fransivan mackenzie

A Dead Girl’s Promise

I’ve moved on.

I’ve moved out with my parents and the white pick-up truck that held our secrets in carton boxes. I’ve taken our tattered photos and other dust-bleached mementos into the attic. I did not hang a clock on the mantelpiece, its brutal arms are just ticking reminders of your absence. I’ve painted my room peach and planted sunflowers in the garden to beckon peace, but it has always turned down my invitation. On minutes left vacant, I move light furniture around to give your memories a little less volume. I sometimes wonder if this place is big enough for your ghost to dance like you used to.

I’ve moved on.

I’ve learned a lot of things. Even trivial stuffs, like the fact that the genuine color of blood is maroon until the oxygen outside the body turns it into crimson. That the eyes can provide enough light to see through the darkness. That ghosts are just figments of imagination unless you feed them your soul. I’ve realized that I could learn whatever I want to through the enormity of the Internet and the elderly advices, but your reasons were the exception. I could never search enough for the answers you sealed into tiny envelopes. I’d never hear your explanation. I could shovel the dirt and wade through corpses but I’d never be able to make the dead confess. When the grasses over your grave speak, I listen, but their language remains foreign.

I’ve moved on.

I’ve made friends in my university, perched on the slumbery side of town. We prattle about books, trade records, and write poetry together, drunken in words that cut us open when spoken of. They invite me to parties and sleepovers held in basements usually thrashed with bodies and beer cans. Sometimes, in the dead of the night, the three of us would squeeze into a king-sized bed, whispering into the dark. They tell me about the boys they danced with, the bottles of vodka they kept hidden in their closets, how often their fingers get pricked from stitching their hearts with the wrong sinew. When it’s my turn, I scrounge for leftover stories I’ve tucked into my back pocket, mostly about strangers I’ve wasted nights with in dirty hotel rooms. I never tell them about you.

I’ve moved on like you promised. Life seized me to. But most nights, I still wake up screaming. I never washed your blood off my ripped jeans. I still wear the locket you gave me, though sometimes it feels like a noose I could hang myself with. I buried the dress I wore on your funeral but the grief never really stopped haunting me. Until that night you took the final exit, I never realized that a person could die without having to be buried.

Here’s what you’d never know, though: I have not forgotten. That a lifetime ago, we planned a life together, sketching the sacred roads we dreamt of taking. That I pictured you as the maid of honor on my wedding several times, the images in my head so thick I could almost taste the future you’d come to abandon. That you were the best friend I ever had and the only fence I leaned on. That the perfume you bathed yourself with always smelled like the crisp of a frigid October morning. I have not forgotten your reflective letters on quaint stationeries and your gentle reminders on post-it notes, especially the last one and its last words distinguished from any other with its cruelty – I promise you’ll move on. I’ll never forget how every notable loop of your signature sent a chill into my spine.

I’ll always remember how I found you that night in your sister’s chrome bathroom. How your hands that once held mine hung into the bathtub, stone cold. How the room smelled like rust instead of autumn. How I wanted to pry myself out of my skin as you did, but I couldn’t, because then, who would dial the ambulance? It still echoes in my head how the sirens sang through the streets as I sat on the tiles, my lips uttering an incantation as you played tug-of-war with death, my knees relinquishing, my clothes full of you.

I will never forget that once, you were here. And in a blink of an eye, you were just gone. You left me as quick as a bullet, and just the same with a nasty exit wound. That hole gnaws every harrowing second, spelling my regrets in white tissues that wouldn’t close. Your pain stayed even when you couldn’t, your quest for peace a question mark left hanging for the living.

Yes, I’ve moved on. And I’ve taken this tragedy along with me.


Fransivan MacKenzie (she/her/hers) is an independent artist born and raised in the Philippines. She is the author of Out of the Woods, a chapbook of poetry and prose, and Departures, a collection of short stories. Her works also appeared in Transition Magazine, The Racket, Jaden Magazine, Abandon Journal, CP Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing her degree in Counseling Psychology at Philippine Normal University – Manila.