When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed. Not crumpled in on itself, not sunken as it decayed, but deliberately, maliciously crushed. I stood and stared at the mess, a gooey web of orange entrails that covered the side walk leading up to the front porch.
Staring at it I felt nothing. Not anger. Not distress. Absolutely nothing. Numb to the world. I don’t know how long I stood there like that. Staring at the jack-o-lantern that would never smile again. It wasn’t until a stray gust of wind from the otherwise still night making my cheeks feel like ice that I realized I had been crying.
That’s when the pain hit. It felt like someone had reached into my chest and ripped out my heart all over again. Feeling all the strength go out of my limbs, I half fell, half slumped to the ground. Sitting among the decaying leaves, shuddering sobs soon wracked my body. My mind spiraled down into the oblivion where my heart once resided and I felt my resolve to exist weaken.
Halloween had been his favorite holiday. Every year we’d drive to the pumpkin patch outside of town and spend the afternoon wandering around debating the characteristics of the various gourds. After a while I’d tell him just to pick one so we could go home, but he’d always insist on an agreement. We’d go back and forth until I’d randomly point at the pile of pumpkins in the wheel barrel and he’d grab whichever one in that area he liked best. Once we were home, he’d pour us each a glass of cider while I laid down newspapers. We’d take turns cleaning out the pumpkin but he was always the one to carve it.
Now the pumpkin carving was up to me. It didn’t compare to what he would have produced, but I thought he’d appreciate my efforts. That is, if he was around to see it. Tomorrow will be two heart wrenching years since he disappeared. 729 days without his smile and his laughter filling our home. The police, all our loved ones, the stream of physiologists I’ve been to see since, they all seem so sure that he’s dead. …It’s not that I feel in my heart that he’s alive. It’s that they never found his body. And like the case that was never closed, I myself can’t seem to figure out how to close the door to the past. A thought sparked in my mind, mayb — the thought died as a shadow fell across my sneakers.