Here is the newest addition to Fragments of Fiction.

“He is dead.” Three words. That is all they had for her. “He is dead.” Flat, unemotional and yet they still echoed inside my head. She didn’t cry. She didn’t scream and She didn’t flinch. She didn’t do anything.

Several years ago a man was convicted of murdering his wife. The jury foreman said that they had found the defendant to be lacking in remorse and that he had not acted like a man who had just lost his wife should. The foreman said that it was this inconsistency in the defendant’s behavior that had really sealed his fate and that if he had shown some emotion and acted more like a human being they might have voted differently.

That bothered her because she knew from experience that they could not know how to act, would not know what a normal response would be because there was no normal response to death, especially something that was sudden or unexpected.

What you see on television or in the movies is not necessarily what happens. The fainting, screaming and or wailing is good drama and it makes it easy for a screenwriter to cheat but it still doesn’t mean that it is real. And reality is the point of this.

See the issue is acceptance and all too frequently the mind refuses to reconcile the truth that is placed in front of you with reality. “He is dead” is not something that you automatically digest and consume. The mind has numerous methods of protecting us from things that might harm us and one of those little items is need to process the information, to sort through it and absorb it.

Or maybe not. Maybe it is all a lot of crap that they try to sell you so that psychologists can make more money. Back in college in my basic psych course she had studied this guy named Festinger who had coined the term “cognitive dissonance” as well as some kind of “Cognitive Consistency” theory. Basically they referred to behavior that was either inconsistent with your stated beliefs or some kind of B.S. that said your attitude adapted to adjust to your behavior.

Whatever. It really didn’t matter what she knew for certain was that people would justify their behavior no matter how heinous or how nice. People would always rationalize their actions and few would think twice about what they had done.

Under the bright blue North Carolina sky it was easy to remember the day they called. She was confident that her mother had made the arrangements to call her and to tell her that the boy was gone. She would have done it with love and affection with the sole intent to help her little girl move on but it was one more foolish mistake in a series of missteps between mother and daughter.

Unlike her mother she did not accept life at face value and did not believe everything that was handed to her. At one time she had been that innocent and there was a certain joy in holding onto that kind of naivety. But she had been stripped of it.

The boy was responsible for that. It was hard to love and care for a drowning man and not change and she had. That period of her life had forced her to learn a number of hard lessons and one of them was that people lie. They deceive, they dissemble and they manipulate things to fit their reality.

So when the call came it was easier to just listen and not react. Because what do you do when your biggest nightmare walks out of the closet and into the daylight. Even so it still felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach and for an untold amount of time she had laid on the floor listening to angry cries of a busy signal from a phone that had not been hung up.

It was the incessant beeping of the phone that made her get up and move. The call had left her feeling completely unsettled, but it hadn’t made her forget the hell that the boy had put her through or the anger. And that anger made her determined not to waste any more tears on him until she had details of what had happened.

Two long distance phone calls to old friends were it all it took to confirm that the boy was still alive and that the phone call was fake. In spite of the good news and her vow not to waste any more tears she still found herself staring at a tear streaked face. The call had done nothing to help her move on. If anything it reminded her that sometimes our past can still reach out and hold onto us in the present and that was not a lesson she was prepared to learn.

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