Northbound this morning I thought of you, brother. You driving southbound, in the Comet, noting to yourself that speed kills. You went south to support a friend in need; I went north, the one in need.
My first trip in the new truck, the dog you never met curled in his crate, tail over his nose, I imagined. Five short days from yet another birthday you aren’t here for, I feel the same thing I always feel when your absence rears its head. Alone. There is just no end to that, it seems. It wasn’t a speedy death I worried about this morning or really any death at all. It was everything else.
The road didn’t take me past your house, and I was glad, even though my heart still wishes I could hear you give directions one more time to “E M, like Auntie EM “ Street. I wondered if I ever would understand you and Grace, if you ever got over the hurt, and how on earth you did. I wondered what advice you would give me now, and cursed the circumstances that lead me to wish your counsel was available today. No one else has the words - that was always your job.
Sometimes, there’s peace in miles rolling under wheels, sometimes in the music I hear, or in something only found alone in a car with your thoughts, popcorn crumbs and static interrupting songs you haven’t heard in years, but like enough slow down and hope the song ends before the signal fades. I am trying to hold onto the moments of peace I found in those moments today. Recently I’ve been told my talent is in words, and my failing is in human contact. It seems my desire to write for a living falls right in line with my personal failings. I think this is a good thing to find out, but it cuts deeply.
I don’t know what I expected, ever. I only know when I don’t have it. It’s like that job interview question, “where do you want to be in five years” although I never say it, the only answer that ever rings in my head is “happy”. It’s maybe why I’m not such a great employee.
Changing everything doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. I did that once, 6 years ago, thought it made things better, today I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it will help things if I do it again but I’m going to. Last time I left the people that cared most for me behind, this time, I’m going to them. The people and places that I may never tell anything to, but their presence and their concern may just be enough. Enough to keep me from feeling like someone left a door to a cold winter open in my chest. Wind raging and stinging so cold it brings tears to my eyes. Drafts so cold as to leave me feeling like a solitary tree on an open plain, bent from its force, and unprotected.
I don’t choose to fight this one alone, unprotected is not where I want to be. Maybe I should have made friends with pain when I had the chance, when it was what kept me company night after night, day after day, but I didn’t and I won’t this time either.
On the road, I remember roll call in your class, the comment that made everyone giggle when a student wasn’t there, “absence really the strangest sort of presence”.
It’s the truest thing I know today.