over your death as time went on. I knew this and yet it made my guilt come back, for I needed to mourn you so devastatingly as if we had just received the news. And then it became a competition, with my dad and sisters, for who had the biggest square. Who felt the most grief, still. You should never compete about the size of your grief. Had you been here, you would have told us that.

Now my big green square fits in my pocket, but it never gets any smaller. I carry it, and it squeals sometimes when I smell your perfume or see your picture, but it stays with me at all times. My grief. My small green square. Just big enough to fit in the palm of my hand, to fit in the hole in my heart, to put inside of my mouth and try to swallow only for it to get stuck and for me to cough it back out. No-one talks about their big green square because it’s assumed that everyone has one. I am sad that you are gone, but I am sadder that one day my pocket will not be big enough for the big green square to sit inside of once more.

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