I brought you shells from Hawaii. I hope you like them, but maybe you don’t care. They look good here, though. Like they belong.
Each shell has a hole near its edge. Special predator mouthpieces drilled through the little walls and pierced the animal inside. That’s what the tour guide said.
I thought about threading them onto a black cord, but what would you want with a necklace? They would just hang together in a neat row, most of them hidden.
Pick a shell, any shell.
The night after you were buried, we stayed with you, huddled together in the dark on the cold patchy grass. We told stories about high school and poured a beer into the ground.
At your matzevah, your mother told us to leave a stone each time we visited, and now your grave is adorned with pieces of the roads we’ve travelled, favors from our weddings, a red CHS pen from our ten year reunion. You were there. Here is your souvenir. Your shells.
Hawaiians call them puka shells. Hole shells. They are supposed to bring good fortune, and sailors wear them to ensure safe travels.
But, I know how you always felt about superstitions.
In Hawaii, I knelt on the ground to sift through the sand for something to take home to you. You, who sailed down the Niger River on your homemade boat, your body pulled from the water by fishermen, you knew there was nothing to wait for, that every piece counted.