Day 2, Part 4

Somehow, I managed not to pull my hair out of my head.

If you’re thinking that must’ve been the longest night of my life, it wasn’t. People say stuff like that when something awful has happened and they’re waiting, waiting, waiting for the answer. The dog has died, the patient recovered, the tumor’s malignant, the tumor’s benign.  To say it was the longest implies I was waiting for it to end. The last thing I wanted was that night to end. I didn’t want the movement that comes with time. Every second that passed took me further away from Philip. Every second was that much longer that he was dead. Dead, dead, dead; my head was pounding with it.  Dead, dead, dead; the excruciating echo of my why-is-it-still-beating heart.

I remember the house being noisy and busy, which it wasn’t. It was me that was making the commotion; sobbing and heaving and not knowing where to put myself. Clinging to Natalie, clinging to nobody. Walking, hunched, arms crossed and holding my elbows. Wanting to vomit the greasy black bile in my belly. At some point Robert came over, and we talked about telling my parents. No, they talked about telling my parents. I was too stupefied to participate.

But my God; how to tell my mother and father? My mother always worried about Philip, in a way she didn’t about her other five grandkids. “Is he okay, Denise? I worry about this kid,” she’d say. “He’s fine,” I’d answer, irritated from what I considered her senseless worrying. Was she going to blame me because I didn’t listen? And what the hell would I have done, anyway? Philip seemed the most fine of all of us.  A roll-with-the-punches kind of kid. Kind. And if I keep harping on “kind” it’s because years ago I realized that kind is a power. Kind is not “nice,” which is one of the laziest words in the English language, the go-to word when you just don’t feel like making an effort to say something that matters.

My son was kind. Undeniably, unforgettably, kind. How the fuck is he dead?

It was sometime around 2:00 am when Robert and Maria left. They decided they’d go home – Robert to Staten Island, Maria to Midland Park – get a little rest, then meet in the morning to go Brooklyn to tell my parents. Phil agreed to stay in the guest bedroom, but my ceaseless sobbing would drive him from the house early next morning.

Philip might have been dead, but I was the one moving through the underworld, looking for the river Lethe that I might forget and end this nightmare. Like four ghostly creatures in an unearthly silence, Phil, Natalie, Nadiya and I went our separate ways to our separate rooms. Each bedroom door that closed unhinged me more than I already was.

I could not go to my room. I would not. I would not get into my big feather bed with its six downy pillows, its luxury comforter, its pink popcorn chenille, its ruffled skirt; I am a vintage girl. I love being a girl; I love my cabbage roses and floral curtains and quilts and candles and bows and pinks and creams; I love my bedroom, my books, my pens, my journals; I love the cozy I’ve made of my room.

But I would‘ve rather sank into a bed of nails than into that bed of feathers. Me, in that bed, with my son’s dead, cold body on some slab in a morgue? With no one there to love him? And please; no one had to tell me that wasn’t “him,” it was just his body, he wasn’t in pain, he was in a better place, blah blah blah. I knew those words; I’ve used those words. Try living them. Go ahead. Try comforting yourself about your kid not being his body and being in a better place. Try telling yourself that your kid is in your heart, you’ll never lose his love, he’s part of you. Part of me? That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. He IS part of me, he is the better part of me, he is my heart and he’s gone and tell me – TELL ME – how do I live without my heart?

Tell me that I will ever be all right again.

© 2013 Denise Smyth


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tersiaburger
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 07:37:38

    I could not bear the thought of Vic lying in a cold refrigerated room. No autopsy was required. She made me promise that I would not let her lie there for a long time. I promised that I would do the memorial service and arrange the cremation for as quickly as possible… She wanted to come home to us. Ah Denise, I feel your tears and heartache – it is mine too.


  2. behindthemaskofabuse
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 22:39:00

    I’m just sitting here with you. I know there’s nothing I can say to make it any better. xo


  3. Denise
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 07:04:00

    Thank you for the company. It helps; if there’s one thing I’ve learned, what we can’t see often helps more than what we can.


  4. Becki Duckworth
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 18:35:41

    Why is the universe so damn cruel? Why must this crazy unbearable shit happen? Nothing ever can be said to help and that’s just the truth, pain is real its present and unjust.


  5. Denise
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 18:51:26

    As I wrote elsewhere, the only answer is ever acceptance; and acceptance isn’t happiness. It’s living with the bloody bitterness of life and not wanting it to be something else.

    Becki, this still, at times, feels surreal. Like now. Such a sorrowful day today…I’m so glad that you’re here, and you’re listening.


    • Becki Duckworth
      Dec 16, 2013 @ 19:07:39

      I am here and my heart aches for you, I’m listening and reading and angry too, What can a person say? There just isn’t comforting words , they don’t exist. What I can share is my experience and say he’s ok.. I crossed over briefly it’s painless even though I had 21 knife wounds to my body. It’s pleasant and damn hard to put in words, I am a changed person because of that experience and I feel a heightened awareness.


  6. Denise
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 19:17:24

    Are you saying you were stabbed 21 times on the 21st?? 1991 was the year Philip was born.

    This is mind-boggling. And you’re comforting me after what you’ve been through? I can’t find the words, Becki. I’m just astounded.


  7. Denise
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 20:22:42

    As Natalie would say, mad crazy.


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