He wanted to buy my mother a ring, my brother a pair of red painted maracas. We sat at an outside table at Carlos O' Brian's, my father a few months into sobriety, me a few months into nothing; we poked at a platter of tortilla chips in the flat sun hot.My dad had come to San Diego to help me move back home, my chest shattered into a thousand tiny pieces by my latest breakup with Bryan. I was 19, my dad 49. My mom had just announced the end of their marriage and so we went to Tijuana for the day, a surreal jaunt that smelled of stale beer and carne asada, piss and heat. I talked my dad out of buying the ring for my mother but the maracas sat in a plastic bag at our feet. Neither of us said much of anything.
On the drive back home I would like to say we listened to mariachi music, the foibles of the heart up Interstate 5. I don't remember, though I doubt we did. What I do remember is that my cat was positioned in her kitty carrier right behind my father's head on a stack of my hand-me-down furniture. Everything I owned fit into a car back then, and my cat yowled for the entire nine hour drive, over and over and over again, the foibles of the heart broken sounding slightly dead up and over the Grapevine and into the dry of the valley.
We talk about that trip now with a gallow's humor afforded by 18 years. Bryan and I eventually got back together (broke up again and then got back together, I got a tattoo), but my mom and dad got divorced. Got mad, got restraining orders. I don't know if my brother ever got his maracas because around that time he stopped talking to my dad, the silence lasting for ten+ years. We don't laugh about that yet, although some day we may, the way a mariachi band pins you there smiling. Bryan and I are now married, Zoey. My mom and dad now friends, my brother a son. This is that tomorrow, what came next from a time that felt as if there was nothing more.
I have a friend, let's call her You, because it has happened to all of us, curled in bed wanting to die. That horrible moment when You wake up and remember that it's gone, that he is gone, that something essential that makes You you is gone. And you want to die. Maybe You are dead somehow, it feels. You are sure. I am worried about my friend, about You. I know there is nothing I can really do but proselytize my confidence in after, that sometimes we have to have faith when others do not. (Breathe in, breathe out, You are now two more breaths closer to something else.) And so I am hoping that maybe you can help? In the comments section, can you please leave a story of your own loss, how you felt, how you got over it, the After of a time when Happily was not even a hope? Feel free to be Anonymous. I am just banking on there being salve in all of our afters. So what's your story? Let's help You get through this one day.
p.s. Maelstrom is a beautiful Dutch word meaning crushing current. Click on image for link to photographer's Flickr account.