Something Elliott Jones starts doing from that night on. She begins to say the names of the dead out loud. Whenever she comes across a mention of a deceased person in the news, or trending on social media, or when she passes by a statue or park bench with a personal dedication affixed to it – new, old deaths, she does not discern. Instead, she stops over every single name she encounters, takes the time to speak it. If dates are also given, she quickly calculates the space between their birth and their death, so that when she says each name, she knows, too, just how long that particular person was here on this earth. Angela, 45. Glynn, 87. Boris, unknown. Tamir, 17. Gabby, 7. Baby Shiloh, 32 days old.
People lost to cancer, drug overdoses, school shootings. Kidnappings and war and little hearts with holes in them. Lists and lists of ways to die, and lists of names to acknowledge. Elliott sees the dead everywhere now, and for the rest of her life she will speak their names out loud, lingering over the syllables, breathing these strangers in and out. It is her ritual for the dead. A way to let them know that they have not been forgotten.
She has no name to speak out loud for me.
I’m Alice, I whisper to her many times. Alice Lee. But she can’t hear me over the car horns and the sirens and the doors slamming. I’m lost in the buzz of her phone and the sound of the shower running, the hiss of the coffee pot downstairs, and the pad of her feet against the ground. My voice is quieter still when she is laughing or crying or gasping against the memory of Ash’s mouth.
The thing is. When the dead speak back, we are seldom loud enough to be heard over the clamour of all that living going on.
~ What We Have Left
(Because there is still so much more to say)