Tag Archives: Mourning

Blasts

WecantbetogetherbuttheworldisburningandlifeissoshortandtakenfromyousosuddenlyandIfeelsadandalsoscaredandIwanttoreachouttoyoubutIknowthatIcant.

Please, comfort me.

At the top of their stairs is a wall of bookshelves. It used to be like a house library, except filled with children’s books. The kind of children’s books that aren’t necessarily classics, but ones that every child should read. A collection of all the stories you vaguely remember, only it’s been such a long time that you aren’t sure whether the books exist, or if you made up their ideas. And then suddenly, you see the book in front of you at the bookshelf, you understand that everything was real, and your memories transport you back to that time period. The last time I was here, I found the Crestomanci chronicles. The last time I was here, I was by myself, and it was three years ago, and William hadn’t overdosed. Most of the books are gone now.

At the top of the stairs is a shrine.

I am facing photo after photo of the dead brothers. I’m even in one of the pictures. Edward’s arm is around me, and we are smiling into the camera. It’s Christmas of 2010, the year I caught onto his alcoholic and anorexic tendencies enough to worry, without knowing to be alarmed. It had still been a great Christmas. They used that photo in his memorial service. Proof of how apparent it was to everyone that we were connected. My aunt stays looking out.

I can look at our photo, and be okay. I know that he isn’t around, and I truly believe he’s in a better place. But what they left behind. Two parents who don’t like each other, are miserable together, but stay together for the benefit of their only surviving child, the daughter who graduated, who broke into tears during her graduation speech and then pulled herself together to thank her family and friends. I look at a picture of William, young enough to still be blond, before his hair naturally darkened to brown, smiling and pretending to work as he sat next to his father at his desk. It’s connected to a picture of baby Will on Uncle Steve’s shoulders.

“It was never so clear,” another cousin would tell me, “Two parents who absolutely had favorite children. Aunt Lori found Will’s body. She lay down next to him and told him to take care of Edward. Her speech at his funeral was all about how they could look after each other now. And Steve’s was just a really specific memory of Will. It was hard to watch.”

“No one chooses to be born,” Will said, at Edward’s funeral. “So I guess it’s good he got to choose when he died.”

I wonder if Will chose his death. It’s hard to tell. He’d been clean for a minute. It seemed like he was turning his life around. And then

I look at the happy babies with their happy parents. I look at the cards from their funerals. I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of, What’s the point?

You’d think it would be hard to go into Edward’s room, but it’s surprisingly easy. It’s also right next to the stairs. His cats lurk around like ghosts. They don’t run away from me like they used to; they just watch me as I sink into his couch. I wonder what that means, and then I try to stop myself from romanticizing the situation. Maybe our energies just match. We’re all still hiding together. Them from the family, and me from the babies.

What’s the point of crafting a life with someone, if that person will hurt you? Love fades, love sours. I guess that’s why people have children. So there will always be something to love. But then even when white, even when wealthy, your children can still grow up to hate themselves, and their lives, and maybe even you, a little bit. And they’ll leave you, and your suffering will only increase.

I guess it doesn’t have to be like this. These are just the examples I’ve been given.
I cry, silently, and Edward’s cats watch me.

“You know, Lucas believes in the same things we do,” their sister is telling me. “Like gay rights. He knows that Edward was gay.”

Lucas is her crush. They’re friends, and she wants more. I wonder if she knows about Orlando, and how she feels. Maybe Edward didn’t kill himself. Maybe he and Pat were just on vacation and got shot up for their orientation.

She shows me a picture of him.

“He’s pretty cute,” I say, and she side-eyes me. “But don’t worry, he’s all yours.” I put my hands up.
“Hey!” She says. “You take my guy, and I’ll take yours.”
“You couldn’t, even if you tried,” I tell her. “I don’t have a guy. I don’t think we can even hang out very much anymore.”
“Why not?” She wants to know.
“Because, it’s painful.”
“When I’m with Lucas,” she tells me. “It’s painful. But I keep spending time with him anyway, because he’s important to me. We have a connection. And I think that one day he’ll realize it.”
“But that’s why it’s painful,” I say. “We know we have a connection. He already realized. And it just gets stronger the more time we spend together, but he isn’t ready for it. It’s a tease.”

The next morning I wake up, and fifty people have been killed, with fifty-three injured, at a nightclub. Brown people. Gay people. I spend so much time worrying about my future, and theirs are gone. Taken.

America is burning out, and we don’t have very many friendly places to go, and hundreds of legitimate refugees have been and are drowning. Does anyone have a future? Does anything matter?

This is when I want to run back to Niles. Because with all the uncertainty, why would you not want to hold onto something that is sure? Like the fact that two people are in love. And if the future isn’t guaranteed, then why even think about it? I consider the guys who currently, actually, want me as a girlfriend, and wonder if it’s something I even want. Not because of him, or them, but because of myself and where I currently am, home for a few weeks before going somewhere and becoming unreachable, preparing to start work, trying to get it together enough to move into the city. Being In Love with one person, sure, but also loving different people in different parts of the world. Do I actually want to be in a strictly committed relationship right now? Not really.

But I do want to be in love, and be a priority, and not have to worry about seeing someone I care about hooking up with someone who isn’t me at a party. I want to be able to call someone when I’m down, and have them make me feel better, if only through distraction. I want to nestle in bed with someone and make them feel good. I want to hold hands, and feel safe, and truly believe that we’ll be together when we’re meant to.

So what does that mean? What is the healthiest option? For me, for him, for now, for the future that might not even be there?

And all I can think about now is how there was a moment last year, during our big fight, when we almost hooked up. I’m not sure he’s even aware of that, but it happened. I looked at him, and in the midst of all my anger and sadness I felt this overwhelming attraction, and I knew that if we hooked up, I would enjoy it. But I also knew that if we did hook up, that would be the end of us. So we didn’t, and here we are now. Now, I don’t know if we’re at the end, if I’m supposed to kill my internal flame, or if I’m supposed to run on hope that eventually things will work out. If one of us got shot tomorrow, would the other have regrets?

I’ve been exercising my arms, like he told me to. I can do fifteen pushups now. Next week, I’m going for twenty.

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Letting Go

Somewhere, his soul is free. I feel it.

I’m walking with Ramses, and he asks me if I’m happy. I tell him no, but at least I’m not sad anymore.
“Were you sad?” He seems surprised.
“Yes,” I tell him. “I spent about five-six years being sad.”
“When did you stop?”
“Maybe a month ago.”

I tell him about Edward, but it’s different this time. This is the first person with whom I can share my story, and end it knowing that I’m in the right place. My spot. I recognize the tragedy of what I’m saying, while simultaneously recognizing the beauty of the way the setting sun pierces through the bushes of flowers that surround us. The shadows that play across our winding path, the leaves at our feet, and the trees overhead. I take everything in, and love it. This can be a paradise. For a moment. I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad he’s free.

We all possess our own magics.

I think I turned Edward into a crow all those years ago. I think my pain pressed his into the crow’s body. I didn’t want him to be at peace until I could be, myself. It was selfish. I knew it was selfish the whole time, but that didn’t help me let go.

And then, in dealing with XXXXX, I did. And then I found Ramses, whom I don’t love, but I think I could, at least as a friend. And he told me about spiritual planes, and physical bodies becoming ethereal, and seven layers of existence. I’m not sure how deeply into all that I can understand, but I do believe that Edward is now finally past the physical. His crow is gone, and I can smile about it. Thinking of him makes me happy, for the first time since he left.

I held onto Edward because I didn’t have faith that I would be able to survive otherwise. The torture of grieving him was all that I knew, and I figured miserable existence was better than the worse existence I imagined without him.

I am a coward.

Now, I wish that I had let go sooner.

I let go of Edward on my birthday, and for a minute, bad love made me regret it. I do not want to be miserable holding onto love, purely because it is the only love I have known, and I don’t know what I’ll be without it. We need to grow. We need to be free.

He will always be in my heart, just as Edward is, but maybe the best thing for now is for me to let go of him. I’ll see Edward again, and XXXXX and I can always find each other.

I didn’t cry yesterday. We have progress.

How Are You?

Go –
I’m not going to acknowledge –
Not – it. It. Nothing.
Just leave it alone. Leave me alone.

I’ve graduated dentists. As of last year, I no longer go to a pediatric dentistry, but instead go to a dentistry for grownups. It’s a five-minute walk from my house, just around the corner, and a sort of fancy (to me) experience. You have someone who cleans your teeth, another person who gives you a consultation, and they give you a baggie with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and coupons to take home at the end.
“Your teeth are beautiful, your teeth are wonderful, your teeth are in such great condition! Good job!” the lady who cleaned my teeth told me.
“You have five cavities between your teeth,” the consultant told me.

It’s been a week since those cavities were taken care of, and my teeth still hurt. I can’t sleep on my side. I wake up in the middle of the night with my gums pulsing. I can feel my blood pumping, through my teeth. I also can’t eat or drink very much. Hard things, like bread crusts, hurt. Hot things hurt. Cold things hurt. Sugary things hurt. It’s a kind of physical agony, my teeth are bringing me.

If you acknowledge it, if you tell something to leave, isn’t that admitting that something is there? And if you think something is where nothing is, does that cause the something to become manifest?
Something was created out of nothing. Everything was. He –
There is nothing there. And I don’t need to remind myself of that, because the act of reminding is the act of washing away, and the act of washing away that which is not there is to have created something to be put there in the first place.
If you make it go away, you simultaneously stick it there.

The day we found out about Edward’s suicide was the same day a lot of people found out whether or not they were accepted into an Ivy-league school. The next day, there was regular high school to go to. I remember sitting in my economics class, trying to arrange my thoughts and act normal. It wasn’t working very well. All around me, people were whining about deferrals and rejections. These people were devastated, as I was in shock. I hadn’t applied to any Ivies, mainly because I hadn’t wanted to spend another four years with people exactly like my classmates. Only, judging from the dejected looks on most of the faces in the room, that wouldn’t have been a problem, anyway. We were all in two very different worlds.
“I have cupcakes!” one girl announced, walking into the room holding a tin of mini cupcakes in one hand, and a tube of frosting in the other. “These are for all the people who have just heard the worst news of their life.”

It was bizarre. I stared at my class. Did these people really believe that this was the worst news of their lives? Was it?
They didn’t need the cupcakes. I did. I actually had just heard the worst news of my life; I should be eating all the cupcakes. I stood up to, I didn’t even know, grab them all? Take them out of the hands already grabbing at them? Throw the tin onto the floor? Then I remembered that it was Lent, and I had given up sweets. I couldn’t even eat the food that should have comforted me.

Go away. I’m not saying this out loud, I’m just thinking it in my head. To speak would be to make this real, but I can’t control my thoughts. I can’t marshal them anymore.
I’m sitting in class participating more than I’ve participated all year, because if I keep my mouth running, if I keep saying the things on the outer edges of my mind, I won’t have time to delve into my deeper chaos. Just talk, and talk, and laugh, and say nonsense that sometimes makes perfect sense, and don’t think too much.

“Question on your belief in ghosts,” he said.
“Do you believe that ghosts are restless spirits that wander our realm,” he said.
“I think ghosts are manifested ideas,” I said.
“I think people can create their own ghosts by fixating on ideas they can’t completely accept/work out,” I said. “And it’s possible that they can work in other ways, too. I don’t know.”

“How are you?” that random somewhat friend asked.
“I’m fine, thanks, how are you?” I answered. I’m in agony, I thought.

It’s come to the point where I’ve realized I don’t want to be alone. I’m slightly afraid of it, wary. When I’m alone, there’s nothing to distract me from my thoughts. Nothing, and lately all my mind wants to do is turn Edward back into a ghost and plunk him down into a chair to talk to me. Only this time, I wouldn’t be in denial about it. This time, I would be aware of my own manipulations. It would be a deliberate step into madness that I’m too responsible to take. Last night I made toffee, to distract myself. That lasted until the baking was done, and then I was stuck with a tray of candy too sweet and hard for my teeth to handle. I’m in the same spot I was three years ago: heartbroken, and unable to eat to take my mind off things. To take my mind off of what it is not supposed to be on.

It’s weird, advancing through life with the ever-present possibility of going off the rails – purposefully. At this yearly checkpoint, my own New Year’s, I’m in a much better place than I was last year. Little by little, I’m getting through the bereavement. I’m improving. But it’s still so hard, still so sad, and I am so tired. It’s that sadistic tired where you can’t even sleep, because as your eyes close, your mind is wide awake. I am in agony. Mentally, physically, emotionally.

Cheers to a new year.

Room Sanctuary

I remember taking General Psychology freshman year, and learning about the body’s conditioned responses to stimuli. The professor talked about how in most cases where celebrities die of drug overdoses in hotel rooms, they haven’t actually taken more drugs than they normally do. They’re taking their normal dosages, but because they’re in a new environment, their bodies haven’t started to produce anything to counter the drugs’ effects. What happens is that if you take strong drugs often enough in the same places, like your home, then your body will naturally begin to counter the effects of the drug you take as soon as it recognizes stimuli in the environment. Your dosage increases as your tolerance increases, and suddenly you take the new, strong dosage in an area without any familiar stimuli, and your body isn’t prepared to defend you.

The other side of this is that once your body has ingrained its stimuli, it’ll start its counteraction even if there are no drugs around. If you go to rehab and “cure” your addiction, as soon as you come home, you’ll be surrounded with the same stimuli, and your body will automatically expect drugs. This is why people relapse.

“The best thing to do, if you really want to quit something,” my teacher told us, “Is to move. Just leave everything behind, and move.” But who can afford to do that?

I’m thinking about this on the last day before coming back to school. I’m in my bed, in my room, and I suddenly realize that this is where I’ve been for the majority of my four weeks between Africa and Wesleyan. If not at work, I’ve probably been in my room. I wonder how my parents felt about this. My dad probably didn’t mind very much. He spends the majority of his time at home sitting quietly in some obscure part of the house, not interacting much with us. In retrospect, I probably made him seem a lot more social by contrast. For my mom, it must have been hard. She’s the most social of us three, and I know she misses me when I’m away. She tried so hard to contact me in Cameroon, and I managed to have the least correspondence with family of anyone in the program. I wonder if they think that I don’t like them, or the family. It probably doesn’t help that I’m the same way with any company that comes over. When my aunt and uncle came for New Year’s, I went to my room as soon as dinner was over. I read while they all went on a walk, and slept while they had dessert. I came down to say goodbye, and then went back upstairs and closed my door.

If I told them that they were my favorite people in the world, and that I loved them all so much I could cry to think about it, would they believe me? Would they understand that?

It’s the truth. I love my family. But I can’t be around them anymore. They’re my stimuli.

On the first day of French class in Cameroon, our teacher had us make timelines of big moments in our lives, to see how we ended up choosing a study abroad program in her country. It wasn’t until I looked over my finished timeline that I realized I only started going to Africa after Edward left me. He killed himself in March, and I was in South Africa in December. I was back the next year, and then I went to Kenya. Then Cameroon, and South Africa again, and every time I come home, I’m saving money and making plans to leave. Meanwhile, I’m seeing my American family less and less.

At first I thought that this was because of my now increased fear of getting attached to the people I love. If I spend too much time with you, increasingly investing my emotions into you, that’s dangerous for me. Who knows how long it will be before you’re gone? It’s better to have you near me and around me, but not often directly interacting with me, so that I can be used to you as a ghost before you actually become one. Yet while I still think along this train of logic, and use it sometimes, recent friendships have taught me that it’s okay to become close to people. And continuously ghosting the people around me prevents me from fully living, myself. I understand that, and I try to prevent myself from falling into that, but it’s something that I can’t help doing when I’m with my family in the States.

It’s just that every time they look at me, I think about Edward. When we have gatherings, I notice his absence. When it comes time to talk about our recent achievements, I realize that he will never have any. It makes me feel like an impostor, someone occupying the wrong space. I wonder if I’m doing enough with my life, compared with what he might have done. I wonder if the people around me are monitoring me, measuring us up in their minds, trying to see how like him and different from him I am. I have to be happy, when I’m with my family, and not the sort of happy I prefer to be. A displayed happiness, at the correct level of sociability, from which he and I used to hide. Now when I go to hide, I have nothing but his memories to keep me company.

And there are so many of them. I remember being in his living room when we were both three, with my mother struggling to do my hair. As I braced my hands against the edge of the coffee table, she was brushing the hair back and pulling it tight into a ponytail puff before braiding it. Edward was watching both of us, cross-legged on the floor.
“Edward, do you think you could have braids like this?” My mom asked him. He just smiled shyly and shook his head.
“No,” I said, laughing. His hair was much too short.

It’s the little moments, those innocent moments that come sneaking back at me now. It isn’t the brutal blow that came the first year, or the agony of the second. Now, it’s just the memories. The blissful, meaningless memories. Sad, indifferent, and increasingly happy. Bothering me. I can remember him as a person, the person I knew. I realize that this is all I have, because no new memories will come in. I have to live with this understanding. It’s a new kind of pain, like a constant rub at the back of my mind that becomes ever-more irritating. Usually, I don’t have to think about it. I’m living away from most triggers at school, and have next to none in Africa. When I’m home, it’s different. Even at the voice of another family member, the memories and thoughts come rushing in until I think I could suffocate.

I never realized the extent to which one moment could impact my life, but it seems that I’m continuously discovering the ways in which I’ve been affected. I wonder what kind of person I’d be if this hadn’t happened, what sort of existence I’d have, if I still existed at all.

It doesn’t really matter, though. I’m here. My memories are here. My family is here. I need to get out of bed, leave my room, and spend time with my mother before I leave. I already know that I would hate to have myself as a daughter, someone who keeps to herself and shies away from open displays of love and affection. It must be awful for my mother. She should know how I feel about her. I’ll go downstairs, and hug her, and kiss her cheek. I’ll tell her how much I love and appreciate her, and then I’ll show her the video of me dancing, from the second part of my research presentation. I won’t think about the last time I openly displayed emotion with an American family member, and it’ll be great.

I’ll do all of that. In a minute. Thinking about it all has made me tired, and I need to sleep first.

Third World Black America?

I went to the Union Square vigil last night, the National Moment of Silence for victims of police brutality. I spent a minute chanting with the protesters, but decided that I wanted to hear what people at the vigil had to say, rather than walk through NYC. It was nice, being surrounded by people I did not know, who had all come out to support the same cause. There were a lot of us. We were a community with potential.
Community.

One morning on the walk through Kibera, there was a sort of mob forming at one of the intersections of our path. It seemed ominous, although its animosity was not directed toward us, but at whatever was happening at its center.
“Mzungu!” One man called out to the volunteer in front of me, “Come and look at this!” Other members of the crowd laughed, but we didn’t pay attention. We had to get to school, and despite being curious about what was happening, the vibe coming from the people gathered was scary.
We later found out that we had passed by a stoning. Someone had been caught stealing, and when this happens, the perpetrator is stoned to death. In this case, they stopped before the guy was actually dead. It was still slightly unnerving to hear about.
The way that it was explained makes a lot of sense, though. Kibera is a community. An actual, beautiful community, “where everyone looks out for each other. If someone is having a party a few houses down from you, you go to it, even if you don’t know them that well. You go, because they’re your neighbor. When you buy, say, a radio, that’s only possible after taking the time to save up for it. Once you have it, it is precious to you. If someone steals your radio, they are also stealing your security. You cannot trust them, because the same people who steal from you will also come into your house and rape you. A community without trust between its residents is not a community at all, and Kibera can’t function the same way unless that trust is restored. So the community must punish the person who breached trust severely enough to ensure that it will never happen again. They do not trust the police to help them, because they know the police are not their allies; they only hurt, and never help.”

Throughout the experience, I would be annoyed with other volunteers for looking at things that were happening in Kibera as sad aspects of a developing (some people actually still said Third World) nation that was behind the United States. Certain people actually seemed to believe that in four weeks, we would make everything better and set a good Western example for the people we supposedly helped. Meanwhile, there seemed to be no reflection on the United States’ own issues.

This was one that I almost missed. I didn’t really think about it until, while listening to speakers at the vigil, I found myself wondering about Mike Brown’s body lying in the street. When you find a body in the street, who do you call? Who do you expect to move it? It’s funny, because my automatic reaction would be to think of the police. You’re supposed to be able to call the police when you find a dead body, and they’re supposed to rush over and then do their detective thing, find the killer, and put the killer to justice. Right?
Right?
But what if the police put the body there in the first place? That sounds crazy.
That sounds crazy. What if the police shot the body and left it there to rot in the middle of an active street? And what if they shot the body for no viable reason? What if the police are actually killers?
Who do you call now?

There are those stupid Youtubers who have their racist “In the Hood” pranks, where they harass black people into beating them up. One especially stupid one involves them going up to random black guys and snatching the cell phones out of their hands to “check” the time. They Know it looks like they’re stealing the phones. They Know they’re going to be beaten up. They Know they’re creating extremely fucked up situations, but they keep creating them because they Don’t Know that they’re participating in yet another form of racism.
If you can get shot for being black, are you really going to call the police when a shrimpy white boy takes your phone? That’d be stupid. You have to take care of it yourself because you don’t even have a community to stone with you. Black people are not enough of a community yet. I have hope. It can be done. If black people continued to come together and didn’t just wait for the next abominable killing that made headlines, there Could Be a community.

But for right now, it seems that we’re behind Kibera. This must be when what Monsignor Ivan Illich meant when he told volunteers to stay in America and fix its own inequalities first. Who will fix this?

Searching

It was hard, at first, being without you. Not that it’s easy now. But after your body was first discovered, and after the flowers, and the songs, and the hugs and gifted food were all gone, it was so hard. As the denial drained out of me I felt all hope, for you, for better days, for the future, for myself, flush away as well. I was hollow. The feeling that is now familiar was just making itself at home, and it messed with my reality.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I sat in class staring blankly at my chemistry teacher. No one was paying attention. People were talking; classmates were playing around, laughing and tossing papers at each other. Everyone around me was animated and alive, while I felt very dead. Dead enough to press myself into my desk; to feel as if I was pressing myself through my desk, through the floor and into the ground. I was in the ground, sinking. I looked up to see the sky shrink away as earth closed in around me, and then everything was dark.

I started to swim through the earth. Above me, I heard trains whistling, and then I was too deep to hear anything. My moves were fast, yet calculated. I was looking for you. But where were you? And why had you left me at all? Why had you lied, and told me that you were going to be okay, when all along you had been planning to leave me? Where were you? How could you?
Where were you? The more I thought, the more frantic my strokes became. I needed to find you, to hold you, to have you back again. But the world is huge, even huger when you’ve lost someone, and this was starting to seem like a lost cause. There was too much ground to cover, and I was losing control.

I couldn’t wait any longer.

Edward!” I screamed, opening my mouth for the first time. Maybe if you heard me, heard my anguish and fear, you would come back. “Ed – ”

But you shouldn’t open your mouth underground. All the dirt came rushing into my body. It filled my mouth and my throat. It got into my lungs, and my eyes and my ears. It was everywhere, and still coming. This wasn’t how I’d wanted to fill my hollowness, and you still weren’t there.

I started vomiting. Every last bit of dirt, every reminder of loss, of abandonment, of grit and the baseness that I felt, I needed it out of my system and away from me. I retched and writhed and sobbed, and then I wasn’t underground anymore. I was back at my desk, still retching and writhing and sobbing but silently, dryly. No one noticed.

Explaining My Tattoo

Two birds are supposed to meet on a wire, but they’re separated by train tracks.

One is trapped, one is free; one is you, and one is me.

The birds are crows, or as I refer to them, souls. I’m not entirely sure where I heard this or if I’ve made some of it up, but I have always understood crows to be the lost souls of people in limbo (or purgatory). There’s something macabre-ly hopeful about it to me. These people messed up in their lifetimes, but they aren’t condemned for all time. Instead, they must fly around, travel and explore, and somehow find the path they need to take in order to reach salvation. When I talk about salvation, I do not mean in a biblical or strictly religious sense. I believe in souls, and I believe that sometimes the vessels that hold our souls, our bodies, break before our souls are ready to move on. And then where can they go, floating around the Earth without aim or anchor?
I like to believe that they turn into birds. Birds that fly high and far while staying bounded to Earth; birds that are beautiful, dark, mysterious and haunting. After the funeral, crows clustered outside my cousin’s house. There were two patrolling the gate that we drove out of as we left for the airport.

Two crows. One is you, you being Person One, my cousin. My same-aged, closest thing I had to a sibling, cousin. The other is myself. Trapped, free; you, me; dead, alive. That should be in there as well, as it’s what I tell most people in lieu of the “you, me” bit anyway. You got to the tracks before I could meet you, before I could save you. I didn’t think it was our time yet, and you beat me to the tracks, so now one bird is trapped in the tracks on my back, and the other is free, flapping its wings about to take off into flight.
Only, who is who? I let people guess which is dead and which is alive, which is you or me if we’re particularly close, but few of them ever find the correct answer. The answer is that we are both. When you jumped in front of the train, you trapped yourself in those tracks. You will never come back. Sometimes I remember this, and it’s like I can’t breathe. I still catch myself thinking that I’ll run into you somewhere, or see you on a visit, and when I realize that this will never happen, the grief overwhelms me and it’s all I can do not to lie down and paralyze myself. I’ve learned the hard way that despite how much you may want to, lying down and dying is simply impossible. If it weren’t, I would have done it by now. But I’m stuck here, living. You trapped me, One. You stuck me on Earth. No matter how sad I ever get, I know that I can never follow you.

You were in my vision. Not so much a dream, because you have not yet appeared in one of those, but you were in a vision. I was standing at the edge of a building, crying and scared. My face was in my hands, but when I took them away, you were in front of me. You held out your hand, saying that things would be okay, that you knew what was chasing me, and if I would just take your hand, you would lead me to safety and happiness.
Of course I took your hand, and I followed you as we leapt into the sky. We were flying! Holding hands, looking up, and flying.
I did what you are never supposed to do, and looked down. I looked down at my dead body on the ground; somehow, my soul had left it as it dropped off the building, and I hadn’t noticed. But now I saw it lying there, and I saw people coming out to mourn it. I saw my parents draped over the body of their only child. I saw your parents, already ghostlike, turn into living stone. I saw the rest of our family angry, and I saw my friends abandoned. I saw the kids that I used to care for confused as they heard that I killed myself — because that’s what it looked like to all of them. No one understood that I was freeing myself and that I was finally happy, with you. They all looked so alone and betrayed, I wanted to go back and help them, comfort them, let them know that things were okay.
“If you go back,” you told me, “You’ll never see me again.”
“But how can I stay with you?” I asked, “Knowing exactly how they all feel? How can I leave everyone in pain?”

And then I was waking up, back in my body on Earth, and here I am. I’m stuck here, while you’re free to fly off into the sky, but you also can’t leave. I need to find a way to feel free while staying alive. I suppose it’s what I’ve chosen, although empathic distress really chose it for me. I hope that what you said was wrong, and that somehow I do see you again. At least, barring an extremely unfortunate accident, my tattoo can’t leave me.