Tenx9 regular Rob McRay delivers a heartbreaking story of a loss that changed his relationship to grief. He told this for Nov 2015’s event “Sorry.”
Here is a moving story from Amy Townsend, a Tenx9 first-timer, told at October 2015’s theme “Ghost.”
They say the dead use water to be seen by the living. Like the River Styx in Greek mythology, water is the only element that flows between worlds.
They say everyone deals with death in their own way.
When my boyfriend died, I went looking for him.
His Cuban family told me that even a tall glass of clear water might be enough to bring me a glimpse of his face. For days after we put him in the ground I looked for him in the water. I peered into glass after glass, but he never came.
His mother had found his body in the bathroom of our shared apartment. He was slumped on the floor, his back against the wall. Over and over I sat in the same place so I could see the world the way he saw it that last time.
From my place on the floor, I could see the mirror and I waited to see his ghost appear on the other side of it. Staring up at the yellow ceiling light, I wondered if his father and best friend had come to fetch his soul the way some books say that our friends and relatives will guide us. Did they come through to him over there by the toilet or by the bathtub? Was this cold tile floor the last thing he felt?
I was traveling for work the day his aunt called me with the news: Raul is dead.
With a brain plunged into a sudden deep freeze, it’s funny the questions that rise to the surface.
Drugs, she said.
“You can die from pot?”
“Are you kidding?”
She hung up on me then.
They say you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. But he was an asshole about his possessions. He collected brand names like playing cards. According to one obscure website that meant his soul was probably hovering around his home or his grave, unable to move on to the other side –pinned to this world by materialism, like a butterfly to a corkboard.
So, I checked the cemetery. I brought our dog, another of his prized possessions – a pitbull with papers as long as your arm – in hopes that maybe he would come for the dog’s sake, if not for mine. We stood by his grave, as silent as he was, waiting for him to give us a sign he was there. That he knew me. That he wanted to talk.
Nothing. Just the breeze shaking the palm fronds in the blue Miami afternoon.
Without any kind of sign that he cared enough to haunt me, I went through our closet and donated armfuls of his Versace, Gucci and Armani clothes to Goodwill. If he was lingering on Earth, bound by his material possessions as this website said he might be, then his ghost would surely come down to stop me with his customary Cuban fury.
There was only silence from the great beyond when I handed over his things to the bored Goodwill employee. He didn’t know the clothes could maybe possibly be haunted. They were just things to him. And they were just things to me. Raul was the one that cared about them and loved them beyond all reason. He’d sacrificed so many experiences, wasted so much energy, in the pursuit and maintenance of his precious things.
Maybe it was that same night or a few nights later, when I had the dream. Of course you had a dream about him, you might be saying. He’s on your mind, and dreams function as a sort of strainer to let the stress and concerns out so your brain doesn’t explode. And yes, that’s probably true. But understand this: this was the first dream I’d had about Raul since his death months before. And I’ve never forgotten it.
He came to me like this.
I was sitting at a restaurant at a picnic table, which was weird because Raul was more of a 5-star dining experience kind of guy when he was alive. But all of a sudden he was there next to me. He was smiling and he seemed calm, but I was stressed.
I started talking. I told him all about his funeral and that two brothers neither of us really liked had been his pallbearers. I demanded to know if he was alright and how frantic we all were without him. He nodded and smiled throughout my litany of fears and concerns and can-you-believe-its. Behavior that was totally uncharacteristic of the hothead he’d been when he was alive. I think it was that difference that made me believe this wasn’t just a dream.
And then he showed me a long table stretching into the blackness, filled with people eating and laughing and talking together. He said he was fine. That it was all fine and I shouldn’t worry.
If this was a bestseller I would have woken up and been satisfied. It would have been closure and I would have moved on. This isn’t that book.
Everyone deals with death in their own way? Well, I wanted to live.
You might be surprised to learn that I didn’t know Raul was doing heroin before it killed him. Everyone’s first reaction to the news of his death was a glance at my arm, looking for tracks. I was innocent. I didn’t really even like smoking pot.
That all changed after his death.
The only drug I didn’t try was heroin. I went out every night. Death could come for me at any time, the way it had for Raul. Who could say when I would be on the bathroom floor, with only the memories of the experiences we make and the people we meet to leave behind.
In the absence of his ghost and an explanation, I chose to live like the next moment might be snatched away.
It’s been 10 years since he died.
He never came to me again. Not in my dreams, not in the water and not at his grave. I no longer live in Miami, I married the man he was always jealous of, our dog has since gone on to (hopefully) join him in on the otherside and I’ve given away or sold all the possessions his parents let me keep. The only thing I have left is the last card he gave me: I love you baby. Happy Valentines Day.
Two days later he was gone for good.
I don’t look for him anymore, but sometimes I’ll smell him. A whiff of Versace cologne. And I’ll wonder if he’s finally come to give me my explanation and one last goodbye.