Last night we met Kathleen.
She needed us to climb in her back window and let her into her locked house.
When we were through, she invited us in and showed us Ronell.
Ronell had been missing for two weeks and just last week was found facedown and naked in the Allegheny River. He was only identified by his tattoos, because his body had already started to break down in the rushing waters.
"He’s such a cutie!" she said, piling onto her dining room table newspaper articles, the obituary, church bulletins, a highschool yearbook from 2010 - the year I graduated. "Why would anyone do that to my baby?"
She kept us there almost an hour, showing us everything, giving us proof, as if we wouldn’t believe her hardship. His papers from CCAC. His high school diploma, letters from his new job. She never cried. She was past crying.
She was a little drunk, and as she spoke she whipped up some whisky-gin-and-waters. ”Please don’t go, I need someone here for a while.”
We danced with her in the living room. She hugged us and kissed our cheeks and called me her beautiful princess. We talked about the neighbors, and her sons - her youngest had been out that afternoon without a shirt (“titties all hangin’ out, he don’t give a fuck, he say ‘ladies love my titties, what’s not to love?’”) dancing to songs from his iPod in the middle of the street. Her two daughters are always running up and down, playing with the Mexican girls next door. We make sure not to smoke cigarettes on the front porch whenever they’re out.
"Ain’t none of them like Ronell though. He used to say to me ‘Mom, you’re so beautiful.’ That’s how he talked to me! He went to C-C-fucking-A-C, and they ask why he’s not showing up to classes. Do motherfuckers read the news? He’s been in the papers two weeks now. We ran the obituary three days."
"We had two days orientation at the post office together and I never seen him since, not even at the funeral; they had a closed-casket since his body so tore up. My oldest call one night and said ‘Mom, Ronell called me saying he’s out walking but he don’t feel safe.’ but he had to leave a message. I ain’t seen him one day since."
She asked me to read aloud his obituary, interjecting with commentary and anecdotes. A cigarette dangled from the side of her mouth. She listened to it like a hymn, hand stroking a “Senior Favorites” picture in the yearbook captioned “Most Likely To Get Lost.”