Summer Bite

Today I want to go on a roadtrip. Driving to class this morning, I put the window down and yelled about how it’s a beautiful day. My Boyfriend agreed.

The air felt fresh and the sun just a little too hot, hinting at the bite of summer.

The Morning Agreement is that my Boyfriend gets the Aux cord on the way to school. Whatever song he was playing, I felt like my father would’ve liked it.

“I miss my dad today,” I said. And he squeezed my leg.

So I want to go on a roadtrip:

To the house where my Father died. I wonder if it is still half-empty with things that no longer smell of him. I wonder if the pool room has been overrun by spiders and lizards. I wonder if there are still CDs lying around, a drawer full of koozies, an ashtray in every room, a pair of my stepmom’s glasses in every drawer. The green-clothed chair with wooden arms. I wonder if it will still feel empty when I walk through the door. I wonder if the house has been condemned.

To the gas station we frequented as kids. We would take late night drives to it for cigarettes (for my father) and ice cream (for me, my sister, and my father). He would never have shoes on, my dad, and he’d peek through the window panes of the building, “If it’s the right lady, she won’t care. But if it’s the one who doesn’t like me, we’ll have to go back so I can grab some shoes.” And we’d giggle.

To Duffy’s. I’d beg for a burger from Duffy’s every time I saw my dad. The fries are delicious.

To the Chase bank our dog Buddy got loose by once. We had two dogs–Buddy and Angel–and somehow Buddy had escaped off his leashed. It was late at night. We called for him and laughed.

Today I want to drive to the beach, or to a lake. I want to feel water on my toes, hear it run along land. Today I want my brain to stop feel like it’s running too slow. I want to each oranges from my grandmother’s backyard. Today I want summer.

Normally I do not remember good things when I remember my dad.

Today I remembered. Today I wanted. Today I missed.

-HH

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At Least There’s Love

Last night I drove a friend back to his apartment, because he was still on campus and the buses weren’t going anymore.

Thanks for the ride, he said as he climbed out.

Any time! I’ll let you know how my immediate death goes after this Women and Gender Studies exam, and that sentence used to be normal, but he clammed up as he climbed out.

I’ve been pulling a lot of Cady Herons recently: lots and lots of word vomiting. For the most part I can deal with it because it’s just me not keeping my  mouth shut in social situations (to which my solution is to stop being in social situations or stop talking)–but this is something else entirely.

I went to high school with this friend. Our graduating class was a total of 29 people. The class below us graduated with maybe 40. We all had known each other since we were eleven/twelve. In less roundabout terms, we were close. Not just our class, but our school in general. Very tight-knit.

On Monday, we found out that one of our own had died. He was eighteen. Had graduated a year below me. We all knew him, all had our memories, our jokes.

I thought this year could still be salvaged–because even though everything else had gone to shit, at least no one had died.

Then someone died.

No one in our graduating class–in fact, as far as I know, no one in either of our graduating classes–had experienced as much death as I have. Sure, some people have dead grandparents, or parents, maybe a sibling or cousin. But, usually, I take the cake. The world’s most depressing party trick, if you will.

One friend cried in my dorm room for an hour. Another friend texted me for three, repeating the same statements over and over: ‘I am sad.’; ‘This is not okay.’; ‘I can’t believe it.’; ‘He did not deserve this.’ All I do is offer my company, and my ear. I cannot pretend to feel the way they feel.

I am just here. Dealing with death in the only way I know how: remembering its inevitability and remembering that despite his short time alive, his years were spent loving and being loved in return.

I always gave him hugs. I distinctly remember always being happy to see him, and his smile always being present. I remember sitting in a group with him, discussing Prom party favors. I remember his voice. I feel nothing but love.

It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of good on this earth right now.

At least there’s always love.

-HH

 

 

Death: A By-Product of Living

I got a lot of Dead People, is usually what I tell people.

Sometimes they let out a laugh of surprise. Sometimes they somber up. Sometimes they get super awkward super quick.

I don’t mean to be tactless about having Dead People. It’s just…I’m nineteen. I’ve got a dead stepmom, father, uncle, grandfather, aunt, and a few distant relatives. From the time that I was eleven until I was sixteen, someone died every year. That stopped until I was eighteen when my dad died. So, I’ve got a lot of Dead People.

I’m at a point where I can comfortably say that I understand Death as simply a by-product of Living. Which, I think, is probably a John Green quote or something.

What I’ve been trying to say is that I’m comfortable telling people that I’ve got Dead People. I’m comfortable answering questions, and I do so with 100% honesty. I treat it all as facts. Because they are.

The struggle isn’t telling people about my Dead People. The struggle is telling people about my Dead People before they were Dead.

Tonight I realized I had made some academic fumbles–which, I’m sure, I’ll write about sooner or later. To cope with the kind of overwhelming academic stress that makes me want to cry, I bake. But I can’t bake in a dorm room, so I called my Big, who lives off campus, and made a quick Walmart trip. And I baked homemade cookies in her apartment.

While I was there I met her roommates for the first time. The stress of school overwhelmed me so much that I couldn’t even be nervous about meeting new people. We all fit in together perfectly. I was comfortable and happy.

My Big and I talked Frat stuff, and boy stuff, and school stuff. And then, somehow, we talked Family Stuff.

That’s great that you don’t drink, one of her roommates’d said. And I smiled but didn’t say more, because I really didn’t want to have that conversation.

A little later, it came up again.

Why don’t you drink? If you don’t mind me asking.

And I didn’t look at Taylor, but I think she expected me to be as tactless about it as I normally am. I can tell you, but it will make you uncomfortable.

Why? Is it something stupid like “Drunk People are Dumb”?”

Just tell her, my Big said.

So I did. My dad was an alcoholic who drank himself to death.

And her face froze up, and I watched her not know what to say. I laughed to hide my annoyance (Told ya.) and went back to moving cookies from pan to plate.

My grandfather died from the same thing, like he literally drank himself to death too.

I wish I could live in the minds of people right before they respond to my statement. Because the “I understand you” is absolutely the worst. Closely followed by, “I’m sorry.”

Her family is like really screwed up, my Big said about me.

And, yeah, it is. But she kept going, Her stepmom died when she was fifteen.

And, yeah, she did. One part of me itched that someone else was spilling those facts. Another was happy that I didn’t have to say them, for once.

The only person who ever got it right was Steven. A blimp of a person in my life, who wasn’t significant for very long but had a lasting impact.

When I told him that I had a lot of dead people, he said, Me too.

And he was a soldier, so I believed him.

When I told him that my dad was dead, he apologized.

Don’t be sorry, you didn’t kill him.

And when I told him my stepmom was dead, he didn’t say anything.

Sometimes people want their grief to be analyzed. Sometimes people want to be told–It’s okay, they forgive you, they’re at peace.

But me? I just want to talk about it on my terms. I want you to let me. Then I want to move on.

-HH