Charlie was sobbing uncontrollably by the time Mike’s mother had closed the door. He hadn’t been prepared for the avalanche of emotions crushed down on him. He’d been too numb to cry when he first heard of Mike’s death while at work, too proud to cry at the memorial service held at the school, too full of contempt for the artificial sentiment to cry at the funeral.
But he was literally in a different place now, not a public place where Mike and he were occasional guests but Mike’s home, where he lived, where the two of them shared some of the most pleasant moments from their childhoods — he was in Mike’s house, hugged tightly under the arms of Mike’s mother, and Charlie remembered the way Mike had never been ashamed to hug her mother even in public, the smile of content on Mike’s face as he tucked his head into his mother’s shoulder.
Charlie wept noisily as all these wonderful memories came back to him, along with the certainty (felt this time, not just known) that those memories were now as dead as Mike.
He couldn’t remember how long the two of them stood in the entry way, Mike’s mother gently patting him on the back, telling him it was all right. He only looked up when he realized how large of a wet spot he was leaving on her shoulder.
“Oh God.” Charlie took a step back, pointing at the wet spot. “I’m sorry.”
Mike’s mother looked down at her shoulder, and shrugged. Her face had lost its pleasant greeting, but remained its typical calm. She looked back at him, and smiled. “It’s OK. Lord knows I’ve gotten used to pre-treating my laundry.”