Hey there, dear reader-and-a-half. Again, I have been tardy in fulfilling my columnist duties, and for those of you who couldn’t find anything to wrap your Haddock and chips in, I apologize. I pondered penning a column about the amusing folly of designer Michael Kor’s Astroturf bikini (a veritable bargain at $540), but that subject turns out to be quite skimpy, both literally and literary. Plus I’ve had more pressing matters on my mind lately.
James and I met in community college while auditioning for that classic representation of modern theater, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While we became friends, we treated one another with the social awkwardness of the young and mutually attracted: shy, longing, sweet and emotionally clumsy, but well meaning.
Because of that timidity, we parted ways with no resolution to our affections for one another. We had no contact for six years, until we found each other online at the beginning of last year. It was as if our roads had only diverged for a matter of days. Things progressed from there, and the last time I saw him in California I asked him to be my boyfriend. Which, in this day and age, we joked, means changing the relationship status on your Facebook profile. We had a good laugh about that.
He died in California in a head-on car collision. When this is published it will be almost a month.
Just to clarify, when it comes to romantic relations between the genders, I don’t believe in “The One.” It’s a concept force fed to us by soppy Hollywood rom-coms and insipid popular music in an effort to peddle sentiment, make us moon-eyed and relieve us of our hard earned cash.
But this guy was The One.
I’m not writing this to wave a tear-stained hankie in anyone’s face. The support I’ve received from my family at home and at work has been moving, not to mention the kind and poignant words and gestures from friends, acquaintances and even people who were strangers to me. Nor am I alone in my grief. I’m not the only one who has lost a dear friend---and no matter how I try, I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a son or a brother.
A few years ago I wrote a column regarding the death of my Grandma and namesake, Sophie. Though any death of a loved one is obviously never easy, hers was one of quiet dignity that came after a long life---she was 76 years old, she was content and proud of the life she had built, and happy that she had lived long enough to see her grandchildren grow into adults. We got to say our goodbyes.
When someone is suddenly gone unexpectedly and violently, it’s like a great tearing---as if someone has punched a hole right through you just to see if they actually could. Like some powerful, unimaginable force has your heart in its hands and is slowly squeezing the blood out of it. Make up your own Chuck Norris joke here.
It just sucks, plain and simple.
The five stages of grief are indeed an interesting song and dance, though I can see why they never made it to the Top 40. At first I couldn’t believe he was gone. Didn’t want to. The phone would ring, and it would be him telling me the sheriff’s department and EMTs made a mistake. Or even better, he would walk through the door and I would see that it was some bass-ackwards clerical error. When that passed it was anger’s turn to raise its ugly head. Why? Why had he been taken away when he was so happy, when he had so much to offer, when we still had memories we wanted to make? For each of these questions I couldn’t answer, I just became more and more incensed. It reached a crescendo when I returned from California after attending his memorial---I had been gone from work for several days and went to the office in the evening to do some catching up. While I was there I found a plate I had brought from home when I had pizza for lunch the day before he died. It reminded me of when I had gone to visit him last---pizza seemed to be the staple meal throughout my visit. We had it the day I arrived then again at a place called Pacino’s, where there was more Scar Face memorabilia than in a gangster rapper’s living room, and one of their toppings was cashews, but we had so much fun. We were with his guy friends, all of us laughing, teasing one another, and feeling like we had all the time in the world.
As I held the plate to my chest and walked back to my apartment, it suddenly occurred to me how James would never eat pizza again and how unfair that was. So I hurled the plate to the pavement as hard as I could. I wanted to hear it shatter over and over again. Anything to drown out the silence and what it meant. A cup of tea was added to my hardwood floor later, but this is not the editorial on warfare against dishes (though in my defense, the pattern on that mug was chintzy. It was a White Elephant gift).
I know I’m not the only one who has felt like this. I only write it because this is the first time I’ve ever felt like this. They say that time makes things better, and I have to believe that.
Besides, he gave me a lot of things to be grateful for. If that’s not something to smile about, then this was a waste of column space.