poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

March 22, 2012

Give!

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 2:04 PM

If you would like to make a charitable donation to the author of this site, Paypal Toscha33 at gmail dot com.

I will send Poemless swag to anyone who gives! Ok, I have a coffee mug and totebag. If more than two people give, I will send the rest a story. Or, if you want a story instead of a coffee mug, we can arrange that too. I am way beyond flexible at this point.

If you cannot give money, but have handy tips on how to survive on no money at all while I wait several more weeks for a month’s worth of short term disability (aka, a fraction of my already low wages) back pay, give those!

If, like me, you are broke AND don’t know how to live on no money at all, let’s get together and form an army! I think that’s actually legal in this country. Unlike most of my other options.

p.s. Before you say it: I already have a job. But thanks.

Traumautobiography

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 1:59 PM

I had a homework assignment to write this all down. Since I went to the effort, I thought I’d repost here.
Warning: contains triggers.

Here is the story/timeline of my life-trauma. Find a comfortable chair and grab a drink. I will try to be as concise as possible, though it is not one of my stronger points. It isn’t all trauma, because to write about my life like that would just be too depressing. For me and for you.

~ First, a brief family background including people and events I believe are relevant, which either precede my story or do not fit chronologically into it:

I was close to neither of my paternal grandparents, who divorced when my father was young. I could count on one hand the number of times I saw my paternal grandfather. After I began talking openly about my father last year, a distant relative from that side of my family wrote to inform me that my grandfather had sexually abused at least one cousin of mine. I did know and frequently saw my paternal grandmother, but we were not close, and I have nothing of note to mention about her. My father was drafted into Viet Nam, but he never spoke of it.

My maternal grandfather, Kenneth, was born in 1898 and died when my mother was 14 (1963 or 4.) While I never met him, he was frequently spoken of, like a household saint. My maternal grandmother, Ruby, was like a second mother to me and her house like our second (and safe) home. She never recovered from my grandfather’s death, changing nothing in her home like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. She was rather dark and eccentric and “went away for exhaustion” several times when my mother was young. She developed Alzheimer’s when I was a teenager. My mother, Rosemary, had a self-described nervous breakdown after my grandfather died, and was sent to live with family friends in New York for a while. She later ran off to Italy, fell in love, something tragic happened (I don’t know the details) and she came back and married my father. She was astonishingly charming and outgoing, but would also frequently lock herself in her room and cry a lot when I was a kid. She survived largely on Valium and vodka. She missed her father and this fellow in Italy and was being beaten and emotionally abused daily by my father, so not shocking.

~ I was born in 1974. I suppose that was traumatic.

~ I was hospitalized each winter for the first several years of my life, with bronchial pneumonia or similar illness. I remember a Christmas in the hospital, when I was given a wooden rocking horse. I remember the cage-like beds, so I must have been very little.

~ When I was 2 and ½ my brother was born. I remember that.

~ I can’t say I ever remember a time when my father was not a tyrant. He was frequently yelling at us over ridiculously minor things like missing a leaf while raking or for wanting to talk about our day at the dinner table, often physically violent, whipping us with belts, throwing things, hitting us and making threats. He was obsessed with us recognizing his authority is what it came down to. Every interaction was about reinforcing his authority. He was not like that in public, or course. To others it probably seemed we had the perfect small town nuclear family. Though I can’t imagine neighbors did not hear all that constant yelling. I don’t remember ever not being afraid of my father. I can neatly divide my childhood into 6am-6pm (happy, fun times with my mother and brother, as if we were living in some fantasy world) and 6pm-6am (when we walked on eggshells and lived in fear.) I think it is worth mentioning that my mother was not like an authority figure but a peer to my brother and me. I have heard that referred to as a form of neglect, but we loved it. She was our cool, older friend, and we were all in the same boat.

~ My first memory of – Jesus, this is difficult – my father sexually… I was 4 or 5. I had just begun going to school. My mother had left for the evening (she was very active in school and community organizations,) and my father asked me to do something I knew even then was very wrong. Afterwards he told me I was not allowed to tell my mother what “we” had done that evening. Ever.

[I space out a bit after writing that. I take a break. I pour a glass of wine. I smoke a cigarette. Out of the blue, Patrick begins messaging me, and we chat off and on all night. I’m thankful for his timing. I return to this.]

It was also when I was about 5 that I began having nightmares, terrors even, waking up screaming every night. I was eventually given sedatives. As a child.

So these events with my father went on for years. I cannot describe them. It is not that I don’t remember them; I remember them vividly. You know how hung up I get about language. I just can’t use the same language to describe the abuse that I would also use to describe the quite beautiful and enjoyable things I consensually do as an adult. I can’t use the same words to describe what my father did to me. I can’t do it. Often pornography was involved. He also did these things to someone else. Which is horrible, but I guess unlike a lot of people, I have someone who can confirm my story.

I was never willing, just terrified out of my wits. I did not seek out or even enjoy it, despite what the founding fathers of psychoanalysis might have you believe. I lived in fear of it. Of him.

~ I was taken out of regular classes and placed in a program for gifted children when I was 6. They never explained what the gift was, but it was nice to not be bored to death.

~ When I was about 8 or 9, my great grandfather (my maternal grandmother’s father) died. It was disturbing because we had gone to visit him in the nursing home one day, and he was asleep. So we left. We came home to a message from the nursing home informing us that he had died. I think we saw him dead.

~ When I was 9, I told my father that if he ever touched me again I would tell my mother and teacher and police. He never did. The physical abuse, the beatings and yelling and general home dictatorship continued. But I never told anyone about the sexual abuse, and he never touched me again.

It was also when I was 9 that I stopped believing in God, or stopped pretending or wanting to. I stopped telling my father I loved him, which resulted in a lot of punishment but I wasn’t going to say it. I began wanting to die. I would go to bed and try to will myself to not wake up again. I remember learning I could not hold my breath until I died or suffocate myself with a pillow.

~ When I was 10, my paternal aunt, Victoria, died from ovarian cancer. She had been very sick for years. She was quite young, 31 I think. My family often compared me to her (perfectionist, neurotic, shy, Virgo, would cry at the drop of the hat…) My mother was at her side when she died.

My mother then converted (back, I say) to Catholicism. I eventually quit public school and entered parochial school. I was much happier there. (I know, who says that?) I was given the choice and refused to be confirmed however. I’ve never even been baptized. wow

~ When I was 16 or 17, I became very depressed. Suicidal. I didn’t do anything, but I told my mother. I was taken out of school for a bit, sent to live with my grandmother and allowed to take my exams and finish the year. I should mention that whenever things got very bad at home, as in when we decided our lives were in danger, we went to stay with my grandmother. She’s gotten a bad rap in our family for her being difficult and a bit brooding, but she was really the best. No one in the family gives her any credit, and it pisses me off.

~ When I was 18 I left home and went to college, Northwestern. My sophomore year, I got very depressed – I could not tell you why. It was the first time I saw a mental health professional. I was given some Prozac and sent on my way. Everyone agreed the medicine turned me into a soulless zombie, and my parents happily let me stop taking it.

~ When I was 20, I accompanied my best friend, Angela, to Washington D.C. for a women’s rights march. On the mall was an installation of the Clothesline Project. I returned to Evanston very shaken up. I had never told a soul about my father and even believed that if I didn’t admit it, it could not affect me. But I had to tell someone. When I told Angela, she was not surprised at all and explained that she’d suspected as much.

That summer was insane. There was a heatwave in which hundreds died, including my roommate’s fish, which I had been … fishsitting. I met a lovely flamenco dancer and happily lost my virginity. Officially. Yes, that is how I really see it. I was drinking, doing a lot of mild hallucinogenic drugs (pot, ecstasy, mushrooms…) and taking Zoloft, which, with the heat, killed my appetite. Not a brilliant combination. One afternoon Angela came home to find me in a pile on the floor. She fed me soup, put me in bed and phoned my mother. My mother was demanding to know why I was acting out such. Everyone was totally freaking out. Angela kept shoving the phone at me, saying if I didn’t tell my mother she would. So I took the phone and told my mother about my father. She accused me of lying for attention.

Between that summer break and leaving for study abroad, I came home for a short bit. Maybe a week or two. I’d never left the country before, was moving to Russia, and this is when my mother decided to make me confront my father. She sat us down in the living room. “Tell him what you told me,” she demanded. I was mortified. But I did. He didn’t deny anything. He began crying and said he’d hoped I’d forgotten it all and asked me to forgive him, and my mother threw him and all his belongings out of the house. I left for Russia and stayed there while my family fell apart.

~ When I was 21 I lived in Russia and saw people die, almost die, knew people who were murdered, was detained by men with Kalashnikovs and generally had the time of my life.

~ When I came home, my mother was in the middle of an ugly divorce, I was in culture shock, my father had stopped paying my tuition and had begun to threaten and stalk us to the extent that we had to file a restraining order. We had no money so we all scraped by on odd jobs. I made a half-assed attempt to return to school, the Dean telling me to worry about the financial aid later. I got there and made a half-assed attempt to kill myself, really more of an attempt to kill the pain of the guilt of what I’d just brought upon my mother and brother. This resulted in my first hospitalization. It was just a few days; I checked myself in and out. My mother came to stay with me and then took me home.

These times were rough, but I have a lot of very happy memories, of just my mother, brother and I. Every day was like a dream somehow. The house had become a kind of commune, with everyone’s friends coming and going. 22 years of rules had given way to pretty much no rules. Rooms were painted in psychedelic colors (and my mother was selling the house!), we’d get up, make breakfast, and eat outside and dance around to the Grateful Dead. My mother had been a hippie before meeting my father. My brother and I were both college age. It was a scene.

~ When I was 24 I returned to Northwestern and graduated. I worked at a bookstore, where I met a boy, we moved in together and stayed that way for 8 years. We adopted a cat. My mother remarried. My brother moved to San Francisco to go to art school. Everything was on the up and up.

~ When I was 25, my mother died.

That spring she’d had planned to visit us but cancelled because she was sick. This was the second time, and I was angry. In June she went into the hospital for a “routine hysterectomy” (I feel like a Soviet refugee: what didn’t she lie to me about?) But her random calls to say “just know I will always love you” made it clear something was not right. The day of her surgery, the phone rang. And I knew. Because the phone rang exactly the way it had rung the evening my aunt Victoria had died. The Ring of Death. She had cancer and it had spread everywhere. Even with rigorous treatment, they gave her 2 months. She took 3.

I made many visits home that summer, but my mother forbid me to stay. She said she did not want me to see her, to remember her like that, sick, like she remembered her father. At 4am on September 7, 2000, I received a phone call from my stepfather. “We are at the hospital. She isn’t going to make it. You need to say goodbye now.” He put the phone to her ear, and I screamed, “Listen! This is your daughter and I am on the next plane to St. Louis and you WILL be alive when I arrive. I will be there by 8, and you will be alive, do you understand? Do you promise?” I wouldn’t hang up until she promised. She kept it. She died shortly after noon, me by her side. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed – all that pain completely evaporating from her face, her body. It was also the worst thing that has ever happened to me. By far.

~ A few years after my mother died, my grandmother Ruby (her mother) died. She was in her nineties, so it was expected. She had really been gone for some years, with Alzheimers. So in some ways it was more of a relief than anything.

A few years after my mother died, I had surgery to remove ovarian tumors. They were benign, but it did give me quite a scare.

At some point a few years after my mother died, I decided I would never be happy and decided to kill myself. But I didn’t. Our little feral cat got on my lap and refused to move. I was in a sorry state, and had large supply of sleeping pills and large bottle of vodka. Unfortunately, my significant other came home, saw all of this and called 911. I ended up in the hospital. This was my second and last hospitalization.

~ When I was 32 we split up. We’d lived a “normal” life. I got a job at the University of Chicago and got involved in politics. He became a teacher. We took vacations on Cape Cod and only cooked organic. Neither of us wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, I don’t think. I was too stressful with my drama, and he was too… We gradually stopped doing things together and grew apart. I was devastated when it ended (specifically when I discovered that he was seeing another woman) but not depressed. After we broke up, for years I was happier than I had ever been.

~ When I was 36, I (my god, it’s getting old even for me, no wonder my family hates me…) became terribly depressed. Everyone assumes because I was alone, lonely. But that is not true. Health issues, money issues, family issues… I took a great deal of time off to deal with my crap at an outpatient program and left in a much better place.

~ When I was 37, my cousin Shawn, my mother’s brother’s son, who was my age, shot himself. That was one month ago.

So there you are. The Cliff’s Notes in 6 pages but it feels like only the tip of the iceberg. This rather makes it sound like my life has been nothing but a list of tragedies and episodes of fierce depression. I would not say that. Perhaps it does seem this way to others.

From writing this, it is not clear to me how much, if at all, my wanting to kill myself is related to my father. Maybe it would be a relief if it weren’t, and then I would not have to speak of him. On the other hand, reading about child abuse, I think they may be related, or tangled all up, all part of the ecosystem…

I hope I didn’t ramble too much. I feel the urge to ask you if you have a plan to go do something nice for yourself now, after having read this. Go do something lovely for yourself now.

And thanks for reading.

March 16, 2012

Fragments, or, An exercise in unbridled narcissism.

Filed under: Uncategorized — poemless @ 4:19 PM

A Day At The Museum

With shuffling stomping out-of-shape masses who have a plan and a map and anxiety at the realization or just fear of the group metastasising, of losing their 6 year old daughter to the imaginary pervert probably lurking behind the Seurat probably scheming to take their 6 year old daughter to buy her ice cream (guilt that they haven’t) and play with her forever (guilt that they can’t.) With pretty forever-teenage Asian girls in skinny jeans posing on staircases giggling as if possessed by teletubbies. With a student painting a painting of a painting which is a fascinating process to watch, sure, but is it art? With Miro’s Circus Horse and Lefebvre’s Odalisque and whole rooms of Monets in nursery pastels that wash over my troubled soul like heroin or evening lilacs. With myself swearing an oath that I will never again visit the art museum with an artist and will never again feel bad about loving what I love because another ego demands it. With the desire to skip and twirl through the Modern Wing flooded with irrational winter sunlight and summer warmth to say aloud, “This is ours! This is all ours, don’t you see?” With two college kids pleading bewilderedly obliviously with an entry guard who has informed them they may not bring the pizza they’ve just ordered into the museum.

Idea

A personal General Strike.

A Kafkaesque Bureaucracy of Concern

You have to stay safe. You have to get better. You have to do the work to get better. You have to go to work. You can’t go to work. You can’t afford not to work. You can’t afford to worry about that now. Why aren’t you worried what will happen? I am so worried about you. You have us all worried. You worry too much, You have to find something that makes you happy. No one can make you happy. Happiness is choice. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are responsible for your own welfare. You are responsible for your own life. If I think you’ll hurt yourself it is my responsibility to have you hospitalized. These are your options. You have options. You don’t have a choice. You can’t do that. There is no such thing as can’t. You have to make your own decisions. No one can do this for you. Why do you think you have to do this on your own? Why are you so afraid to ask for help? Why are you doing this to us? Why do you think you are special? Do you think the rest of us don’t suffer? Everyone gets depressed but we get up and go to work because we don’t have a choice. You’ve made a choice to be depressed. You are not depressed, you are [lazy, self-pitying, irresponsible, weak, stubborn, self-involved, a wreck, generally pissing me off please stop calling.] Why do you want to die? Why can’t you see what I see in you? You are young and intelligent and attractive, warm and engaging, funny. You are brave and courageous. I admire your determination and willingness to face your problems. I admire your ability to take risks and be resilient. I admire your honesty and candor. Your writing is so beautiful it makes me cry. You better not be lying to me. Lying in bed and crying wont fix anything. You’ve lost a lot; it’s normal to cry. It’s normal to feel this way. It’s a normal reaction to trauma. It’s a normal reaction to loss. It’s a normal reaction to having to live in this world am I right? But you probably do have a chemical imbalance. You probably have a personality disorder. You probably just think too much. You probably just need a vacation. You’ve made a lot of progress. Give yourself some credit. Let me know if there is anything I can do. I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do for you.

Broadway Bus Exchange

Lady: Sweetheart, while you textin on you phone can you send Jesus a texmessage fo me?
Me: Ok. What should I tell him?
Lady: Tell him, “Jesus, I love you!” And I love you too sweetheart.
Me: I love you to. I don’t think I have Jesus’ number. Do you know it?
Lady: Haha! Yeah, send the text to JESUSINEEDYOU!
Me: If only it were that easy.
Her expression changed from urban goofball to urban voodoo woman. She raised an eyebrow and pointed a long fingernail at me. “Oooh. Oooh, you.” She shook her head in a knowing way. She got off the bus but kept looking back at me like I was a phantom.

Ghost Neighborhood

I have (this is true now – I am not telling you a story) dreams in which I return to places I have only ever been in other dreams. Most recently it is a large grassy square, like a park almost, situated in the middle of a spooky old neighborhood. In the middle of the park thing is a large stone fountain, defunct, or a monument of some sort you can climb atop or hide behind. It is always dusk or night or about to storm, always cast in an eerie glow of deep blues and patina and wispy fog. It’s a type of place where ghost children gather to play mean games. Surrounding it on all four sides are avenues lined with Victorian homes and canopies of trees. Even though it is always dark and damp in this grassy square, if I walk down any street a block or further away, there is a late summer sun and golden leaves line the curbs and crunch under my foot. Every time I venture into the neighborhood I get lost. Every time. Eventually someone comes looking for me and takes me back. Every time I tell the mean ghost children in the park (they are like mean hipster ghost children, haughty and cliquish) I don’t want to join their games, they become cruel and taunt me. In my dream this is located on the West Side of Chicago. But it is also very similar the the neighborhood in the town I was born in and where some of my family still live.

Email

“Thank you for your inquiry. If you come in for groceries, we will give you groceries. If you come in we will give them to you.”

Attachment Disorder

Please check the one that best describes you:

A. I am able to form close meaningful bonds with one or more of the following: Parents, Lovers, Pets, Therapists.
B. I am able to form close meaningful bonds with one or more of the following: Celebrities, fictional characters, people I have only interacted with in online forums, myself.
C. I am able to form close meaningful bonds with No one.

If you answered C., congratulations! You have done the hard work to assimilate and adopt the values of your environment. Take that bonus and treat yourself to an island vacation (psst. the post-colonial, vaguely despotic ones have to-die-for beaches.)

If you answered B., know that these are not unusual feelings to have given the pervasive role media and social networking plays in our society. It is completely acceptable to care about the welfare of people on reality TV. Do not let anyone make you feel ashamed of this.

If you answered A., you may be suffering from an attachment to the person who brought you into the world, the person with whom you routinely exchange bodily fluids, small animals who have evolved to love you in exchange for food, or a person to whom you have told your most intimate thoughts and feelings. This is highly risky behavior and will probably result in an unhealthy self-image. Seek help immediately. But perhaps not from a therapist, you know, given your issues. In fact if you did that, it would be a clear illustration of the “rescue-seeking behavior” your kind are notorious for. Don’t get help. Should probably just off yourself. But tell someone if you are thinking about that so they can save you and blame you for being attention-seeking later. Good luck! You can do this!

ATTN!: I am not a licensed professional and you should not be taking advice from me. If you think you have a disorder get professional help if you want but you’re probably really ok but please don’t take my word for it but also don’t stress out about it either.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to make a charitable donation to the author, it is always welcome!

Close.

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 4:06 PM

A Suicide.

I think some people are born wanting to die. Or perhaps it is that they never quite shake off the initial sensations of terror, confusion and resistance they experience upon entrance into the world. We all show up at this party covered in blood and tears, screaming and writhing like banshees. Explanations are myriad, subjective and highly debatable, but whatever process is meant to transform that terrified, confused and resistant creature into a confident, sage and resigned human being is not always successful. Some people show up to their last party covered in blood and tears, confused and terrified, and commit the final and most explicit act of resistance.

One day in February, or maybe it was January, it wasn’t March… It’s a bit of a blur now… I sat at my desk at work, and as I’m inclined to do when on break, or more likely when the program I am using crashes a 3rd time, or most likely when I am bored numb, I opened Facebook. Sometimes I justify this by sharing humorous or intriguing literary gems in a series called “Today in Rare Books” or by concern that there’s been a natural disaster or outbreak of war while I’ve been holed up in cold room filled with old books and no humans and so who would even tell me if the world was ending?

My cousin updated her status: RIP Uncle Shawn.

People are sooo melodramatic on Facebook. What had he done to piss her off this time? Still sick, even for a joke. Because no one had called me to inform me that one of my closest living relatives was dead. Which admittedly says more about how many living relatives I have than how close I had been to Shawn. Still, someone would call, right? I mean… I stood up and calmly gathered my phone and coat and calmly like nothing was wrong because nothing was wrong and I just worry too much – everyone says I worry too much, I really need to stop worrying like this – exited my workplace, a Socialist Realist concrete monstrosity with a supernatural ability to deter human empathy and cell phone signals. I paced about outside the library for a bit and took out my phone. No new messages. My brother speaks with Shawn frequently. If Shawn were dead, my brother would know. And if he knew, he would have told me, and he hadn’t, which meant Shawn was not dead. I called my brother anyway, always assuming the worst, always the pessimist. I never call my brother in the middle of the day. I also never ask him about Shawn. I asked him about Shawn, and of course he’d heard nothing. “Check out Syd’s Facebook. I’ll call you back.” Such a drama queen, such a gossip monger, I should just get back to work. I called Shawn’s sister/next door neighbor. “I am so sorry to bother you and be all paranoid and uhm yeah but i just saw this crazy thing Syd put on facebook and…”

“He shot himself today,” her teenage daughter whispered.

I sank lower to the ground as she told me everything, knees buckling, the spiderweb of sidewalks before me rising to my line of sight. I called my brother, who had called Shawn in the meantime and wound up on the receiving end of a voicemail greeting informing any caller that he would be dead by the time they heard it. I sat, now bottom on the ground, legs extended before me, head resting against the jagged concrete exterior of the library. Chain smoking. Crying. Watching time grind to a halt: clouds stopped midway through their march across a bleak winter sky, fragile twigs on new trees stood still as a troubled wind blew past, students, seconds earlier scurrying in missions to dorms and classrooms, now small lego-figures plotted strategically about the quad.

By sheer coincidence I was scheduled to see my psychiatrist for the first time in six months that very evening. “I’m a bit shaken up of course, but otherwise fine.”

We were not close.

It’s the first thing everyone asks. He was my cousin. Not a parent or grandparent or sibling or child. I don’t have parents or grandparents or children. I have a step-family, which is lovely but hardly the same. My cousins lived far away, but usually came to visit each summer when we were kids. Sometimes my family would visit theirs. The last time I saw Shawn was many years ago when some of us decided to take a crazy road trip to visit my family in Southern Missouri. It was baking hot even at night, we got a flat halfway out of town, billboards for JESUS and XXXGIRLS lined the interstate and neither espresso nor hard liquor could be obtained if one’s life depended on it. And 5 hours into that drive it did. The whole scene was like a David Lynch movie but for real and Shawn was well cast. In a heat index that had me limp in a linen skirt and tank top, he cavorted around in a full length, heavily padded trench coat and cowboy hat, looking like a 19th century bounty hunter. My family lived on Truman Avenue, across the street from the President’s birthplace. We went and looked at the little house-museum for cultural enrichment, him dressed up like that. He rode a bike there. From his house. A few feet away. The bike had been stolen, borrowed, he’d explain, from a 7 year old. He provided the entertainment for much of our stay, the kind of person whose every thought or word was the kind of joke that had you in tears with laughter except half the time you knew they weren’t the kind of the thoughts and words you should be laughing at. He was prone to violence and drinking binges and shooting squirrels in the town park. It’s not entirely shocking he shot himself. He was shooting my aunt’s humming birds last time I saw him.

No. We were not close.

I cried hysterically for a few days, in shock, trying to process it all, how someone could blow their brains out, how my aunt and uncle would survive, how much more tragedy my family could endure, what kind of horrible, desperate place Shawn must have been in that day. I went to work, I saw my therapist, I spent time with friends, I went about my daily routine. We were not close. I had a life to live, obligations and responsibilities. We were not close. Life goes on.

I unravelled anyway.

I would leave the house knowing I had an errand to run, something to accomplish, not knowing what it was, assuming it would eventually come to me, and so I would just keep walking until it did. After a while of walking I would think, this is quite ridiculous you know, you can’t just keep walking forever. Go home and figure out what the hell you left for. I would pass street after street onto which I could turn to make my way home but be unable able to make the decision to turn. I always got home though.

I would get up for work and the mindless routine I’ve had for a decade was no longer routine. Each step demanded a process: of having what felt like a cardiac arrest upon waking, of asking myself, “what do I do first?,” of deciding (coffee? no, shower. no, definitely coffee. no, feed the cat. which one? shit,) of propelling myself from point A to point B to accomplish whichever task I’d finally settled upon, of sometimes taking an hour to do something normally completed in 15 minutes. Soon it would be 11, noon, and I’d have missed half the day of work and the fear and guilt of missing work paralyzed me completely. And I’d collapse exhausted. And begin the process again. Daily goals devolved into inane survival and socialization tactics. Eat a meal today. Talk to another human being today. Leave the house today. It was not that I did not want to do these things. It was not that I lacked the energy. It was not that I felt basic life responsibilities unimportant. It was not a judgement call. More than anything it was not giving up. Because, you see, Shawn had taken that option away from me. Or so I told myself to abstain from exercising it. Which seemed to work.

Bi-monthly sessions with the therapist became bi-weekly sessions and bi-weekly sessions became interspersed with phone calls and those became daily visits to an outpatient program and repeated suggestions of a hospitalization. All of which sucked more than imaginable which is saying a lot since I’d happily run away with my therapist if he asked but he won’t.

No, I insisted. I can handle this. I know how to handle this. I was in shock. That’s all. Just … shock. No, not that Shawn is dead. After those hummingbirds? Existential shock. Shock that I am not. Not dead. And probably won’t be for a while.

Because I can hardly do that to my family now can I? Now I hate myself for having spent the past 37 years imagining that I could do that to my family, without repercussions. Still I think, wouldn’t they all be better off without me? I’m a handful. I cause them so much grief… Who in my position, unable to even go to work and function like a normal human being would not want to off themselves? And in so much pain … cumulative trauma like repeated emotional concussions having left me an idiot half the time. Oh, they’d get over it. They’d give themselves the same cock and bull “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” pep talk they give me and get over it. And oh, and how romantic it would be. Like in a novel, to be young and beautiful and tragic. With the one very notable exception that the actions of characters in novels do not have consequences for generations of real life human beings. Which is something that, to my embarrassment, I’d only now begun to contemplate.

I am mourning, grieving, but not simply for my cousin. In a world of chaos and suffering and injustice, the one thing I always had control over was if I lived or died. That option had always been my best friend, there by my side, on my side, when everyone else dropped the ball. Reliable. Available. Dependable. Immutable. When he pulled the trigger that morning, I lost two things. A cousin and a life-long companion.

Yes. We were close.

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