You go along thinking your life will always be some version of what it’s been. For the most part you’re right. But there are still things that happen that surprise you. Mostly, everything will be like the other things that have happened, even the things that surprise you will be colored with the same crayon. Because when you fill your life with that one color, what else can happen? The thing that comes along and surprises you, is worse and harder than anything you imagined might happen. (I suppose it could also be better and more wonderful — but not in this case.) Why are you so unprepared? Because although you should have expected it, you did not. It blindsides you. It’s like you’re driving along on a quiet road wondering if the storm clouds on the horizon could become a tornado, when a tree falls on the road and crushes your car. That’s what it’s like.
Illness, the death of a parent, money troubles, housing dilemmas, career disappointments, distractions and reprieves. All those you expected. But this. A heartbreak too big to shove down or to the side, a shocking, paralyzing pain from throat to gut. Sleeplessness. A general numbing dizziness covering a mountain of no, this is not happening. But it happens. Versions of it happen every day. To other people. Scandalous stories. Delicious in their awfulness. Because they’re happening to the characters on TV. Celebrity scandals. You imagine the woman’s pain for 10 minutes, than make dinner, walk the dog. They aren’t real people, so their problems aren’t real problems. Is it a comfort to share a problem with a beautiful celebrity? No, it’s no comfort. It means nothing at all.
You can’t breathe. You try to train your brain to think other thoughts.That works a little but the pain and shock are deeper than thoughts. Your body refuses to forget for a minute. Be careful. Watch where you’re going. You’d like to get into bed and stay there, but you don’t. No. You do what you know how to do. You distract yourself. You call friends who sympathize but also remind you, it’s only more of the same, and evidence of what you always knew and talked about. It won’t lead to happiness for anyone. People are who they are. You’re reminded. But the pain isn’t soothed, isn’t quieted, isn’t quelled, isn’t dulled, isn’t drowned out, by the talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. You wake up after a mostly sleepless night. You wake up and think about it first thing. Your brain tries to work around it. Okay. I have to find a way to not care about this. Should I take a trip? I know. I’ll call every man I know. Pick one. Marry him. Adopt a baby. I’ll do it all right away. This is the crazy shit you think about quickly and in a panic as if there was some crazy action you could take to stop yourself from going through this.
You walk outside. You’re dressed like a widow in dark glasses, black hood pulled up over your head. A chic widow. A hipster widow. Widow, willow, window, words. Words will save you. Words are the way out and you know it. Remember everything you see. The father on the subway. Daughter is wearing blue wings. Father says “I like your socks.” Fashion conscious father and daughter.
On 11th Street, the wind is blowing so hard, the door at French Roast swings open at high velocity. It smashes into the wall as you pass and you recoil. You feel as if anything could hit you at any time. You hold onto the hood as the wind tries to take it down. You clutch it beneath your chin. You hope your sunglasses make you invisible. Like a child with eyes closed. Child. The pain is searing. You rush down the stairs. Hit buzzer one. You’re 15 minutes late since the D train stopped for traffic at every stop. But finally you are sitting across from her. The room is painted lavender. There is a built in bookcase behind her all across the wall, a fireplace. You reach for the box of Kleenex over and over again, but can’t quite absorb the outpouring. “Can you believe this shit?” you ask. She is a comfort. She knows the whole story. She thinks you deserve better. She’s angry as hell. She wants you to be angry as hell. You are, too. You’re angry as hell. But, it feels like grief. It feels like sickness. Surely, it’s anger but who can identify its components accurately. It is blind agony.
She sits in her chair looking like Natalie Wood. She’s lovely. You enjoy her loveliness, and also her awkward attempt at comforting you. It’s always a treat to see her. A treat you pay for. Which is cool. It makes it “productive” and not just conversation. It makes her someone other than a substitute for your mother who says the wrong thing, always says the wrong thing, despite the fact that she loves you.
After, you’re spent, depleted. You make your way back uptown. I should write all this down, you think. It will make something good out of it. Although, well meaning readers will post annoying attempts at comfort like “when one door closes another one opens.” Still, it will leave your body. That’s how it works. You write it and send it out into the world. You make something beautiful out of it. You get rid of it. Words escaping like birds off a roof, into the sky in formation.