Rough Drafts

I swallowed fistfuls of ibuprofen and lay on my back for most of the last week. Some back muscle and some faulty move at the gym, I guess. Didn’t feel it at the time, just woke to pain that got worse; that dug at my spine as the hours passed; no sitting, no standing. Stress? Oh God I can’t go there, isn’t everyone stressed, always, everywhere? It’s a given now.

Laying in bed watching a NYPD Blue rerun. Inexplicably I’ve only seen the show twice this year, and both times it’s the episode where Jimmy Smits dies. Me bawling in spite of myself; yeah, shit it’s your birthday, the first one, and I’m still pissed. All those little set-backs, the gradual, incessant decline, the lines in the sand crossed again and again, the expectations adjusted to every-worsening developments. Your bed wheeled out of surgery and the sight of your tracheostomy slamming me like a sack of rocks; a hole the size of a baby’s fist in your throat, some horrible plastic necklace blowing steam on the wound to keep it fresh. Fuck I hated everything at that moment; God, yes, and everyone else’s normal lives and the pile of empty whiskey bottles in my kitchen and the loss of hope. That night I ran around the lake in the dark, my hate driving me forward, skimming over the potholes and the half-frozen puddles.

I’d take you to church every Sunday, early, the service in the small chapel. I sat beside you, hung-over, my arm wrapped around you as if I could squeeze it out of you. Your tears running when the music began, when those around us sang. Every time. The pain and confusion in your eyes; yes, yes, you’re a good person, no, you’re not a bad mother, no, He’s not punishing you and if He is He fucking better watch out. Wanting to punch everyone, the polite and distant Minnesotans, the minister’s concern, everyone always telling me I was a good son. Fuck that, I just wanted you alive.

You’re with me, I know it, there’s no question there. But still. I put up pictures of you around the room. One in the bathroom, when I brush my teeth in the morning it reminds me what you looked like, one summer day in your backyard, before everything. Your dog and your cat under each arm, you laughing. It was like that once, wasn’t it? Sometimes I forget. When I moved to San Francisco you told me that you couldn’t drive past my old house. I won’t ever shake that one.

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