Written January 30, 2013:
For over a year I have been blocked when it came to writing, barely being able to put out a page or two when I found those random moments of inspiration and usually the pages weren’t very good.
Unfortunately(or fortunately, I suppose, depending on your point of view) I have known why I was blocked.
I have neglected to write the thing that has been on my mind near constantly since February of last year and, as a writer who feels things through writing stronger than anywhere or anything else, that means I can’t write anything until I get it over with.
I didn’t tell people or talk about it or put it on Facebook(which seems to be the thing now) because I couldn’t. I still can’t without losing it a little bit.
I deal with things in writing. Sometimes, painful things need to be written but I don’t want to feel them yet.
My brother, Aaron, died almost a year ago. He killed himself by jumping off the top of a building. It was unexpected to the point that just days before he had been talking about the future and had been hopeful for where he was going.
He was my other half in the family. I have four siblings. Stephanie, Aaron, Brandon me and then my little sister Sarah. Stephanie always belonged to all of us. Aaron was mine-we shared the same taste in books and music and a lot of the things in this world I love I discovered because of him-and Brandon was Sarah’s. They are two peas in a pod most of the time.
So I lost my connection with someone who understood when I would say things most people would think is crazy.
I still hear music or read books and want to tell him about it because he would have loved them. He would have loved the Discworld series.
So that is what I have neglected to write about for a year. I’ve started it many times. Many many times but I have never been able to get past the sentence “My brother is dead.” Because when I write it, I know that it is true. You can’t take back something that you put in writing. It can’t be undone.
A few nights ago, tossing and turning in bed a sentence came to my mind. And then a paragraph. I didn’t know where it was going or what it was about but I knew I didn’t want to lose it.
Sometimes things come to you that you know are important and if you let them slip through your fingers you will never get them back. So I got up at about one in the morning and wrote what you are about to read.
The Man on the Bench
Today I met a man sitting on a bench. You would be amazed at what you can learn from people sitting on benches.
He was feeding the pigeons and had done so, he quickly informed me, every week for 23 years.
Looking closer I saw the man had been crying. Not the kind of crying you do when you lose a friend or your wife, who you admittedly hadn’t been very close to in a while, leaves you for the milkman.
He had been crying the tears you cry when your soul has been so deeply wounded you wonder if it will ever recover.
It usually doesn’t. But you move on with a piece of you missing because in this life there is nothing else you can do.
I asked the man, whose heart was so clearly broken if there was anything I could do or if he would like to tell me his story.
The man on the bench paused ever so slightly, temporarily forgetting the piece of him that was bleeding all over the place.
Then he looked at me, eyes boring into my soul, begging me to feel what he felt.
Sometimes pain is easier to bear if it is shared with someone. Even if that someone is a stranger who happened to be walking by when he saw you sitting alone and feeding the pigeons on a bench in a park.
He began his tale, speaking through cracked lips and hoarse voice, by saying simply this: ” There are things you may think you will never lose. But you are wrong. The Gods do not hesitate to rip your heart from your chest and leave you dying, gasping on the floor with nary an explanation for your suffering. Sometimes the Gods make you suffer just because they can.” Above the pain in his eyes I saw bitterness.
I did not know of what he spoke just then but from the core of my soul, I ached for his suffering.
He told me then that he had lost a child, one year ago today. A son who had killed himself.
There had been no note. No signs. Or perhaps, he wondered, he had just been to blind to see what was in front of him.
He had happily been talking about the future days before.
Until the coroner had called to tell him they had his sons body, there had been no reason to fret.
My mouth fell open and a lump grew in my throat, choking any words I might wish to say before they could even touch my tongue.
The man did not make any more eye contact. He just kept throwing bread to the birds, who had no care of such human affairs, and let his soul lay bare upon the sidewalk where it might be seen or stepped on by anyone.
“I’m sorry” I managed. Trivial useless words for the least trivial of all situations.
What good was being sorry going to do? It would not tourniquet the flowing wound in his soul, it would not bring his son back. It served no purpose except to fill a silence I could not bear any longer for fear his sorrow would become mine. That his misfortune would rub off on me and that I was not strong enough.
Then it occurred to me that perhaps the best thing I, who had never lost something so precious, could do for this poor man was to feel his sorrow with him. So that even I could not understand his loss and at the end of the day his son would still be a wooden box of ashes tucked away where it wouldn’t always be seen, he would have had a moment where he was less alone then he had been in a year.
So I sat back on the bench with the man, forgetting where I was going and why and let his pain run off into me.
And together, though silently and separately, we wept.
We wept for his son. For tomorrows that would never come, holidays he would never see and music he would never hear. We wept for love he would never again feel and for words that had gone too long unsaid and words that could never be taken back. We wept for a life that had needlessly been cut short. We wept because there was nothing else we could do.
And all the while we fed the birds.
Today, I met a man on a bench. You would be amazed at what you can learn from people sitting on benches.
I wrote this blog because I know I am not the only one who has lost something they treasured and not known how to deal with it. I wrote this because I never wrote him a memorial. I never said goodbye.
This was my goodbye.
I have been able to write since. Amazingly, after writing that little story and letting him go, at least a bit, I have found inspiration again in things. Stories or plots or characters have come to my mind again and I can write.
I still miss my brother more than you will possibly ever understand. He was my soul mate in my family, even if we didn’t talk as much as I now wish we had and I put off sharing with him things I wish I hadn’t.
To comfort myself I will just tell myself the above was a gift from my brother. He gave me an idea but didn’t tell me where it was going so I would be forced to write it. Forced to accept it. Giving me a medium to let him go so that I can keep going with what he always wanted me to be even when I didn’t think I could. A writer.
And I’m sharing my pain with you as an experiment. I am not good at sharing emotion or…anything. I much prefer to stay in my own little bubble and a great part of me would rather I have kept that story locked in my bedside drawer where no one again would ever see it.
But Neil Gaiman’s words come into my head when I think about that. “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
So this is for you big brother.
And this is for me.
And this is for all the people who have lost something and haven’t yet been able to find the words to express what it is they have lost. When someone dies, you lose so much more than the person.
You lose who they were. You lose who you were with them. And you lose who they could have been.
And there are no words in the English language for that depth of a loss. For the loss of a piece of yourself you didn’t even know you had.
I love you.