James McNaughton recounts cleaning out his brother Conor’s apartment after Conor died of an overdose, relapsing after two years of sobriety. This stunning essay confronts not only grief but the bottom feeders of the world who prey on vulnerable people to profit off their distress.
After my younger brother died, I began to get calls from people who wanted to buy my parents’ house. As I write this, Conor has been dead for over three years. Nobody outside of family much asks about him anymore. My mother speaks to Conor on her hikes. My father talks to him early, when he putters in the garden, and last thing before bed, lauds and complines, morning and evening prayers. I lack that open line. Sometimes I nod internally to Conor’s soprano laugh; other times, in the shower, an unbidden fuuuuck escapes my front teeth. On a jog between magnolia trees leafless and blooming, I say suddenly to my wife: I mourn his lost possibility. Or I say: The present is against grief. It sides cruelly with what is.