Chocolate soup for the soul
On my way back down the stairs, I poked my head into the living room, where Brad was packing up his things. He looked up from his packing, undoubtedly expecting me to say something at least halfway interesting.
Instead: "Blue or purple?"
I held out my hands, indicating the newly-scrubbed nails that, up to a few minutes ago, had been painted royal blue. "Purple," he said, with that bemused, louder-than-words look that said I was being silly, and why in the world was I asking him such a question of a geekboy anyway?
Thirty minutes later, the nails were purple.
Such has been the weekend.
Is it silly of me to say that I 'miss' someone, when for the vast majority of the years we've known each other, we've been nothing more than screen-printed words and occasional phone calls to each other? I think not. I've missed Brad—enough to say it when I know that my saying it publicly will probably make him grimace in embarrassment.
It isn't that he's been gone; quite the opposite, in fact. He's always been around, in the same manner that he's been for the past eight years. But spending time in the same city—the same house, even—reminds me that no matter how much you can call and email, there's just no substitute for the instantaneous reaction of smile or sympathy from a trusted friend.
Those who are reading this entry are likely to have read last night's, and the comment that I appended below it, marking how late Brad and I were up talking last night. When I crawled under the blanket and checked my watch, it read 7:03 a.m. - at least five hours after everyone else in the house had admitted exhaustion and crept into their respective beds.
I talked about Dad last night.
Those words don't come easily, and they don't yet come without tears. Most of the time, they just don't come out at all, despite the fact that they're always there, always trying to find a way to get out, be said, be shouted into any listening ear. (—but people don't ask. Probably rightly so; most normal folk don't know what to do when simple, rhetorical questions like "How are you doing?" are met with maelstrom instead of response.)
I said something last night that stayed with me all day today: "It's not that I'm trying to figure out a way to say goodbye to Dad. It's that I'm trying to figure out a way to stop." Six months later, I'm still stuck in that hellish place between knowledge and acceptance. I'm still trying to find a way to reconcile all-too-sharp memories of the effects of his cancer, while being pretty sure that just about everyone I knew was ready for me to move on, get over it, and get back with my life already.
I said as much to him.
His response came with a warm, patient half-smile: "Some things you don't get over in six months. Or a year. Or even five years. Give yourself more time."
Along the way, we talked about all the things that matter to twentysomethings—jobs, girlfriends, movies, music, life, love, and everything in between. He told me that in Hawaii, where rain is virtually a daily occurrence, there's a saying—"you have to have rain to make rainbows."
There is truth in that statement; in the past six months, I've tried to appreciate every single good thing that has happened to me. Even normal, everyday events come into heightened relief when compared to the hellishness that was the first three months of this year.
Tonight, we sat in a Mexican (not tex-mex) restaurant (Blue Agave) in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Jessica sat to my right, Heather directly across from me, Brad to my left across the table, and Andy to my right across the table. We laughed and talked our way from appetizer, to margarita, to entrée, to dessert.
Brad sat quietly in his chair (which undoubtedly something to do with being up until seven a.m. this morning talking to a certain domesticat), contemplating sleep and quiet while Andy, Heather, Jess, and I split dessert. The waitress presented us each with dessert spoons for our portion of the double chocolate/ancho bread pudding. We scooped up pudding and whipped cream and then, sated, watched Jess as she sampled her hot cocoa.
"This is so rich. You've got to try it," she said, handing the Blue Agave mug to Andy, who dipped his dessert spoon into the drink to get a taste. He passed the mug to Heather, who did the same, and passed the mug to me.
It was thick, rich, and not overly sweet; a lot like the hot cocoa I make for myself at home. I sipped my portion of the drink and looked at the friends surrounding me at this table. Chocolate soup for the soul, I thought.
Things aren't necessarily okay. I'm not necessarily okay; some days are better than others. Moments like these—little, quiet moments when it's so plainly obvious, even to me, that I'm not as alone as the somber thoughts of grief make me feel I am—are what will enable me to heal.
My friends can't do it for me. The processes of grief and healing can't be done by proxy, but they also can't be done alone.
I am, by nature, introspective and deeply introverted. It's not always easy for me to reach out to the people that I care so much about, to tell them that while I have always loved them and cared about them for sharing their lives with me, I have loved them all the more for not walking away from me when I was so obviously in need of friendship, and so desperately unwilling to ask for the help I needed. It is all the more difficult to say these things when it's someone that I only see, at most, for one weekend a year.
I'd like to think that the rest of you who deserve these words already know that they apply to you. I hope so.
I just wish we'd had spoons for all of you tonight, and room for all of you at the table.