Probably the toughest part of grief
Probably the toughest part of grief
After too many months shadowed with mistakes and regrets, I’ve come up with a new philosophy on how to live life: try your best to be someone your younger self would be proud of.
He felt so warm today and I felt so cold
so I fell into his arms and tried to transform into him
because I thought if we could be one unit we’d be okay,
and our noses touched and I smiled into his face,
and I could see all his freckles and feel his toes under mine,
and we held each other for so long time was lost on us
but then suddenly we were heavy and we were falling into each other
instead of falling for each other
and I realized love is hard. It’s really, really hard.
Is that why it’s so important?
today is one of those days where I feel sad and don’t know what to do about it except hide and not eat anything.
Innocence, innocence, my old friend. What I would do to feel you again.
Well, there it is. Another year gone by in my family of four. It’s getting easier to distance myself from the events four years ago, to stare straight ahead and keep my chin up. When he first died, I remember one of the hardest things was ordering a table at a restaurant. The four of us would file in, me, my mom, my dad, and Nate, frowning faces and hands in pockets. The hostess would watch us come in and look up from her cell phone, rolling her eyes and forcing a smile. “How many in your party?” she’d ask. “Five.” It was automatic. “Oh, is there someone else joining you?” Shit. “No, no one else is joining us.” “So…four then?” We’d walk to our table without looking up.
But now it’s been four years. We stopped making that mistake after the first two.
Today I had my weekly therapy session and my therapist, an overly enthusiastic grad student who is quite frankly trying way too hard, insisted that I talk about Alex. “Tomorrow’s the day,” she said “tomorrow’s the day your brother died.” I looked at her. “I think you need to talk about him today. I think it’d be good for you.” She has one of the most condescending tones I have ever heard. When she speaks to me, I feel like I’m about five years old. But she’s very nice. Very, very nice. So I have to be polite. “Alright,” I said, “I’ll talk.” She has been waiting for those two words since our sessions began last fall. I have trouble talking to people. I swallowed, and I closed my eyes. I fingered my bracelets. “Okay,” I said, “okay.”
For some reason, and I don’t quite understand why, I am grateful for Alex’s death. Not for the fact that I don’t have him anymore, oh God no, living without him gets harder every single day. I will never be grateful for his absence. But what has happened to me in the years since his passing, that I am grateful for. His death has forced me to look at the world in a different light. I try my hardest to see things as though it’s the last time I’m going to see them because I have come to terms with the fact that people do die young, all the time, and who is to say I won’t be one of those people? Live every day like it’s your last. It’s cliche as all hell and the only people I’ve ever heard actually say it are old and smell like fish. But that doesn’t change the actual meaning behind it. Appreciate everything. Don’t take anything for granted, because in the end you will have nothing at all. Love your family, your friends, your childhood heroes, your books, your television shows, your fucking stuffed animals, everything. Take a walk and look up at the trees, the sky, the rivers and the lakes, that the earth has blessed us with. It sounds so stupid and I know so few of you will read this and actually do it but it’s so important. WE ARE SO LUCKY. ALL OF US! We are so god damn lucky to be literally surrounded by beauty. One of the most influential writers of our time, David Foster Wallace, said in a commencement speech in 2005 that it was time that people paid attention to the obvious. I couldn’t agree more. Alex isn’t with me anymore and he hasn’t been for four years and he was my brother and my best friend. I took him for granted. I absolutely took him for granted. I don’t want to repeat that mistake. With anyone or anything. Because the fact is, I am so fucking lucky to have the privilege of life. And so are all of you. So enjoy it, and appreciate it, and love love love love love it. Appreciate what’s obvious. What’s simple. It’s the least you could do on Valentine’s Day.
Trying to write a poem about a suicide
is similar to contemplating suicide
in the way that it cuts open your brain
and eats it, bite by bite, taking the good stuff
like happy and love and joy and pain
and leaving only the feeling of numbness,
which is a feeling, even though some might
say otherwise. But I know it is a feeling
because I have felt it, back when Alison was
still around and she used to call me crying
and I would lie there feeling nothing, even
though I was supposed to love her and care.
Numb is a feeling because it feels like nothing
and nothing is something in technical terms.
I am thinking about Alex and the way he
used to smile with the corners of his mouth
and I was always so intrigued because I did not
understand how someone could smile with only
the corners of their mouth and not move the other
parts of the lips at all. And then I remember that
he too felt numb sometimes, and that’s why he
cried that day in St. Kitts on the front porch
by the ocean, he cried because he was so numb
which does not make much sense because if he
was numb then how could he feel enough to cry?
That’s another reason why being numb is still
a feeling like any other feeling. Numbness is the
feeling that shoves itself in front of the others,
like the stuck up theater kid from your high school
who screamed and banged her fists if she was
not center stage, and because no one wanted to
deal with her bitchy attitude, she always got what
she desired. Numbness does too, and it swallows
people whole because it is the monster that
has been hiding in the back of your brain since
you found out that innocence doesn’t actually last
and numbness doesn’t give a shit about you or anyone else
so it makes you hold a shotgun to your head in
your sister’s backyard or wrap your car around
a tree at two in the morning on Valentines Day.