From July 2013

A certain grief

“I’m not smart. I just know a lot of words,” said the me in my dream.

I come back to this quote so often. It’s rare that I remember direct quotes from my dreams, but when I do, they usually stick for a while. For instance, a dream quote from a few years back that had me scared and paranoid for months. A little boy jumped on my bed in the dark [in Dream Land, of course]: “The devil will be asking for your soul soon.” Whaaaaaa?! I bought my Scion a month later, so I equated this to my Toyota loan. Eek!

But when it comes to smarts and all, I agree with my unconscious admission: I’m not. Some things just don’t sink in, you know? Like that paragraph I have to read three times before I get it.

There are moments, of course, when I feel intelligent—confident about what I’m saying or doing. Mostly it’s in my language or the way I can [sometimes] articulate myself. What I’m saying is: speaking/writing is the only mode in which I feel like I may have an IQ higher than 65. Real talk.

And we can call this moment Exhibit 94, 509. This not sinking in.

As you all might know, life has the tendency—especially as of late—to shit all over me. You, like I, may be thinking: Another bad spot? Really?

I say “spot,” because I hope it’ll pass. I say “hope,” because I’m not certain. I was certain a week and a half ago that my best friend [mother, “favorite” and soul sister] was too busy to text me. I was certain she was wrapped up in work and the everyday bustle of her world, which had become rather stressful as of late. I was certain she’d text her usual “G’nite, madam” or at least send me the Sun and Moon emoji. But she didn’t. For two nights in a row. I was starting to get a little frustrated.
But then I got a call last Thursday at work, 4:12 p.m. She had a heart attack and had been unconscious since late Monday night. With her full heart, childlike curiosity and hard-assed grip on the world, I was certain she would outlive us all. I was certain that with my carelessness, my clumsiness, my incessant need for productivity and the way it outdoes my need to be healthy, my rollercoaster of melancholy and triumph, I’d be the one in the hospital bed prematurely. But it wasn’t me.

After the call, I found myself in the car—rushing and crying and screaming and navigating through Pittsburgh traffic to Allegheny General Hospital. I sat on the Parkway, a standstill, sobbing to the million memories that hit me, a slideshow:


Remember the time you sat by the bay in Cape Cod and watched the sky until early morning, where you cut limes for her rum and refused her another drink at 4 a.m.

The color teal.

Standing atop Mt. Washington at sunset and dancing in the orange light, puffed up by winter coats, knitted scarves and gloves without fingers. 

Singing “You’re so Vain.” 

Remember the glass bottle full of tiny shells from the Dead Sea. 

Watching her watch her Koi swim below. 

The time you mocked her easy lifestyle and told her you’d come visit her even if she lived in a trailer park—even if the time you spent together was playing 500 Rum and eating Chef Boyardee. And to prove it? You brought her a can the next time you came over.

My brain gets the best of me. And since this moment, it hasn’t stopped with the snapshots, the words, the smell of plastic and death in her hospital room. I smell it everywhere. I realize now, more than before, she is everywhere. Maybe it is the fear of forgetting. Like with my dad. The years have come quick and with it, the memories have faded.

For a week, everything was underwater. With the amount of crying I did [both angry-at-the-world and end-of-the-world tears], my eyes were swollen to half-visibility. I was certain I had been emptied of tears. I was certain there was nothing left. I was certain she’d wake up now that her heart was fixed. It was only a matter of time.

For days, her family and I watched her lifeless, but warm, body. We smiled; we cried; we laughed; we prayed; we hushed her grandchildren as they ran around the ICU Waiting Room in an oblivious boredom with Twizzlers. The doctors gave terrible news. The doctors told everyone it “wasn’t looking good.” The doctor told me personally: “She’s very sick.”

So we prayed harder. I painted the picture of all the light in my body leaving mine and entering her. I was certain this would make her wake up, like in a movie.

But she was showing more signs of regression. Her pupils ceased to dilate; she stopped reacting to pain. And her brain, they said, was swelling and there was nothing they could do. She went too long without oxygen causing “irreparable damage” [a phrase I still cannot get out of my head, the way the doctor said it with brown protruding eyes, head down.] I was certain they were mistaken and that the Universe wouldn’t let this happen. It couldn’t. Not to any of us that stood by her bed sobbing and holding her limp hands, to the us that needed her, that could still hear her laughter ringing in our ears, could find pieces of her—like evidence—everywhere.

I picked at beige colored cafeteria food for days trying to imagine tomorrow.

Thank you for reading this. I know it’s “too soon” to write about—a writing instructor would say. But I have to. I want to remember all of it. Even this fresh grief.

I don’t know. I think I’m stupid, maybe. Because it’s been a week since she passed and I’m still waiting to wake up. I’m still trying to bargain with the world like a trade-off. I just don’t want to go on. Maybe I’m stupid. Because I still don’t get it. I’m certain now that I don’t want to.

 

mt