I had just sat down for Thanksgiving dinner when my phone rang. It was my sister, but I couldn't understand her. "Take a breath," I implored. After doing so, she cried, "Mark, Mom's dead! She didn't come out of her room this afternoon and Arlene broke down her door and found her face down on the floor! Oh God, Mark..."
I'm set, focused on my plan. At home, dressed in all blue, I'm ready to do laundry, then kick back and watch some artsy love flick about two handsome people. Restless, I need an imagination fix. Restlessness. Lately it swallows me up, coming at me like the leaf-blowing men outside — a daily, relentless explosion.
This story is basically true, but I'll be changing a few facts around. I don't want Mary — that's the name I'm going to give her — to recognize herself. The reality is she probably won't be reading this anyway, as she doesn’t like alternative newspapers. The Wall Street Journal is more her thing. She’s a businesswoman who works downtown.
I wasn’t supposed to be kissing my stepsister. No, it was supposed to be one of her friends, The Twins. Which one I wasn’t sure, but, no matter, she chickened out and my stepsister suggested herself as a replacement. Thus, we lay in the basement making out, my head swimming with the absurdity of it all.
I could hear the three of them making fun of me as they started to get closer. I’m guessing they were teenagers, 17 or 18 years old. I was walking back home from a convenient store carrying a plastic bag full of grocery items. One turns to me, “hey, motherfucker, what’s in the bag?”
Five a.m. Dear God. Often, that’s how I begin journal entries. And so begins this one to you. Dear God, where’s J? Miss you, bro. Gonna caulk my tub today. Damn, can’t stop thinking about that kid who jumped from the GW Bridge. Could’ve been me a while back. Amy’s frozen meals on sale. God. When I use that word, I mean something inside and out.
On most mornings while at the bus stop downtown to catch a Tank Bus over to Kentucky, I see this guy. Before he gets on the bus, with his hands, he makes the sign of the cross. I'm smart enough to know this is a Catholic ritual. That's all I know. One morning, I got curious about what he was doing. I asked him why he went through this ritual.
The irony wasn’t lost on me: Mere weeks following my debut in these pages, the alternate title to which might have been “In Defense of Suicide,” I almost died by my own hand. The little I do remember has me in front of a wooden door with two rectangle panes of glass, poised to throw a punch, thinking you’ve broke your hand twice, try something different. Thus, the glass.
I must have been on some kind of list of people to notify when she died. I didn’t know the person who delivered the sad news. A few days later, on a Wednesday morning, I took a bus up to that funeral home on Glenway Avenue where she would be laid out. I wanted to show my last respects.
Pregnancy and infant loss happens to tens of thousands of families a year. We're just another number at this point, but it's my job as a mother to keep my son's legacy alive. He changed my life, and I wanted to do something beautiful in his honor.
Now, since I'm having another birthday, it's a time for reflection, a time to purchase reading glasses, a time to eat straight icing and a time to crawl under a rock and hide with my dark blanket of complete, utter, desperate, lonely depression. Joking. Actually, last night I thought about a boatload of strange things that have changed in this world since I was little, and the following are some important things that I’d like to mention.
I’m the kind of guy who usually comes around to modern technology sooner or later, but most of the time more later than sooner. I resisted e-mail for years, wasn’t all that interested in the Internet and was one of the last people on the planet to get a cell phone — still I came around to all of it. Thing is, modern technology doesn’t stay modern forever.
Meeting my favorite celebrity has been on my bucket list, and earlier this summer I did it. My boyfriend dumped me for a guy he cheated with, so I decided to go out on a limb, blow $400, travel to New York City and see Woody Allen, the real love of my life, play with his Jazz band.
Weeks after this chance encounter, I'm still shaken by it. Sometimes memories of people from my past don't need to be updated with their current reality. On Race Street downtown some weeks ago, I was standing at an ATM taking $40 out of my checking account. I heard a voice I vaguely recognized.
There's an ambulance with active siren ramming into the sides of my skull while a sunburnt diver stands ready but unable to leap from the sand trap that is my tongue. We know each other all too well. I flop out of bed while groaning. Walk to the front room, where I grab a rope that dangles from the rafters, toss it loosely over my head and then kick the chair out from under myself.