Tag: loss

Hello, San Francisco, Goodbye: Part 5

 

This story is much too much to be one blog post, so it’s broken into parts. Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I’m going to stop apologizing for how long it has taken me to get here. Each of these parts has been painstaking. It’s a lot of untangling, trying to separate the threads of hurt from my actual experience and then from the place I am now, hindsight. There is so much floating around in my head that I need to un-puzzle, to understand, to get out of my fucking body. You know?

Have you ever had company coming, and without time to clean, you just shove everything into the nearest closet? It’s a temporary solution. I mean, some of us are really good at forgetting about the mess behind the door. It’s easier to keep the door shut. But the longer you wait to confront the closet chaos, the scarier it gets, the harder it is to deal with the mess.

So here I am, opening the door to the monster that’s been living in my closet for the last year plus.

***

 

People show you who they are.

Whether it’s through their actions, inactions or reactions, people will always present themselves… eventually. The problem is that we don’t want to see them. We want people to be who want them to be, who we need them to be. It sounds gross, but it’s actually a very human thing that we do. Why wouldn’t we? In this world, we find ways to cope. We are survivors.

And maybe this is too much of an aside, but it’s something I need to say for others just as much as myself. If this is too much for you, just skip to the next section (the bolded date)—like a choose your own adventure. haha. I just couldn’t find a way to not say this.

For those of us raised by people who didn’t/couldn’t give us what we needed emotionally, we are especially good at shaping those around us into what is lacking. It’s all so confusing growing up this way. Everyone disappoints you or leaves you or “turns into” someone else. If this sounds like you too, don’t be hard on yourself. You made it! You are here. Your brain did what it needed to do to get by. And we all do this to cope to varying degrees.

Anyway, the good news is that once we become aware of it, we can better avoid The Big Hurts. For most of us, our 30s are when we hopefully get good at sniffing out the people and things we want in our lives. We only have so much energy and time, so we have to ration it out carefully. (Oregon Trail, anyone?) This isn’t to say that The Big Hurts won’t come knocking ever again. I guess that is my lesson here. I really thought no one would get by my bullshit sniffer ever again. Who do I think I am? 

No one is invincible. See, it’s tricky. Sometimes you find people whose actions do not align with their words. They are good at knowing what you want to hear, but not so good with the follow-through. This makes people sound malicious, but I don’t think they are 95% of the time… just careless. Most of us genuinely want to be good, to do right by others—right? I’m sure they want to live up to this potential, but just fall short. Malicious or not, it still hurts. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we let them hurt us again and again. Even if they “didn’t mean to.” Even if they apologize (but especially if they don’t.)

What you go through with careless people is pretty much always the same bullshit. You find someone you connect with. The beginning is good. But then, the tension arrives. They ditch plans, offend you, forget your birthday—whatever it is. And before long, you find yourself questioning everything and putting up with crap you’d never dream of swallowing before. But then, at some point, something they do (or don’t do) knocks the rosy glasses off of our faces and it’s like we are seeing them for the first time.

That feeling is the worst.

But is that person really to blame? Who are you even mad at? Sad at? It’s a confusing twist cone of emotions that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Friday, July 29th —9:00 a.m. PST

When K told me she had COVID, my first reaction was relief.

It seems so silly now, but I thought that maybe I could just file the whole unfortunate event in that thick, ever-growing folder labeled “COVID: Collateral Damage.” If only I could just forget the last 24 hours or so of weird and disappointing communications with her. If only I could just erase her carelessness and avoidance and tell myself that we didn’t connect this trip because she got COVID. It would be so much easier to blame the virus.

But I wasn’t giving up yet. This was my second reaction. Hey, I came all this way and if it meant I might catch COVID (after avoiding it for 2 years), it was worth it—wasn’t it? It would ruin my writing workshop days and I might not be able to get back on a plane to go home, but fuck it.

Me:  Damn, dude. Well, I will go outside and masked with ya anywhere. So.

Me:  How’d ya get it?!

Me:  Hope you don’t feel too bad… ugh. What a nightmare.

She got it from an event, she said.

K:  And I feel super icky but thought it was just in my head.

K:  I’m so annoyed.

Annoyed?

First, she was “bummed” and then “annoyed.” I, on the other hand, was devastated.

The tears ran from my eyes, some soaking into the black fabric of my n95 mask, while others cascaded around the top of the mask and down each side spilling onto my cheeks. I sat there, alone and unmoving, a sad-face fountain at a six-top table surrounded by plates of cold, uneaten breakfast foods. My phone was laid in front of me like a sword. The blue-bubbled text conversation stalled out.

K never responded to my proposition of meeting outdoors. In fact, she never said another word to me that day—oh, except when I accidentally texted her instead of Abbie. I was at Trader Joe’s (less than a mile from her house). It was benign, something about the color of Crocs, because believe it or not, I still didn’t tell Abbie what was happening. I mean, what if this was all some big misunderstanding and I’d unjustly ruin Abbie’s opinion of her? I didn’t want her to worry about me either. Besides all that, I was so so embarrassed.

Why am I including this accidental text in the story? Because. Even though I didn’t plan on it, the text let K know I was there at Trader Joe’s, a 5-minute walk to her house. Her response was another painful dose of avoidance, which should’ve been predictable at that point.

K:  I love Trader Joe’s!

What?

I drove to TJ’s after the sad hotel brunch, because I had planned to pick up some sick people stuff for K (crackers, soup, ginger ale, etc.), and then plop it on her doorstep. But in my twist cone of mad and sad, I talked myself out of it. I already felt stupid for coming this far, giving this much. I mean, she hadn’t even asked me if I was okay or if I found something to do or to eat or whatever. I stopped myself from doing more. Giving her another ounce of vulnerability just wasn’t an option.

Instead of that, I sat directionless in the hot black car with the windows up taking part in some seriously obnoxious sobbing. You know the kind that sounds like you’re coming up for air after touching the bottom of the deep end? Like that.

This was a me I didn’t recognize.

Friday, July 29th — the rest of the day

Sooo… I didn’t stop crying.

I don’t know what to tell you. I wish my story was different, about how I sucked it up and made the most of it in the Bay. But I didn’t. I did find one stationery store in Berkeley, because I always try to find postcards and things to send when I am away. It just made me sadder, though, wondering if this was the stationery store that K told me about in her letters. She loves Berkeley. As I read her words, I always imagined that some day I’d be there to experience all the things with her in person. She would show me around. And then, she would come here and I could show her my spots and all the places I find beautiful in my dirty little city of Pittsburgh. Saying this now, I feel like  an idiot. After 10 years without a proper visit, maybe I should’ve taken the hint? Maybe this was just another red flag that I missed.

Stationery Store -Berkeley, CA

The rest of the day, I drove around aimlessly, crying, talking to myself, frantically trying to piece together how I got where I was.

What was I doing? 

I wanted so badly to be with someone who cared about me. I was a new level of alone. Like, the kind you can’t just trick your brain out of. So I drove around, found a pensive spot by the water and watched the sun drop. It was the most exquisite pity party ever.

 

That night, I ate a Lunchable in bed and watched TV. I wrote out postcards to my friends back home, pretending things weren’t this bad. In the small rectangle of postcard space, I joked about corny hotel decor, the surprising chill of July in San Fransisco, the long masked plane ride here. What was I going to write about? How I came all this way to cry in parking lots, to chase geese around the lagoon behind the hotel, to eat a Ham & Swiss Lunchable alone in my hotel room?

If someone could see me now, I thought, as I dusted the cracker crumbs from my chest onto the pristine white sheets.

 

Friday, July 30th —morning and afternoon

Still, nothing.

Checking my phone became a ritual that I resented. I watched K switch on and off the “Silence Notifications” setting on her iPhone. (Yes, you can see this in the chat conversation.)

It was the day before my birthday, I reminded myself. Get your shit together. I got to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror: puffy eyes punched into a splotchy red face. The salty tears had burnt the skin around my eyes and it hurt to touch them.

Today would be different.

I made plans to meet up with Christine for brunch. Who is Christine? Our orbits bumped years ago on Instagram, where we ended up chatting in DMs, until eventually, snail mail. Abbie and I met her IRL in 2017, when we were in SF. I know people say this corny shit all the time, but it was like we had known her for forever, like family.

When I planned this trip, I had messaged Christine to tell her that I was coming to the area and that I hoped we could meet up, even if it was just to squeeze in a coffee. Honestly, it felt tentative. I didn’t have hour-by-hour plans with K, but I assumed we’d be spending most of my time there together. After over a decade of knowing her, I was dedicating this portion of my trip to our friendship, you know? That’s what it felt like.

I wasn’t sure how to talk about Christine in this story or if I should at all. She wasn’t part of the nightmare. Instead, she was the reality check I needed, a flash of brightness in this dark weird drain I had been circling for days. But I did (and still do) feel guilty about it somehow. I hope she didn’t feel like some runner-up to K. I also didn’t want her to feel like I was her problem or that she had to pick up the pieces to my shattered hopes and ego.

Christine and I met for brunch. It was chilly, almost winter-like, and the fog was thick in the distance. She greeted me on the sidewalk in front of her place, open arms. I remember her hugging me and how fucking amazing it felt. The tears formed a baseball in my throat (and even now as I recall this.)

“Oh, am I the first person to give you a hug? …or even touch you since you’ve been here?”

I don’t think I’d ever needed to be seen so badly. She didn’t treat me like I was being dramatic or foolish, but she got it totally. I just have no words for how much that meant to me, still means. I got to tell someone what was going on, to tell the story (finally) and to someone who I knew would give it to me straight. What was going on? What was I missing?

But even after telling the story, we never came to any great realization about what was going on. It was kind of a relief to know that Christine was just as confused.

“What can you do?” Christine asked. 

It was a rhetorical question, but I answered it anyway.

“I don’t plan on ever speaking to her again,” I said.

I don’t know if that makes me cold or crazy or a bad person, but I had come to this realization before meeting up with Christine, on the drive down. First, how can you make this up to someone? Some things you just can’t make right—especially with 5,000 miles in between. But the big reason for feeling completely donezo with K is kind of simple: she is not the type of person I want or need in my life.

If you’ve read up to here, I’m sure you don’t need me to clarify but…  it’s not that she got COVID. This shit happened to so many people during the pandemic. It’s how she handled it. It’s how she did not show a lick of concern for me and refused to take any type of ownership. Instead, she played dumb and bypassed all of my hurt. Fuck, she didn’t even call me. She texted me (barely)… and I flew across the country to be 5 minutes from her house. Instead of asking if I was ok, she silenced her phone at 7 p.m., hours after I arrived, alone.

Pssst: The insecure and forever-unlovable kid part of me still feels somewhat guilty for having expectations of a friend like that. Am I being too demanding? Do I deserve it?

 

After brunch, Christine let me hang a bit with her and her kiddo. The little one’s first day of school was approaching and she needed a haircut and a trip to the library. It was sweet and I could’ve followed them around all day, really.

This is about when I first spotted a footless pigeon. What you need to know is that I love pigeons. A lot. And so when I found it sitting like a little clump of bird on some steps, I got closer. Why wasn’t it running away?

Oh no, did you find an injured animal even on vacation? I could hear Abbie say.

I’m really good at this. I get myself into some real situations because I can’t just leave something hurt like that, you know? But as I moved closer, the scared bird stood up on two stunted legs and quickly wobbled a few feet away, where it fell again into a frightened clump. When I asked Christine if she saw it, she hardly seemed phased. Apparently this is a thing. Feetless pigeons. Later, I would cry about this too.

 

Friday, July 30th — 4:30 p.m.

I began my drive back up 101 to San Rafael, back to my strange hotel room. Just days before, I was flying up this same route, sleepy and mesmerized, with a dumb heart so full it could’ve split. It was just moments ago or else years. Thoughts like these burned now. Remembering that excitement, that overzealous fool that I was. It made me so angry with K. How could she? Why would she? Who was she?

Did I really plan to never say another word to her? Even if she texted me? …like I told Christine?

This time, as the inevitable tears plopped onto my cheeks, I sucked in the sadness and blew it out of the open window like a goodbye kiss. It was my last night in the Bay, in San Rafael. The next day, my birthday, I would leave for the writing workshop in Pebble Beach. Despite the grief, the homesickness and the plight of my pigeon friends, I felt a little lighter after my visit with Christine, a little less unlovable. Maybe I could actually do something tonight—you know, other than eating a Lunchable in a hotel bed while crying intermittently during the commercial breaks of a Forensic Files marathon.

Just as I had the thought, it was interrupted by the sharp ding of my phone: a text message. I waited a few minutes before checking the screen—partly out of defiance and partly out of self-preservation. I wanted to sit in that moment of ambiguity for as long as I could. I held my breath as I picked up the phone to read the screen. It was K. 

K:  Hey, I hope you’re enjoying your time today in SF with your friend…

How did she know where I was? Who I was with?

K:  …I wanted to acknowledge our conversation yesterday because it didn’t really sit well with me for a couple of reasons.

There was a large block of text glaring up at me. I only looked briefly since I was driving, but it didn’t take much skimming to realize the slippery tone of her message. As I looked for the next exit to pull over, the heat rose from my chest to my cheeks.

Would this be the stuff her silence was saying, her explanation? Coming through the night before I was leaving? In my mind, there was nothing left to salvage. I was done holding back. I pulled into a random plaza parking lot, unbuckled my seatbelt and conjured as much courage as I could. I knew it was going to hurt. I pulled out my pocket bandana and laid it on my thigh, anticipating the tears that I could feel inside of my chest filling buckets.

There’s no karma in weather

Old Toys // 2020 Copyright Meghan Tutolo

We get what we deserve.

Pffft. You don’t believe that do you? I don’t. I mean, I didn’t think so. I think… maybe somewhere deep down in there, I’m programmed to believe this, though. I know you’ve thought it too: If I do good, then good will come to me. We also like to tell each other: Bad people will “get theirs.” These delusions keep us going.

And why wouldn’t we think that? We’re trained from an early age to believe in rewards and consequences. Whether you grew up watching Disney movies and reading fairytales or learning the parables of the Bible, you were taught to be a good person through positive and negative reinforcement. This, then, evolves from the easy and superficial into the grown-up and severe—some omniscient score card, you might say. But if not your parents or teachers or older siblings looking over your shoulder, who is keeping score? The universe? God? You? Tallying up your good deeds and sacrifices, waiting to cash them in for some Get Out of a Jam Free Card?

You know this is complete bullshit, right?

But does that change the monologue you’re having inside your head? Are you still shocked when liars and thieves make it out seemingly unscathed? When bad people win the lottery? Get the girl? Do you tell yourself that their behavior will catch up to them? Does that make you feel better? Do you believe that?

No amount of hindsight rationalizing can blur the truth here. Life is wholly unfair. Bad people win. Good people lose. Good people die. Good people die too soon. Not just good people, amazing people die. Needed people. Talented people. People with so much to offer the world. People who inspire others. Good people who deserve good things die.

Fuck.

Some good people have died in the last few months. Amazing people. People whose lives meant so much to so many other lives. And I just can’t reconcile this in my brain. Even if I know what I know. Even then.

I know some of you have your religion. While it’s not my intention to shit all over that, religion isn’t a good enough answer for me. These are just my opinions, of course. “God” is so good at being a catch-all for the unknown and the unfair. It’s a nice way to comfort yourself, to bandage wounds. But that’s all it is. It’s something we’ve invented to do just that. And why? Because it’s too hard to believe in nothing.

The truth is… the world is precarious. Just because we have a conscience doesn’t mean the universe does. In fact, that’s what makes it so beautiful. We, as humans, spend our lives trying to figure it all out, expecting some predictable outcome… like how Cinderella wins her prince or how the slow-moving, but determined, tortoise finishes first.

But we don’t live in a children’s book.

We love our patterns and scales and even numbers. We spin our wheels trying to create some bigger picture from all of these random pieces, like trying to put together a bad jigsaw puzzle. So when shit doesn’t add up and the scales don’t balance, we’re left in the middle of the floor, sleepless, on our hands and knees, surrounded by all these pieces, thinking maybe we just aren’t getting it. Maybe there’s another way.

But there’s nothing to get. And even in knowing that, it doesn’t make it any lighter.

Hang onto each other. If we are all we have, we are all we have, you know?

mt

 

All going but gone

Cheswick, PA (2018) - © Meghan Tutolo

There aren’t too many things in this world that last.

See: high school friendships, fashion trends (though they are bound to cycle back), ska music, your favorite cologne, all seasons of The Office available on Netflix. No matter how much you love something, no matter how tightly you squeeze to it… longevity is an illusion.

But we know this, don’t we?

In fact, transience is a truth that is smacked into us from the moment we can want, need, desire things. Days end. Snacks are eaten up. Markers run dry. Toys break. The sun sets and you must go inside. The End couldn’t be a surprise, shouldn’t be. Yet, the anticipation of an end never made it any less devastating. When we were small, we would cry and whine and stomp… and hell, those were socially acceptable things as a kid. Besides, if we were convincing enough in our pout, the tides could turn. Our parents—those minor gods—could grant us more time and more things to prolong these ends.

Still, we came back for more. It didn’t stop us from going back outside or hoping or wishing, getting excited about every last thing we could do. Hope. Possibility. I don’t know what changes, why we can’t live there forever. Was it just that we just needed to accumulate more losses? Or maybe we were more buoyant then.

I write a lot about loss. I can’t help it. It’s the truth that defines me most. The why is another post, really, but the short of it is that I can’t compute. My brain cycles over it… over and over. It’s like that mechanism in me is broken. Move on. Let go. What? And up until recently, I mostly scoffed at the tender fears of others, that empty ache to remain guarded. I couldn’t understand ones need to shut people out, to shut down the world, hide in stuffy apartments without the lights on. You could count on me for handing out the advice TicTacs:

“What are you afraid of, anyhow?”

“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re alone now.”

“Rejection? We’ve all been there.”

“You’re just jaded. I mean, how will you ever be happy if you can’t take the risk?”

It was less judge-y and more “I don’t understand.” Because I didn’t. (I don’t?) I’ve been wounded, waded in chaos, really, but I still willed myself into the day and into people the way a hungry cat might smash itself into your leg, purring: half-hungry, half-doting. It didn’t mean I wasn’t sad or self-loathing, but that I was unhappy with my situation (a.k.a. The Never Enoughs) and so I needed more. I needed (need) more to toss into my bottomless pit. Of course, now I realize that this isn’t how everyone processes unhappiness and grief. Likewise, this can’t go on forever, right?

Admittedly, I’ve been struggling with reconnecting. It feels almost beyond my control.

My question is, though, what if the only way to process loss effectively is to avoid it altogether? And what if this style of coping isn’t a choice, but a mechanism, physiologically speaking? What if, over the years, our body learns without us?

It makes sense that, at some point, the body would take over. It does that, the body—it acts and reacts to its own tune, at times, reminding us we are not in control. For instance, maybe you don’t think you’re nervous, but then your hands shake, your breath quickens, your heart knocks in your ears like a marching band drum line. Likewise, the body has been known to do things in its best interest, to protect itself from common stressors and provocateurs. Hello, survival. But who says it must inform its host—for lack of a better term—on a conscious level?

At some point our body is all: “F you, dude. If you can’t take care of me, I’ll take care of me.”

You know the body—that cocoon we abuse endlessly with chemicals and gluttony and sleeplessness and… need I go on?

No wonder we’re 30 with budding armor: afraid to take risks, afraid to connect, afraid to love. And maybe those protective brain juices have convinced us subconsciously that we don’t want these things, that we’re fine. Why try? You know the hurt that follows. The body doesn’t let us.

Raise your hand if you’ve been the hapless victim of some half-assed solace like this:

“The only constant in life is change itself.”

Ugh. Gross. (Besides, Heraclitus of Ephesus was kind of an asshole.)

But the point is… shit doesn’t work. We know this. We’ve known it. But it still cuts. And you can cry or stomp or sing or whiskey it away, but it’s there, loss—as big as an anvil swinging above from a clothesline.

This thought comes to me, because yesterday, as I sat in my car at a red light, my eyes tried to leak on me. Perfect. A cry triggered by some trite line in a song that I hear often—nonsense, really. But it reminded me of someone I lost, a pain I should be immune to by now. And so I realize again (and again and again) that grief might be the thing that goes on forever.

How cruel is the world when everything leaves, but the pain of what is gone.

Even if you stop moving

scoot

Life keeps going.

If nothing else, that’s one thing we can bank on. Even in our stubborn complacency, our unhealthy comforts, our black-hole grief—even if the first thing you think about when you wake up every day is what you are not, or you don’t have, or worse, what you have lost.

This year has been a fierce, really, and in all the ways. Since D died, I have inadvertently split my life into two distinct time periods, before she died and after. Yeah, there are a ton of pivotal moments in my life that could’ve created a similar divide, but they didn’t. Mostly because of who I was before and after, and who I continue to be.

Three years this July.

The anniversary of her death came on so suddenly. It was physical. I was readying myself for a Chicago trip (the same location I headed to the day after her funeral), fussing to finish work assignments, worrying the semester, but then it came on… a wave over me. Not sure that I believe in much, but I do know when I feel her there. She kind of knocks you know. I’m sure you know. I’m sure there is someone you lost or miss and though often it’s the intensity of the missing that conjures them, sometimes they come uninvited. It’s a surprise. And no matter what your beliefs are—god or no god, spiritual or black and white—you invite them in. You invite them because it’s warm and nostalgic, the kind that hurts in the best way.

Do you speak to them? Out loud? A whisper? Inside? I do. I’m not embarrassed to say it—three years later I’m still sneaking in chats. Not like the daily texts and phone calls we engaged in, but car rides and bathroom breaks and walks to the coffeeshop. In that way, I never feel so alone. Not like I used to.

But for some good? Facing fears… and hopefully not foolishly. I got a scooter! It’s a “barely” used guy, a Yamaha Vino 125. It’s honestly been a source of pure joy. I can’t explain it. I’m just glad this summer weather is holding out as long as it is.

Latest poem published by Arsenic Lobster, “ONCE I DIDN’T DROWN IN A LAKE.”

And I finally scored a poem in my white whale of a lit mag, my favorite, Rattle. Scoop up a copy of your own.

But this. This is something that’s been haunting me, this poem and it’s sentiment. It’s so vital. While I wish I’d had discovered it long ago, I don’t think I’d have the Life Equipment to really get it.

Leaving you with it. Here.

mt

 

After Twelve Days of Rain – Dorianne Laux

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear,
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

—From What We Carry. (If you don’t have this book, you need it.)

Scary shit

Dingy Diner Doodles

Sometimes I catch a feeling, a gigantic wind. It might be that I feed it, let it consume me. If I do, it will grow and so I count on it as I would any tangible thing so big, lake or mountain. It will become memory inevitably, taking up (I think) that same space.

Years later, something may poke at it—an image, a person, a song, a smell—and it seems the weight of those years has flattened it, a two-dimensional feeling.

Sometimes I am grateful that it isn’t so strong.
Sometimes I am disappointed by this.
Sometimes it makes the better poem, flat like that.

But no matter the outcome, the passive yet brutal way in which time can take down mountains… that scares the shit out of me.

A little dark for December

BarrenFieldsGBG14

It seems like everyone is dying these days. Matt told me not to make a list.

“Please don’t,” he asked loudly from his bedroom.

We talk like this most days: through walls, overtop house static and the far-away rattle of Main Street just a few blocks below.

“Where are you going?” he asks on nights like this, seeming surprised. But he doesn’t need to ask. He knows. The parking lot.

“Geez,” he’ll say.

I say it as nonchalantly as “the mall” or “Giant Eagle.” He knows me by now. When you live in a house with someone, you learn these types of things. For me, it’s how Matt spends nearly every evening on the couch flicking undecidedly over Netflix movies, falling asleep there snuggled with the cat (about 20 minutes after he finally chooses a film or TV show to watch). He cleans with vinegar. He makes random late-night stops at the cupboard to grab a fistful of granola. These types of things. For him, it’s my rituals he learns—my gummy-bear binging, my space-heater occupying, my evening coffee, my tendency to leave the house anywhere between 9 and 11 for a restless Walmart run, or worse, the parking lot. We both talk to the cat in a demanding and unhealthy way.

But it’s already December. And stranger than that realization is the the unescapable truth that loss is in the air: the way the smoke from a blown-out candle lingers a little too long.

Who am I to comment on this? Everyone in close range to me is ok—fortunately, and fuck if I’m not knocking so hard on my wooden desk right now. It’s those on the periphery. And for as much as I’m not trying to make this about me, my heart is breaking all over the place, you know? For them. Am I allowed to say that? It just feels wrong to mention, like these aren’t “my people,” but “my people’s people.”  It’s just that death is a lesson I’ve learned, a lesson I grew up with and grew to. Maybe it stirs it back up like some sticky fingers reaching gut-level. I hate watching others learn it, whether it’s for the first time or not.

It seems to have all started with Robin Williams’s death and that awfully omen-like dream I had just days before about him. I still can’t shake that.

Anyway, battles everywhere are being lost—to cancer, to addiction, to suicide, to old age (even). And at this time of year, it’s all we can do to let the Christmas lights twinkle and the holiday songs play without feeling the cut of grief and loss, no matter what shape it takes. So instead of “bah humbug”—I’m being grateful. Let the magic in, for those who can stand it.

To everyone facing loss right now, my heart is with you. All the way. <3

mt

The new routine

Finally, it’s not as sharp as knives. I’m learning to live without my best friend. The routine is going back, back to a time when I didn’t know her or need her. I talk to her ghost less and less. I pretty much stopped journaling and poeming in.

I feel void.
I haven’t been back.

Without

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Two-grief kind of day, maybe?

Sometimes it feels like someone pulled the bones from my body. Like a walking (somehow?) jellyfish. Sometimes I don’t know how to stand up, don’t know how to breathe. I forget what beautiful looks like. Isn’t that horrible? Sun or rain, I don’t care to be outside. I don’t care to be a part of anything.

I guess it is that finite. Death. And that world doesn’t interest me, permanence, black and white. It’s forever that we all want, right? For everything to exist in a higher plane, for a better reason. And I think… for that year and a half it did. Finally. I had the feeling of “more.” And I’m not ready to go back to what this is. This is no substitute or alternative. Not after the knowing.

It sounds dead-ended. It sounds desperate and depressed. I’m ok. I’m living, doing that thing everyone else is doing. Yes, sometimes feeling like a zombie, sometimes a human shed of its skeleton.

If I could only be empowered by this, take the lessons and the love and build on that to go forward, but those moments are fleeting. Minutes. Until the memories take over. And I can be in mid-sentence or mid-laugh and my guts fill up my brain and then… fuzz cloud.

How can I live now? How do I live now? How do I hold up everything, keep it together? I just haven’t got a clue. And this writing, only here…

This is me trying to figure everything out.

xo
mt

 

Screaming

I wish she were alive. I wish it every moment I get to think. It’s exhausting.

I guess it isn’t wishing. It’s more like pining. It’s more like the grief that everyone keeps telling me about like it’s a fucking diagnosis boiled down to atoms and gravity. Listen. I’m angry a little. I’m angry because I know everyone is just waiting for me to get over this. I’m supposed to take comfort in the fact that people die and I was lucky to have her for the time I did, blah blah. You know. Canned stuff.

When I open my mouth, I have to be careful I don’t let her name out. Sometimes it slips because, even when she was alive, her name was always on my tongue. We had adventures together. Big talks. Epic breakdowns. Vulnerability. Starry nights. Just me, her and the fish. And the moon always watching.

But I know it gets old. I know because I’ve watched people grieve. I’ve grieved myself. And with the same silly expectations I place on others, I place on myself: move on already. Right. I’m going between logic and heartache like it’s a fucking tennis match. And my brain, like I said, is tired.

I will hear everyone’s words. I will appreciate people thinking of me, the hugs, the text-message checkups. But it will stop. It will be a few months down the line. And that stuff stops and you feel like you’re supposed to stop too.

I remember when my dad died, over 10 years ago, everyone was pretty forthcoming with the support. Father’s Day was a big one. Year after year, I regrieved. And friends who thought of it would text. My mom would check in. It was nice. Not necessary but kind. After a while, I came to expect it. Because, just like all those kids out there remembering their dads, someone was remembering me. It was like celebrating no dad, the void that was always licking at my heels.

But then it stopped, slowly. And you know, this year. No one said a word to me. And when people did talk, they didn’t mention it. Like somehow he evaporated and time has “healed” me. I always want to scream, though, like a selfish asshole… “Hey! IT STILL HURTS! IT STILL MATTERS JUST AS MUCH AS BEFORE!”

The screaming never makes it out.

And now. I guess, I’m still screaming. Because of a loss, but also a lifetime of reliving it. Maybe that’s why I’m angry. Over and over. Grief.

You just…

Yeah. You just… keep going?

You just… wake up, get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, get in the car, go to work, work, go home… and this cycle continues. It continues because this is what you do. And this is how you stay alive. The bare minimum.

Since she died: I got a chapbook published. I rode in an airplane. I downloaded A Fine Frenzy’s album. I finished four paintings. I wrote two poems. I learned a new song on the ukulele. I had a birthday.

And everything before—the old receipts, pay stubs, shoes I bought—are reminders that labels themselves as such in my head. Like. Anything before July 22nd was safe. I was ok. No matter what I was doing, you know. Even if I didn’t get sleep or I had a bad day at work, my life was x58027 better. I long to go back there. I mean, it hasn’t even been a month yet.

People keep saying how I just have to go on, “move forward,” that this is life and it will hurt less with time. And this sympathy in a can, as my roommate so aptly puts it, is nothing I don’t know. I’ve been through this, remember? That is why I don’t want to do it again. I know. I know. I know.

Then, there are moments where I catch a big wind and my lungs fill deep and I am grateful. We had one of the most amazing friendships that I’ve ever known. We saw the beauty in things—like sunsets and songs—but we also saw the beauty in one another. I said: “We are two mirrors facing each other.” That kind of forever. And I mean it.

Don’t think I don’t know how dramatic this sounds. But imagine it. Now imagine it better than that. And this isn’t some realization I’m having now. I had it all along. If I can take comfort in anything, it’s that I always told her. All the things. All the time. And she agreed. Fate.

And so now is where I accept, allow her to get farther and farther away. “You’re getting smaller, getting smaller, but I still see you” (Jimmy Eat World).

This is me. Being big. Grieving. Not knowing how much longer it’ll hurt like this…

Breathing.