It took me hours to figure out how to press Mom’s ashes into pills. Not because it’s particularly hard to find a pill press or research how it’s done but because the internet is a distracting place. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Once, my cousin told me that he only feels focused when scrolling through Instagram, that real life is what’s disturbing. I told him he doesn’t know what focus is. Focus is spending hours shoveling ashes into a pill sized hole, squeezing handles with knotted fingers, twisting and twisting and twisting until every thread of muscle in your shoulders and arms and hands is begging to snap. Pain rises to the surface when you focus. It’s like drilling a well, or for oil. Lose focus and palms slip, metal grinds against metal, a spark is born—then everything becomes flames. Gather and press. Fill and empty. He doesn’t know what focus is.
I take one every morning. Usually before a bowl of Chex. They go down easy like the cool syrup given to me by doctors before my CT scan. They thought I had cancer in my stomach. I had to call my mother from the emergency room, had to tell her I needed a CT scan because I might have cancer in my stomach. Her petrified silence lasted a lifetime. I thought, shit, it doesn’t matter if I die from cancer because I’ve lived forever in this silence. She flew out even though it came back negative. I couldn’t fly out for her. It just happened.
I was able to make 400 pills. I should have been able to make more but tears ruined them, drowning my fingers and making everything stick. It’s been 32 days since I finished, so there is only a little over a year’s worth left. What am I going to do with the pill press? It is probably best to keep it. There are better ones out there I’m sure, but I like the way this one makes me ache. When I was done, my forearms trembled and my shoulders were bright, but my stomach, my stomach was so hollow. That’s when I took the first pill. It wanted me to take more; it wanted me to take them all, swallowing her whole body into my body, full. I wish that’s how it worked.
Thomas Ferriello recently received his bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in creative writing from the University of North Florida. His work has appeared in The Talon Review.