Wednesday, January 30, 2013
When a Light Grows Dim
Standing over the sink, tiny phone between shoulder and ear, hands in water, wringing dishtowel and facts.
The news and sirens that had passed by my house the night before announced that two people had been found lifeless in their home, and that a third had been rushed to the hospital just blocks from us. My mother-in-law now knows the names of the homeowners, but when she speaks them, everything within me seizes.
Oblivious or profane, the second hand on the clock continues its small-step march, but I can't move, can't think, can't even recognize the name of my own friend.
It would be days before anyone would say what had really happened, and another month before I could believe them. Conceding that my friend had taken her own life and that of one of her children, was perilous to do in front of me.
There was just no way.
Not the girl who was first to tease when she saw hints of more-than-friends between my husband and I; the one who left tiny white newborn clothes with the delicate pink hearts that danced, on my front porch for me to find when my first daughter was born; the gifted co-worker whose presence put families in crisis at ease; who was quick to offer tissue and silence, or words of encouragement, and who made discerning which was appropriate, when, look entirely effortless.
I put up a different scenario as a wall of protection and hold it together with the mortar of nonacceptance for as long as I can, until acid-like truth begins to dissolve it; until I am ready to let the world crumble into mourning.
I simultaneously prefer falsehood and hate whatever lies had formed such shadow over my dear friend's life, that she could no longer see what was good and right and true.
What powerful hurt had choked out the light of hope from someone who was so quick to offer it?
At the memorial I accept the fact that this is a piece of the puzzle that is not mine to know.
From a seat close to the door, I listen as the pastor concludes the service and invites everyone to linger. Through the prism of drying tears, I rise and will my feet to make their way towards co-workers and friends who just know. I detect movement to my side, at the front of the room, and witness a circle forming; a human shelter providing refuge for the two who were left behind.
This is what they need — the father and injured little boy, left with shattered pieces — I console myself with this because I am at loss for how to comfort.
At the little corner convenience store where I fill my cup with ice, we lock eyes, and months have passed. His work brings him all about town, and he is here now. This is our shared history; casual encounters of small talk and How are you doing?
He is no longer the unfortunately ill-timed new-comer on the scene who has stopped to visit with his girlfriend, only to discover that the house is full of giggling girls, who rubber-neck when they walk out the door together. There are no children in shopping carts and his wife is not by his side, and this breaks me, but he says it first, and I play along.
"Hey, how's it going?"
I give answer and know that it's my turn to ask.
God, I hate this script.
What could he possibly say? It is the wrong time to tell him that despite polite tradition, I really want to know.
We maintain momentum and with a few more words we pass each other by, our encounter intentionally painless, but all together excruciating.
This is the first time that I have dared to put this piece of my life into words. It was difficult because of the obvious loss, but also because as an outsider to the family, I have been uncertain as to which pieces of the story (that they still live daily) were mine to tell. I have tried to be respectful and delicate with my words and ask that if you feel compelled to comment, that you will be also.
This post has been linked up at Imperfect Prose.