November 21, 2013
Yesterday I couldn’t seem to do it. Well, that sounds a bit more dramatic than I mean it to. Yesterday I couldn’t seem to get myself to write this column I’m working on about you and me and suicide and why we do or don’t keep living. It’s something that happens to me. I get overwhelmed.
It was a good day though. There was lots to write about. I woke up and went to acupuncture in town. I decided to take the bus instead of driving, which turned out to be a great idea because I took the slower bus that takes you all through Carrboro. Oh! Do you know I moved to North Carolina? I’m not sure where you are and if you can see me from there and I haven’t written you a letter since Los Angeles. I like to think you’re with me but I have to admit I can’t feel you here except maybe once in awhile when the sun comes through the leaves in a certain way that kind of reminds me of Vermont or Autumn in the front yard at your parents when you used to come outside and watch me throw a ball against the garage door.
Anyway, I’ve moved here and yesterday I took the bus. It got full fast, which was nice because you could hear all the different conversations. Every time someone would get off the bus driver would say, “You have a good day.” It made me smile and do a quick little shake of pleasure to hear all of those polite goodbyes. One elderly man got on the bus near “Johnny’s Gone Fishin’” and saw his other friend already sitting and said, “My Man!” Can you imagine? How good that must feel to get on a bus and have someone say that to you! I got off the bus and walked to Stacy’s office. I was about twenty minutes early, which I didn’t mind because I got to sit in the office waiting room in a patch of sun and just let it warm me. I was thinking about going to acupuncture during that terrible time in Berkeley and how Dr. Ng was standing above me one day and placed a finger gently on my chest and said, “Your heart is like someone chopped it with ax. It’s an old wound. It won’t ever heal.” And then he smiled so wide and said, “So you make it a beautiful canyon!”
I am trying to make my life a beautiful canyon. I really am. Full of light and maybe some foxes and a ridiculous turkey or two just roaming around.
Mom, I think for a long time I thought your suicide was the wound but I wanted to say I don’t think that anymore. I mean, I’m not saying it was the greatest thing in the world. It was pretty much the worst. But you know (I think wherever you are) that there was also relief. That I felt that. It’s why I didn’t sleep for a month after you died. Because I felt so guilty for feeling relieved and I thought you’d know and be mad and come find me in my sleep. But you were so unhappy all the time and you were always in the hospital. And everyone on the other side of the family seemed to hate you which made me feel lost, like I didn’t have anyone if I loved you. Which I did. I did love you so much. I think that was the wound: watching you be worn down like that by poverty and loneliness and being so mad and so sad and relieved all at once when you died. I’m no hero. I’ve always known that. My father told me you died and I walked into the bathroom and ran hot water over my hands until it went cold.
It’s hard to write these letters. I’m not even sure why I do it sometimes. Anyway, Stacy came out and got me and it was a great session. We’re just getting to know each other but I like him a lot. I told him I’m thinking a lot about you this week and he said, “Why don’t we help you be present and sort of hold you at the same time.” Sometimes I wish there was some therapy where I could just go and be held for all the years I didn’t get touched by you. I remember in the worst times I’d lie on my analyst’s couch and wrap a blanket so tightly around me and she’d say, “There. You’re going to learn to self soothe.” Stacy put about eight needles in and then I just fell so deep into sleep. Deeper than I’ve slept in weeks. When he came in to see how I was I said, “So good. That was so good.”
Is this boring? It’s hard to know what to say sometimes. But I love these letters. I’m sorry I don’t write more. Life gets so busy. I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all to be honest. It’s been a couple weeks since I took a long walk in the pasture. Which you would LOVE. You walk along this trail and then the whole world just opens up. Usually some dog bounds past me right as I step into the field, which is like watching my heart leave my chest and just go. Sometimes the grasses are long and bursting with light like overfull grain sacks. Sometimes the pasture is mowed and you can see all the little birds feasting and the dogs just tear across the open space where normally they’d root around amidst the grass cover. That’s where I think of you most. Or where I wish for you most. We never got to take an adult walk or sit on a bench and really know each other. I feel like we were almost never alone, which I was grateful for at the time but now I think I’m older and even on your bad days I could make myself safe without anyone but us around.
I wish you were alive. But I don’t wish you were suffering. I went to school after seeing Stacy and after that I went to a movie about love and time travel. You know how I love the movies. God, I just laughed and cried and cried and laughed. About Time. That’s what it was called. The idea was that the main character could basically go back in time to any moment he wanted to change or relive again. And it was also kind of a love story about him and his dad. I have to admit I didn’t think of you during it. I thought about Nanny and Calvo and how I’d like to see them again. But after, when I was lying in bed, I did try to think if there was a moment that I could go back to with us. Not a moment that would change things (I don’t believe there’s a moment like that) but a moment where we were really happy and I wasn’t scared. And I thought about that time that you told me you wanted to show me something secret and took me up the narrow stairs of the old house you were living in until we came to the attic. You turned and looked at me and got this sheepish kind of smile. And then we walked in and there was this painting you’d done of the sun rising over a mountain. Just like when the dog bounds out of my chest in the open field. It was that gorgeous and surprising and like nothing you ever painted. I remember we stood in front of it and you said, “Do you like it?” And I said yes. And you said, “It’s how I feel about you.” And then you said, “Don’t tell my mom.”
I would go back there again and again if I could. It makes every inch of my canyon heart hurt when I write it but I bet it would feel so great to see you there.
I have to go to work now. I love and you and hope you have a great day or are a great day wherever you are.