The last few weeks have not been fun.
(Inspired by my writing group’s current topic, “Loneliness.”)
Some days I wake up unable to move, and I can see him out of the corner of my eye, standing there. A shadow, a shape I can’t focus on. I can feel him as well, a warm spot in the room, his heartbeats like muted solar flares burning my skin. But I know it’s not him, not really. He isn’t here anymore.
In those waking nightmares, sometimes we can talk. And I know that’s not real, either. My mouth doesn’t move. I utter no words. But I can still hear his voice like a stinging salve. He tries to explain that it’s entropy. “If it’s not getting better, then it’s getting worse.” Life doesn’t stop, not for stubbed toes, not for scraped knees, not for death, and not for a broken heart.
And because it’s not real, because he’s not there, when I finally gasp and twitch, limbs my own again, I have to turn away and squeeze the tears out through closed eyes.
When I can open my eyes again, I see my copy of Hamlet hanging from the edge of the shelf on my wall. Propped there, held in place under the mass of the other books, it has been that way for months. But it won’t always be, can’t be, no matter how comfortable that spot feels. Eventually, it will fall, its peace betrayed by the endless vibrations of the world as it passes.
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.”
I want to tell him, even his apparition, what it feels like. He was the one who listened, the one who would hear me now, when everyone else is gone. But he is gone, too. And on another soft-focus morning, milky light leaking through the cracks in the blinds, all I can think about is that I’ve never had an original thought in my life. Today I have lost another friend, had her disappear over the horizon of real life, and I hurt in ways that should exist outside of cliches. Something so personal, you should be able to describe it in your own words.
This pain is not the sudden, stabbing impact I felt when I heard the news about him, about the friend who haunts me, nor is it the blunted pull I felt when I read the note he left for me. Nothing so dramatic, so obvious a target to rail against. This was something softer, something more insidious. A sense of loss as the steady drain from a cut that will not scab over, will not heal.
And it’s somehow worse to consider that I might eventually get used to that, as well. Time doesn’t always heal the wound, but only masks it with more pain.
He told me once, in a rare playful mood, that Aristotle described time as the measure of motion, and of being moved. That memory created a fantasy in me, an imagined solution to an impossible problem, an answer that could only exist in a dream. “Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt.” Repeat the words as a mantra. A universe frozen in place from a collective decision to stop hurting. After that, the night terrors come with an extra sting, the split-second impression that maybe it could be true, it could work. If I lay still and try not to open my eyes, then it cannot get any worse.
“I understand why you did it,” I say to the phantom. The phantom who watches, arms dripping with regret. I understand, but I still hold onto my hope, clutching it as an anchor while it pulls me down. For whatever reason, it’s not in me to let go.
And one day the book falls, waking me from that dream of numbing stasis. And he’s not there anymore. The first and last to go, leaving me to live alone in my quiet world. I stare at the ceiling with the sound of the blood rushing in my ears and think about what might come next.