Goodbyes

I’m watching you,

Here in my arms

Your breath, faint,

On my skin.

Your skin,

Thin and tender,

Cooler still,

Despite attempts

To keep you warm.

You look at me,

Between this world and the next,

Your soul

Lingering in the air

Above the home

That is now your body,

It fights to stay

But knows

It must leave.

My gentle friend,

I’ll keep you close

Warm you still

Until the breath

That becomes your last.

Advertisements

The God of Now (Continued)

I’ve been in other armies before.

Very few prepared me for the choice my captain,

my commander,

was going to make.

At times, my commander was stolen like a thief in the night,

while others still,

the harakiri was too much to share.

And still,

loyal to the end,

I join another army.

I swear my allegiance to the next one,

hoping, this time,

I can have a place at my commander’s hearth.

At least for a time.

The trouble in that life,

the life of a warrior,

is that it’s lonely.

At times, it’s quiet–

wandering through a world

with no one by whom to kneel.

Alone with thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires.

And then someone worthy comes along.

A cause.

A friend.

A family.

A lover.

On my knees I fall,

preparing my oath.

This is where I feel most fulfilled.

When will I take my last oath?

We prepare, in life, to be productive:

physically, emotionally, mentally.

To get the promotion.

To run the race.

To make the spectacle.

Then, while we’re trudging along,

something stops us.

I remember that day, in 2015.

I had just had a birthday.

I had just started a new project at work.

I had just hired new staff.

I had just started an affair.

We slept in hotel rooms around town

Had dates at the best restaurants,

Had plans to holiday.

He was leaving his wife.

I was promoted at work.

I had just placed in a century,

and was planning a tour.

Then, something felt “off”.

At first, it was an itch.

I’d noticed dryness that didn’t improve,

with lotion,

hydro-cortisone,

or even steroids.

Then, I was incontinent.

I felt a warm stream run down

my beautiful nylons

while presenting to executives.

I attempted to ignore it, at first,

but it recurred.

I stopped drinking coffee,

then alcohol,

and still,

recurrence.

It’s as though my body just forgot.

I scheduled a lunch break appointment

to take a look at my chronic “eczema”

(self-diagnosed, of course!)

or, at worst,

to test for infection.

That must be it!

I have too much to do!

I’m feeling fine.

I’m too healthy.

I’m too young.

I thought I had time.

But it was a tumor.

A flat, chapped, solid tumor,

full of cancer.

What was visible was the tip of the iceberg.

3 weeks later,

I received a phone call

while pretending

that the tumor

had potential

to be nothing.

The truth is,

I avoided my next appointment,

and promptly paid the $20 no-show fee.

If I didn’t show up,

I couldn’t have cancer!

Not again.

Never again.

But the call came,

and I answered.

Recurrence.

My body betraying me

once again.

And, the worst of it was,

I was going to have to swear an oath of loyalty-

To Myself.

It was against my very nature.

I remember my first thought

written down after that call.

“Yesterday, I was healthy.

Yesterday, I was a cancer survivor.”

For over a year,

those were the only words

written on that page.

There was nothing else to say.

I had thought that you’d know,

Know when you had cancer.

I thought I would feel it.

“Wait. But yesterday,

I WAS FINE.”

In fact,

I was better than fine.

And things like this are,

unfortunately,

not just another speed bump.

I saw her for her birthday.

We went to her favorite cafe

and we celebrated both our birthdays.

Her 65th, my 32nd.

I’m less than half who she is.

I was 5 minutes late, as always.

We couldn’t extend our date,

Work called.

I was distracted,

not fully present for her.

She was terrified of her upcoming scan.

I didn’t listen.

I thought she’d be fine.

I thought we were fine.

My blather was useless,

and my ears had shut off.

She was trying to tell me.

She was trying to ask me for help.

She wanted to connect.

And I rejected her.

And now,

with her news of “unplugging,”

I am scrambling to make up lost time.

To suck up all her essence

before it’s gone.

Falling at her feet.

Pledging my oath.

Loving her deeply,

Drinking her in.

My emotions vacillate.

I am angry.

At this,

with myself,

with Death.

I am terrified to lose

what I know it can be.

Not just because I’ve lost so many,

but because it’s her,

Specifically.

She has been a joy.

A light in my life,

a soul sister.

She has given me the room to grow,

to play like a child,

To love with abandon,

regardless of time.

Of outcome.

To love her.

I’m guilty for not being there

for someone so giving.

Bandwidth issues.

Capacity issues.

For not understanding.

For not being understanding.

Enough.

At all.

In small moments,

I’m terrified

about our camaraderie.

The connection we share.

I can relate to her,

to this.

This is the time when I can give back-

body, mind, and spirit.

Connect, give, love,

accept acceptance,

shine light.

Taking the time we have.

Committing to the process

and not quite the outcome.

The end takes us all.

All we can say is

“Not Today.”

Morning, Mourning

February is tough. When everyone is celebrating love and infatuation, love is not what’s in my mind.

March is rough. When people are dancing around, claiming bonuses, when Spring springs, I feel the withering inside.

January, February, March. Q1 of every year, I’m reminded why I work in death. Why death hits home. His birthday was January, but he died in March. Her birthday was February, but she died in September. Her birthday was October but she died in March. His birthday was February and he died in February. Birth, death, love. Tragic loss. Zig-zagging through my first quarter of the year, breaking my heart open again.

But morning seems to always come.

Mourning seems to start the morning after… When the haze burns off and you’re left with truth.

I’m still mourning.

This week, this week this year, has been incredibly difficult. The son of my dear friend, who took her life 7 years ago now, turned 10 last month. He’s beautiful and smart and gentle and kind. And she’s missing out. I’m staying in the home of friends equidistant between where she jumped off a bridge and where her son sleeps. I’m drinking in that bridge, and that boy. He’s stronger than I. More compassionate.

Tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of the death of my best friend K-Rock, who overdosed in a Bronx apartment. The last time I got to feel his arms around me, where we had our last long talk in person, was a mile from where I’m sleeping this week. I am literally at the center of my pain.

Two nights ago, I spent the evening with the man who nursed me through that pain, who drank some of this heartbreak for me. And who still loves my broken heart. We were out catching up after years with no contact, celebrating the anniversary of a project we’d completed long ago.

A project that is the perfect metaphor for our amazing love affair: “Madness: A fast-paced game with no turns.” Its market differentiation was that it had stops built into the game.

Bittersweet. Celebrating the end of the Madness.

But really, we were getting closure. A different kind of death–the end of a love we’d shared, the end of the hope I had for reconciliation, the death of the memory. Painful, but necessary, in this season of tragedy. And I got to do what I wish I could have done with those I lost to abrupt death: the four things that matter most: “i love you”, “Please forgive me”, “i forgive you”, “thank you”. Just as he always knows to do, he gave me everything I needed. intuitively.

In July of 2013, he gave me something even more special. He took the time and energy to help me find just the right succulent to plant at the grave of my K-Rock. He took a shaking, crying girl through a graveyard for over an hour, searching for her best friend. When I was ready to give up without finding him, the man by my side forced me to keep going. He calmed my nerves, eased my pain, and told me it was worth it. It was 120 degrees outside, the sun beating down, and he was miserable, but he gave me what I needed. Intuitively. And we sat there, shoes off, talking to K-Rock until I could say everything I needed to say. Until I could introduce them properly. Until I could seek closure and find it. That day could quite possibly be my definition of bliss. I felt complete, unconditional love amidst the chaos. I learned what it means to hold space. And to be held.

Above anything, without fail, he was my friend. He was my shoulder while mourning all my other friends.

And yet. Last night, I walked out with closure. It is the morning after mourning. And I’m grateful for the shoulder, but I need it no longer. In the end, that death of the relationship, the hope of one, rather, was necessary for the dawn to break. And break it has.

What trauma therapy has taught me is that sometimes, we must re-enter a place in the past to feel all the feelings the place must teach us. So I am here, in the center of my pain, watching the sunrise come up after mourning. The loss never seems to lessen, but I can tell the pain will subside.

Good, bad, happy, sad, with or without shoes. Feel it all.

Preferably with a friend.

Graveside

19 years ago today, I watched dirt pile over my best friend’s casket. I watched as what was left of her was lowered into the ground, inch by inch, the physical space between us mounting. I loved her, I did. 

Since that time, I’ve visited her grave often. I talk to her. I smile at her. I cry with her. I’ve moved away and still I sit with her when I’m home. Sometimes, people ask me if I still have friends or family in my hometown, and I want to say that’s she’s there. I want to raise her from the dead, keep her going. 

Last year, for the first time, I heard her whispering to me. I felt her presence. I experienced the games she still played on me. Now, you may not believe any of these experiences, you may think that dead is dead, but I know it in my core. I know she’s always around, wreaking havoc. Kokopelli girl. 

Today, as I was sitting in the sun at her grave, and I saw 2 blue dragonflies fly around us, finally landing on her headstone. Dragonflies are the sign of my spirit animal, my patronus. They mean I’m on the right track, where I need to be. That I’m doing the right thing. I had my angel sitting on the headstone at the same time, and I felt watched, guarded, protected, loved. I looked at her headstone and said, “i release you.” And she was no longer lingering, but the love and protection were still there. Peaceful girl. 

And always, I carry her heart. I carry it in my heart.

My Lex Luther

There was a time when hearing your name

Chilled my blood and raised my anxiety. 

I’d look around, watching for you,

Nervously hoping to avert your gaze,

Or worse,

Your criticism.

Bully. You terrified me. 

Somewhere between high school and graduate school,

Between apologies and catching up,

Serious illnesses, breakups, and career milestones,

We became friends. 

Worlds apart but closer than many of my colleagues. 

At first, I was skeptical of your remorse,

Wondering if it could possibly be real.

I’d built you up as my vindictive, diabolical arch-nemesis. 

My Lex Luther. 

Somewhere between there and here,

From high school to reality,

You’ve become a cherished ally,

Prince Charming when I was at my lowest,

Treating me to the ultimate luxury,

My body riddled with cancer and chemo,

Distracting me from the fear of death,

Of truly missing out.

The Southern California sun kissing my pale skin,

Carbonation from my first taste of champagne dancing on my tongue,

Sand between my toes, 

your fingers interlaced with mine,

And you, worshipping at my temple,

Delight and care and kindness washing over me, making me whole. 

You restored my confidence.

You showered me with celebration for my recovery and health. 

You glued back the pieces you broke within me so long ago.

And then, like clockwork, you were back to business.

From your cruelty to your kindness,

Our hatred to mutual admiration,

The United States to the Arab World,

You’ve made me feel and made me strong.

Happy Birthday. Every day. 

Upstairs

Over the weekend I walked by that place where you first opened up about your dad, where I got to know your girlfriend’s past, where we talked about pasta and laughed about movies. When we talked in This Is Spinal Tap quotes. It was 5 blocks from the Thai place where you taught us your signature move, craning your neck awkwardly to get a server’s attention. Where we celebrated you selling your first Hummer and plotted our revenge against them. The apartment above the Chinese place, next to the gay bar. Right on the main drag in my favorite part of town. Half a mile from our apartment. Close to where you could buy Saucony and cannoli. And we did.

I remembered the night you fell apart, when we couldn’t find you, when we were so worried. The night we had to carry you up those stairs and bathe you when we got there. The night we all fell apart, before we knew we had. I remembering noticing your extensive porn collection. I’d never seen anyone own porn. I remember giggling about it with your girlfriend, while we ate cold spaghetti. 

I remember the night we took a cab from our house to yours, loading up percussion as we went, drums first then bass, heading to a show in the east. How we unloaded the percussion while parked on a hill. How the bass amplifier head smashed my big toe into smithereens. How you cared for me that night. How you gave me booze and cigarettes. How you apologized every day afterwards. Including my wedding day. Including the week before you were gone forever. 

I remember smelling Chinese food coming from the floorboards the night you relapsed. As I sat with your girlfriend, bawling, worried not only about your sobriety but her own. I was mesmerized by the both of you, coming up from such depths, pushing one another to be better. Silly and tender. And we sat there, watching all of it melt away, in silence, smelling Chinese food. Oh, to turn back time to that moment. The silence. The despair. The hope for the future, it was still there. 

I remember swinging by that sign, with our hazards on, hugging, saying farewell before our long drive north. That was the last time under that sign. The last time we’d smell Chinese. Before it all changed. 

I’m not sure how I got so close to you so fast. How I felt so connected to you. I’m not sure why you tried at all with me, even after the divorce. We no longer had ties; I expected you to choose him over me. But you never forgot our friendship in the living room above the Chinese restaurant. You always remembered my birthday. You always reminded me you were there. 

Are you still?