Lucia and I had broken up a few months before, and I was still mourning the loss of her, my best friend. We used to do this thing together, obsess over the Instagram feed of a punk-pop singer and her family, especially her two daughters, Olive and Adeline. Adeline was my favorite, the younger of the two. Lucia and I watched Adeline grow up on the punk-pop singer’s photo feed from the day she was born until two years later when our relationship deteriorated. She grew into a sassy toddler with fat cheeks, a wide nose, eyes big and round and blue and the curliest pink hair with bangs, both of which she asked her mother for. She grew to have a special bond, different from that of the other family members, with their golden retriever, whom the family bought around the time of Adeline’s birth. In videos, she was clumsy, goofy, tumbling around with her toes pointed inward toward each other. She asked her mom things like: Why are clouds flying? How do people make gummy bears? Why is our car red? Can I taste your coffee? I want alone time. Don’t laugh at me!
Lucia and I would catch up on the family’s uploads as we lazed around the apartment, too lethargic to go out in public, maybe because our outings often ended in an argument, like when she commented about how turned on she was by a woman at Goodwill, which upset me because we’d basically stopped making love. Inside the apartment, we could be together, on our phones, without talking to each other much or at least not about our lives, our problems, our desires, our future. Lucia often said she’d love to have daughters like Olive and Adeline. I would’ve too, but we never talked about them being our daughters. The sweetness of these two girls made my heart so full, brought tears to my eyes sometimes, I’m not exaggerating. I was ready to have children. The people in my life, besides Lucia, would make fun of me about my admiration for this family that only existed digitally for me. I didn’t even know the girls, they would say. But I did know them, somehow. The magic of the internet.
Then three months after Lucia moved out, the pop-punk singer stopped posting photos and videos. Her feed was dead air with no explanation for two weeks. It was around then I was already having trouble remembering how Lucia sounded.
One day, the punk-pop singer uploaded a photo of Adeline that she had posted before, almost half a year before. In the caption, she apologized for being inactive, their family was going through the most difficult time of their lives.
Before I even read the words, I knew something was wrong, my heart beat alerting me before anything else. I read the rest of the caption with difficulty, hands shaking, how Adeline died from a congenital heart disease nobody in the family knew about, how the doctors didn’t know if they could’ve saved her even if they had caught it sooner. Her sister, Olive, was devastated, confused. She refused to sleep alone in her room, which she once shared with her sister. She receded into herself and rarely spoke to anyone.
I couldn’t calm myself. The little girl was gone, but it was unfathomable, unreasonable, there was abundant documentation of her having been alive, I had seen her living, growing, becoming more herself, and now there would be no more. It filled me with a feeling of unreality, like everything in the world was off-kilter by an inch and only I noticed.
I called Lucia, thinking she’d seen the post, too. I didn’t know who else to talk to. The phone rang four times before Lucia’s voicemail answered. I thought it was her at first, spoke too quickly, and the recorded message finished playing. It was the first time I’d heard her voice in months. It sounded different than I remembered, and the end of our relationship rushed back to me, all of the measures we could’ve taken to make sure it didn’t fall apart, to make sure we, in that moment of discovering Adeline’s death, were together, holding each other, feeling the form of love in our arms, feeling like we had much more time than we actually ever do.