They found him… (Day 2, Part 2)

I don’t know too much detail about Phil’s story. I don’t want to ask him; he doesn’t need to re-live it. I don’t think he trusts reliving it. What for, I think he’d say? He works to find his peace, building his world, brick by brick. I think that’s what men do. Me – I spent a year sitting in the rubble, ashes in my hair, moaning when I wasn’t wailing. Phil tries not to go to the dark place. I am there enough for the both of us.

What I do know is that he’d taken a walk that night; that he remembers exactly where he was when he thought of how earlier that day, I’d jokingly said, “Hey. Where’s your son? I’ve been calling him, he hasn’t called me back.” That after he got home, there was a knock on the door (I don’t know if the bell rang) and he’d thought, good, it’s probably Philip. That instead, it was the police. That after they told him, he called his friend Larry and asked if he’d ride with him in the police car to Nadiya’s because he had to go there to tell me.

When my phone rang, I thought it was Natalie calling to finish what she started. Instead I saw it was Nadiya, which was odd because Nadiya never called, she texted. I answered the phone and she said, “Denise?” and I said, “Yeah,” and she said, “Phil is here,” and the simple equation (Phil is here + 10pm) – Philip = fucking X took no time to compute since I blasted down the stairs screaming, “My son my son!” and I heard Phil running up the stairs and I was still screaming, “My son my son!” and we were both on the second floor landing where I’d flung my phone and dropped to my knees, crawling around the floor screaming, “My son, my son!” and I was waiting, waiting, for Phil to say, “Calm down, it’s not that bad” because it couldn’t be, not really, it had to be that I went straight to panic because this is my child and then when Phil said it wasn’t that bad I’d be able to bear whatever it was because I’d already gone to the worst possible place, which it couldn’t be, not really, and I was waiting, waiting, for the relief of Phil’s words. But there was no relief, there was my husband, sitting on the landing, taking me by the shoulders, saying to me, “They found him…”

 They found him.

No, no, no, oh God no, no.  No!

I don’t remember what I said or when I stopped screaming or how long we sat there.  I didn’t want to compute what I was supposed to be computing. Philip is a light, a joy – my joy. Lights don’t go out. They just don’t. I had entered the unholy quiet of the tragic. I couldn’t scream it away, because it was true. It was true.  I lifted desperate, pleading eyes to Phil and asked softly, softly, “But…how?” Maybe they missed something. Maybe I could see they got it wrong. I pictured Philip in the backseat of whatever car he’d been in, victim of the stupid (possibly drunken) teenage recklessness of some other kid, when Phil said, “Drugs.”

I started to fall. Except I still hadn’t gotten up.

“Drugs?” I whispered. “But wha…”


“Heroin? Heroin? He was shooting heroin?”

Phil shook his head. “He snorted it.”

You could snort it? Heroin? You could snort heroin?  But it’s Philip, don’t you see; it’s Philip, this can’t be, it’s Philip, it’s Philip. FOR GOD’S SAKE, IT’S PHILIP.

And yes, yes it was. It was Philip.


© 2013 Denise Smyth


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. EH
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 12:49:04

    This is harrowing…


  2. Katinka. Neuhof
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 11:48:18

    Denise, we hardly know each other, I can offer you no comfort. This is piece is beautifully written… I have a young son and I will see him differently today because you wrote this piece. Keep writing.


    • Denise
      Apr 08, 2013 @ 12:20:30

      Thank you, Katinka. We haven’t met, but I’m part of the Write Group. We were in touch about the writing group you started, which at the time, I was unable to join because of I was working. This is the first I’ve been writing since Philip died; it’s just been too hard. I’m sure we’ll cross paths sooner or later…


  3. tersiaburger
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:26:39

    Denise I have no words for you. Nothing I say can comfort you. Nobody in the world can take your pain away. I know that when Vicky died I died. I breathe but that is all there is to my “life”.


  4. Trackback: BEST MOMENT AWARD | tersiaburger
  5. tersiaburger
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 20:42:59

    Denise this is not a blog where one can push a “Like Button”. In appreciation of your bravery I have nominated you for the Best Moments Award. I hope you will accept this award.


    • Denise
      Apr 16, 2013 @ 23:29:49

      Hi Tersia,

      I am touched and honored to be nominated, and of course I accept. Am I supposed to do something other than accept your comment on the post?

      And thank you, too, for directing me to your site. Remembering so many suffer this helps me stay focused; and for me, focused means not sitting here thinking about the years to come without my son (am I really writing this?), but paying attention to my daughter, who needs me.

      It’s a start.

      Love, Denise


  6. cabrogal
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 07:37:03

    I used to do smack. Lots of it.

    Thank Christ my mum never had to go through this.
    Pure luck. That’s all it was.


    • Denise
      Sep 13, 2013 @ 08:14:09

      Some survive it, some don’t. I had a death wish when I was Philip’s age. Yet here I am, and here he isn’t.

      And I am glad you said, “I USED to…”


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