Imagine, if you will, your auntie/sister/cousin/mother worked at a massage parlor. Imagine if the last conversation you had with them was an argument over something so small yet that got you both utterly heated. She goes off to work in a puff (on her day off too) while you are left to dwell on inconsequential words. You really did it this time. The hurt in their eyes. Even though there is a word for “sorry” in your language, you never say it because you know that food always settles disagreements between the two of you. You come up with the usual idea — a peace-pact comprising of their favorite meal for a late lunch at the shop. You call them up with the tone of inconvenience, trying to nurse your pride, having to go out of your way to the shop to bring them lunch.
Later, you start to get ready to leave with the food you bought when you get an urgent notification on your phone. There’s been a shooting. At a massage parlor. Several dead. You blink twice. No way. You call them. Please pick up. Come on. You google search on your phone as the phone continues to ring and it sends you to voicemail. You hear their voice but hang up on the beep. You resort to texting. They never answer the phone anyways when they’re at work. No response. You google search again. It can’t be THEIR massage parlor, can it? How many massage parlors are in Atlanta anyways. 20? 50? Maybe even a hundred? What are the odds? You call again. Their voice on the voicemail betrays you. You hang up.
There’s traffic. More than usual traffic. You redial the number over and over. You hear their voice as the voicemail prompt. What did you even say earlier to make them so mad? You didn’t mean it, did you? You replay scene in your head word for word, over and over trying to change the outcome. Why won’t the news tell you anything, you complain. Why are they all so goddamned useless. You call around to family. No ones heard anything either. Everyone’s worried. They’re now all traveling to the same destination as you. Just please. Please. Get there. Again, this fucking traffic. MOVE YOU DUMB BITCH!!! You start smashing your car horn.
Your hearts racing a thousand times a minute. The dread begins to set in. Your stomach starts to fall through the bottom of your car and into the earth along with your hunger.
You finally see the massage parlor parking in view. There’s so many police cars and news vans. So much yellow tape that you have to park a block away. You never seen a crime scene this large before. You’re scared.
Your heartbeat is the only thing you hear as the air deafens in slow motion. This can’t be happening. You lift the police tape above your head as you cautiously approach the store front. A conversing cop notices you and walks towards you, palm outstretched to stop you. Before he reaches you, you catch the glimpse of paramedics rolling a black body bag into a back of an ambulance. There. You know. You just know their body size by heart.
Your legs give out under pressure of your grief. You finally say it. The word that means sorry in your language. What’s it again? Oh, that’s right. You scream it, over and over. The cop now is restraining you and consoling you at the same time, as your body slumps and fights as if your raspy cries would stir them back to life. You start to shout you’ve arrived and everything is going be alright. Im here, I’m here you cry as tears cascade down your cheeks. You never knew you had that much water in you. Your vision fades as your family members finally arrive and rush to your aid and immediately begin to try to give you some solace, their tears now mixed with your own. The wailing becomes soul crushing to everyone in earshot.
As you break free from the others, rushing towards the ambulance, they manage to catch you once again but not before you get a glance into doorway of the store. Sitting right on their work desk, was a perfectly wrapped bag, containing your favorite meal, made how you just like it, waiting patiently for you, like they were. They were trying to say sorry too. But now every time you have your favorite dish, you’ll always be reminded of this day and how you’ll never be able to share it with them anymore.
Most of the day becomes a blur, words of having a bad day swirl in your head as logic dissipates from your thoughts. Nothing makes sense anymore. How can someone be here in the morning and gone by night? You ask your family before telling them you rather be alone for the rest of the night.
As you sit in a dark room, morbidity coddling a piece of their recently worn clothing. Their scent still on the fabric — as if they’re in the room with you. You think of them sitting alone in some morgue. If they are cold and need warmth.
You think what you wouldn’t give to hear them one more time. How you never got to tell them sorry. How sad and angry they must have felt when they died. To hear how unjustly their lives ended. How it was ripped away from them. Then you realize — The dead can’t speak.
But you can.