Happy Glorious Earth Day
(And yes, I’m writing this with full knowledge that I’ll do absolutely nothing else but acknowledge it in order to look a little more ”in tune with Mother Nature”)
Anyway, took me a couple days to spit this post out.
Had a rough time- (Ask my roommates, they tiptoed around me last night as I guzzled Diet Pepsi and cursed on the couch)
The problem is that it’s a hard subject.
I’ve written about it before- but there’s something paralyzingly painstaking-
about trying to walk the line between self-pity and grief.
I wrote it because I want to relate- not because I want the pity of having lost.
We will all lose in our lives- we will all lose in a way that affects us differently than the next.
But, I felt like this has been a major part of my recovery-
Dealing with the things we find uncomfortable- no matter how many years down the road.
And if you know me- you know Bradley.
My beautiful best friend-
And tonight- this post is for you.
It’s Day 2 and you’re sitting in a Doctor’s office– having forgotten which Doc this is.
“So,” the woman says, shifting through your file. “You had a best friend die, right?”
No, you think. I made it up for shits and giggles.
Yeah, you say. When I was 18.
She looks up at you from the folder, her glasses pushed too far down her nose.
You have been asked this question eight times.
You’re over it.
Yes, he died– you think– Kaboom. Bam. Dead. Gone. Till Eternity and Beyond.
Was it an accident- or?
Accident, you say. He fell out of a tree.
She gives you the reaction– That’s awful.
Yeah, it was hard.
Had he been drinking?
You’re lying– and you know you’re lying.
But after 6 years, you’re tired of people asking that.
He was playing football and the ball got stuck up in a tree.
He went up to get the ball or whatever– you pause– and when he came back down the branch snapped.
Terrible, she says.
You don’t know whether to agree or shrug it off.
You never know whether to agree or shrug it off.
So you just say “It was.”
She flips a bit more through your papers.
Do you feel like that’s when your eating disorder grew?
You don’t know. I mean, I’m sure it’s one of the reasons, you say. I started going to the gym more- threw up more.
Saying this out loud makes you cringe.
But she says nothing- just writes in her notes.
You imagine what she’s writing-
“Threw up.” “Best friend dead” “18 years old” “Gym”
You look around the room- it’s small.
And you’re on the only lounger that could possibly be squeezed in here beside the desk and her Office Max swivel chair.
So what would you do then?
You shrug. I don’t really remember. I lost weight- sat on the elliptical, read on the treadmill, you pause. Started binging cereal.
Right, she says, as though she hears this all the time.
And then you realize she does–
So give me a rough history after that.
And you do.
Like you’re pulling a knife out of your throat.
And when was the last time you purged? she asks finally, writing it down.
You pause– wanting to lie.
3 nights ago.
My boss’ apartment.
Boss’ apartment, she repeats, writing it down. What were you doing there?
She nods, “Okay.”
Your secrets hanging in the air.
Well Lindsey, she says finally. We have different programs available depending on patient’s history.
Would you be open to trying the Trauma Track?
You think about Bradley.
No, you say. It’s been 6 years. I don’t need the trauma track.
You’re lying– wondering if she’ll catch it.
Disappointed when she doesn’t.
And now– it’s 2 ½ weeks later and you’re sitting on your therapists couch the day after New Years.
So you called them? She asks.
Earlier, you say.
How was it?
Fine, normal. Good to hear their voices.
You’re close to his family?
We haven’t really talked about your friend, she says. He died when you were young, right?
You nod. First month of college.
Can you tell me about him?
You look at her. What about him?
Wherever you want.
I don’t know, you pause. He died on a night I watched Moulin Rouge in my dorm room.
Why do you think you remember that?
You shrug. Grief makes you remember weird things.
I’m going to ask you to explain that.
You hate when she says that.
I don’t really know how, you say. I just remember random things– I remember I had 76 phone calls and my roommate was blow-drying her hair.
Is any of that significant?
You shake your head. No. It was normal– that’s what I remember. Everything was normal and then it wasn’t.
She nods. And what was it like after?
In what way?
What changed? she asks.
You’re getting annoyed but don’t know why.
Everything changed, you say, flatly. But it had to.
Do you think your eating disorder got worse?
It was getting worse before, you say. It just made it easier to blame on him later.
Alright, she says. So I’ll ask again– do you feel like your eating disorder worsened after he died?
Obviously, you say defensively. But it was my choice.
Of course it was, she agrees. Do you think about why?
No–I just didn’t know what else to do.
What did you get from it? Can you remember?
Peace, you say– And then you feel selfish and try to explain– It was like we got a deadline to grieve–
We got this gifted amount of time and then we were just supposed to be over it–Move on. Forget about it– you pause. I never forgot.
Okay, she says. So let’s talk about what that meant for your eating.
I don’t want to talk about my eating, you say. I’m so tired of talking about it I could scream. That’s all we do here– talk about food. I’m fucking sick of food.
She looks at you.
I’m sorry, you immediately apologize.
Are you angry with me? She asks.
I feel like you’re angry.
You didn’t do anything– you say.
I asked about your friend.
I want you to ask about my friend– I want someone to ask about my friend.
Are you mad that I didn’t ask before?
No–I didn’t ask you to.
Maybe you thought I was supposed to.
You sigh– I don’t know.
Think about that tonight– she says. Think about how you communicate what you want from people.
You walk out of her room now– meet your friends in the hall.
You go to dinner with them– stare at your Baked Potato and the Grilled Chicken.
The tablespoon of Sour Cream–
You look over and notice how Kenzie takes her cheese and flicks it around the table.
Watch her scrape her butter under her fingernails.
Lilly’s listening to her headphones again– her rap music blaring.
And you’re annoyed.
Annoyed by what– you don’t know.
But you’re so damn annoyed.
A girl at the table over slams her plate on the ground because she got curdled milk.
A scene ensues– and you’re tired of this, you think.
Just eat your food and shut up– you’re screaming.
Eat your food– you think– watching Kenzie smear butter under the table.
So you do.
Because no one else will.
You eat yours.
And you eat it fast.
Shove it down your throat.
So you can hardly swallow.
So you can’t think.
Jesus, Lilly says– her eyes on your plate.
You ignore her–
Jacy staring at you with those glasses too big for her face.
You don’t know why you do it– but you do.
You eat it– and you don’t care if anyone else does.
You’re so tired of everyone else.
And you want to eat everything.
To eat everything on everyone’s plate.
Eat everything for everyone.
It’s 6:50– you say when you’re done.
You point to the clock. Can I go?
The counselor comes by to check your food.
Lift your plate, she says.
Your napkin? She asks
You open it with your hands.
Okay– she says, looking for your tag. You on escorts?
You can go.
So you go.
You walk out and down the hall.
You throw your hoodie up–
You’re so mad–
But you don’t know why
You don’t know why everyone can’t just eat
Just EAT, you think
Eat your food.
You wander outside–
Your spiral under your arm.
I miss you, you scratch into it_
With the pen you stole from the community room.
I’m sitting here, and I miss you.
You keep writing.
You don’t look at what you’re doing.
You just write it.
His name, you scribble–
My best friend, you scratch–
I’m still so mad at you.
And you etch it into your spiral again and again–
I’m mad that you’re dead.
And you know tonight–
that you’re thinking about it now like you thought about it then.
That you’ve been thinking about it–
Like you thought about it every day of every hour till you were so tired of it that you shelved him.
I’m bored with you, you screamed one night.
I grieved you all out best friend.
And now you just have to be dead–
You’re crying now–that feeling like you can’t sit gnawing at your side.
Stop this, you think.
You’re crying and you don’t know what to do.
What can you do?
You had 6 years, you think.
You had 6 years.
And the last time you saw him- the last time you felt his hand in yours- it was 9pm at a house party, and you were standing there in the front yard, backing away from him because you needed to finish your run.
You see his face, remember his eyes. The way they catch yours when you weren’t looking for them. When you can’t look up.
“Linds,” he says, reaching out for your shoulder. “Just stay.”
“I’ll be back,” you laugh – your windshorts hitting your leg with the breeze. “I’ll run home and change and I’ll come back.”
You turn to go down the hill then– back to the sidewalk, your tennis shoes reflecting off the street lights.
“You’ll come back when you’re done?” He asks– yelling down the hill with a red cup in his hand– his shorts hanging at his knee.
Maybe, you wave, smiling. I’ll call Riley.
But you are gone before he answers–running.
Running because you ate 3 bowls of Special K Fruit N’ Yogurt.
Running because you are scared–
That no one will want you.
And when you’re done, you don’t go back.
“Goodnight,” you text, “Have fun with our friends–”
You meet his family in the morning–letter in hand.
Slip it into his backpack as you hug him goodbye.
I love you, you whisper– pulling him close.
Love you too, he says– Because he doesn’t know how to be mad.
Call me when you’re settled– Your friend pats him on the back, gives his mother a nod. Thanks for coming, glad ya’ll stopped on your way.
And you agree–though you can feel his eyes when you say it.
See you soon, you wave as they pull out of the parking lot– your best friend in the middle seat– his backpack with your letter.
You’ll see him soon–you know–you’ll make it up later.
And then you– my best friend– you carried me to bed when I fell asleep on the couch.
And one month later– my pretty little boy–
You fell from a tree–
And you died.
And now you’re sitting here in the grass– 6 years later– with your knees to your chest–leggings stretched out over your kneecap.
And you, best friend, you are never coming back.
The grass strokes your ankle–
You’re never coming back-
You will always be dead–
And the world continues to move.
Yes, the world continues forward–
When you asked for it to stop
Give me some time, you screamed.
Just give me some time–
But it didn’t.
–Need a hand? You hear.
And somehow, you know it’s her.
Maybe a Xanax, you say- looking back.
Can’t help you there, she says- somewhat amused. Do you mind?
You shake your head.
She sits down.
Lilly told me you were having some problems at dinner.
Kenzie’s hiding her food again.
You don’t know why you tell her– but you do.
Maybe it makes you feel better.
I know, Hillary says. All the staff knows–
And you don’t stop her?
Can lead a horse to water, she says. Can’t make them drink it.
So tell me what you’re blubbering about, Hall?
I don’t even know– you say, almost embarrassed.
She nods. Yeah– you do that here. Everyone does.
My best friend’s dead, you say–
Immediately trying to take it back.
I mean– he died a long time ago.
I don’t know why I just said that.
She let’s you sit with it.
So why are you thinking about it?
I don’t know, can’t it just hurt? You ask, snot running down to your mouth. Can’t it ever just hurt for no reason.
Yeah, she says– in her monotone voice. It’s supposed to sometimes.
She knocks your knee with hers. So what are you gonna do?
I dunno– binge drink water? You joke. But it’s weak, and Hillary shakes her head.
Well– the fridge is locked but you can take a stab at it. I hear there might be some almonds in the couch.
Are you allowed to say that to patients?
No. I’ll probably get fired.
You snort. I don’t know how to do this, Hill.
Is this normal? you wonder. Is this really normal– sitting in the grass crying.
She shrugs. I think it’s pretty normal– people are just scared.
Is it weird that I remember everything? you ask. It feels weird sometimes-
And it feels worse that I don’t think I can remember what was real and what I made up.
She agrees. Yeah, I did that too when my dad died.
Do you think about him?
Do you ever want to talk about him then? You ask. Do you ever just want someone to know he existed?
Sometimes, she says.
I feel like I can’t help it– I feel like all I want to do is talk about him– you pause. Why do we have to pretend to forget someone when they die?
You don’t, she says.
Yeah, you persist. But it’s like you get a one-year benchmark and then you’re fucked up for still talking about it.
You’re not as fucked up as you think you are.
You look at her.
Okay, she smiles. Well you are a little.
But you’re not just ’cause your friend died.
Is it supposed to still hurt like this?
Sometimes, she says. But you’re allowed to.
And if I don’t want to?
She shrugs, Well what were you doing before?
I dunno, you pause. Binge eating sugar cookies from the deli.
You nod. They were some good cookies–
She smiles. Sit with it, Hall. Deal with it. Find something higher than you– that’s my advice.
Oh– the religion talk, you say.
Not necessarily, she pauses. But you’ve got a big life. You’ll get out of here- you’ll be alright.
I know, she nods. Been doing this a long time- I know when I’ll see someone again.
You might though, you admit. Cause I dunno what the hell I’m gonna do after this.
Grow up, she says. Get a job– Write a book.
You roll your eyes. We’ll see.
You’ll figure out how to like yourself- she says. And when you do, you’ll let yourself hurt, and you won’t feel bad.
You gonna friend me on Facebook to check in?
She shakes her head. No, cause then I’ll really get fired.
You thank her for sitting with you.
This grass is poking my ass, you say.
She nods. You got a couple girls worried in there.
Are they playing Bananagrams?
Making friendship bracelets.
You smile. Jesus, this really is summer camp.
In a way.
Summer camp for the unstable–
She asks if you’re okay.
And you say you don’t know– but that you’re sitting with it and you’ll see.
So you walk inside.
You open the door– grass sticking to your black sweatpants.
Brush your butt off, she says– before you go in.
You catch yourself in the door’s reflection.
Catch your thighs when you turn.
I miss you– you think– And I’ll miss you always, best friend.
And what if it is- you wonder- that you can feel many things?
That your heart can ache-
And still be happy?
Is there such a thing? You’re not sure.
The truth is that you don’t know.
And you’re not sure of anything–
But right now- tonight–
You’re walking into the community room– and you’re missing your friend.
Olivia greets you at the door “Hello love,” she says in her fake British accent.
You alright, now? She continues–her eyes following you.
Yeah, you say. Being a baby.
I know– she says. We’re playing bananagrams if you wanna come.
You grin– I thought you were making friendship bracelets.
We were– She pauses– and then Lilly told us you were coming back and we knew you’d rather play Bananagrams.
You agree, I hate doing art.
We know– she says.
So you follow her to the floor–
Where six girls– with their leopard print pajamas and water bottles and collarbones– lie flat on their stomachs, game tiles spread out in front of them.
“Bananagrams,” you say to the group. “Let’s do it bitches.”
And you squat down– your elbows resting on a pillow on the ground.
Jacy smiles at you–
And tonight you think it’s okay to feel happy and hurt.
This is Rehab: Truth 4