I was watching a poetry reading online, with several readers. A lady I don’t know read poems about her husband dying unexpectedly in a car wreck. In her between-poem chatter, she said, “Grief is a solitary journey. We have to do it alone, in our own way.”
I stopped the video and started to cry because I felt a huge objection rise in my body, to what she said. No, I have never been alone, in my grief. When my mom died, my spouse was there for me, every fucking day. I was supported so beautifully. He was patient with me, helped me eat, listened to me, and every step of the way, I’ve had his arm around me and his love.
Then I thought of you. How perfect it was, to meet you soon after my mom died, and become close to you, as I grieved my mom. I needed safe, family love, which you partly gave me. And you’re a death genius. You helped me so much–you’ll never know the good you did, being there for me on a daily basis.
You understood something about me that no one else seemed to understand. Love, creativity, death, need, grief, and addiction were all mixed together. It was obvious.
When you were using, you were at the edge of death, and that was sacred. Every time you used, you could have died. And the art I make, I’m pulling from the other side. Maybe it feels that way for you also. The art is already there–you’re just birthing it here, in this world. Love and grief are the same thing. Love for the living, grief for the dead.
Maybe I was mistaken, that we shared that understanding–maybe I did those ideas on my own. But I suspected you were experiencing those truths too. The repulsive addict dance I saw my parents do was a protracted suicide ritual. Horror to perceive, through childhood, for many years, until my dad did succeed at killing himself. I thought maybe you understood all that. But maybe I was making up that commonality.
I remember the polo where you showed me your altar to the dead. You explained the objects and why they were there. You told me about the special people you’d lost–so many people.
That inspired me to make my own list of people I’ve known who’ve passed. Later you mentioned you welcome spirits to visit your house. I was surprised and a little scared. I thought wow, maybe I don’t want to go there. But you told me it was ok. I felt I would be safe, if the dead visited there, because you would keep me safe.
Seemed the dead were as alive to you as anyone. I’d never met someone so comfortable with the other side. Like you’re between worlds, or can visit the other side when you want. You sent me a picture of a memorial sign you made. Seems death is your specialty. Thank you for sharing your death genius with me.
The ritual you did, for my mom’s deathiversary–I was so nourished. You said you loved me that morning, and sent those flowers. It was a weird time–I was overwhelmed with feeling.
I remember that day, I was struggling to wear clothes. Having clothing material against my skin was hard for me because of my sensory sensitivities. That day, the stress of material was too much for me. Yes, I’d prefer the immaterial. Only my mama’s spirit was the right amount.
Before the ritual, I put on clothes. Then I told you, “I put some clothes on for you, which is funny. Usually I take me clothes off, because I love someone. But for you, I put my clothes on, because I love you.”
I think of that observation and that moment. Yes, I will hide myself as you require.
You didn’t reply–you just took it in. You didn’t say, “Yes, thank you. I never want your naked body–yuck.” And you also didn’t say, “Please, friend. Come to me, and let me make love with you. I accept your body with my entire being.”
I don’t know what was happening in your head. There are a few moments like that I remember. I can make up what was happening, but it’s unknown. An interrobang of wonder I will never access. An x of variable.
Later I regretted we did that ritual, long distance, on our phones. I regretted it because it made me fall in love with you all the way. Any holding back, I let go of as my soul was bare before you, 100% honest in the suffering of extreme loss.
My mom had been my safety, my backup plan, my Mother God, the only family I was connected to in an authentic way. The only blood family I really had. You were the one I trusted to hold me through that impossible pain.
I regretted the ritual because I believed our friendship had become that. I could be real with you all the time, and you’d do the same for me. But no, it was temporary. You stopped saying you loved me two days later, and I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.
Ok, I was wrong. There had not been a change, where you would meet me halfway, with balance. You didn’t actually prioritize me. It was just for the deathiversary. It went back to the previous struggle.
I tried to find balance with your distance, loving you as best I could, to adjust my behavior. Many ways I worked to change my expectations and needs, until eventually I couldn’t be hurt by you anymore.
I could always cry about the flowers. What kind of ass sends red roses to a lady who’s in love with him, if he’s not in love back? Your lack of intentions with me felt totally contradicted by the flowers. I believed for two days that you wanted me and I mattered to you.
But it was a miscommunication. Maybe the florist was supposed to put yellow but only had red. It’s been almost six months, and I can’t get over that mistake.
I go back to that moment in my mind–seeing the flowers on the kitchen counter, feeling I would pass out. Overwhelmed joy mixed with terror. I was getting what I wanted, finally. You gave your heart to me. But you’re an addict, and crazy like me. It was likely my life would be destroyed by this fire of love. So it was an intense mixed experience.
I could cry about your lack of response, to my comment about my naked body. Maybe you thought it didn’t need a response. Maybe the internet failed at that moment, and you missed hearing the sentence. When you don’t have a joke to fill the blank space, it stays blank, and I’ll probably wonder for years. It’s hard to do that on my own.
No longer talking to my favorite person to talk to really hurts. It’s almost an impossible feat. I was telling my spouse–it’s like if your favorite horse breaks its leg. Shooting the horse you love best! How does that make any sense?
Obviously, still talking to you in my head, I’m having a hard time walking away. Please forgive me.
I wanted to thank you. During that poetry reading, it felt amazing, to realize how lucky I’ve been. Thank you for holding my hand.
I love you, death genius.