Monday, February 11, 2002
Like a baby stillborn
Like a beast with its horn
I have torn
All who have ever reached out to me…Leonard Cohen, Bird on a Wire
When I get home I take a load of Valium but cant stop hyperventilating. While i’m waiting for the sedative to work i struggle for self control and pace the floor like the lunatic I’ve become. But i’m getting angrier. The first object of my wrath is the picture.
The one of us sitting in the winter sunshine. Our heads are together and our arms around each other. She’d drawn an old fashioned heart pierced by and arrow and written in marker, “All my love to Michael, always.” I slam it on the floor and stomp on it and take out the picture and tear it to pieces and flush it down the toilet.
The pin is even worse. When i’d picked her up at the Atlanta airport she’d worn a pin that says, “My heart belongs to Michael.” I’d stuck it on the curtain over the living room window. Seeing it enrages me and i get a hammer and beat it into a compressed pulp and when it is mangled beyond recognition i take it outside and throw it into Squarehead’s yard. The other pictures of us i tear up and flush.
The only thing left of her i’m wearing. The gold stud earrings she’d given me for my birthday. But i’m just not mean enough to destroy them.
Shortly after i start crying the heavy dope knocks me out and i sleep the rest of Monday morning and afternoon. At dinnertime i take more Valium and some Percocet and fall back asleep on the bed in my clothes. I do not go outside nor do i eat.
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Some time after midnight it begins to snow. By morning in the gray spectral light of a brief and obscure winter sun the streets lie dead white and touched by a phosphorescent glow as if making illumination of their own. Real northern, winter snow rarely seen in the south, puffy, fluffy, powdery.
The next morning i get up and stare outside. Nothing moves. Later that morning i will hear cars with snow chains on Avon going toward Lee Street or Destiny Road. I go out shirtless on the front porch and stand there until i am shaking violently with the cold. I go back inside and turn the thermostat all the way down because i deserve to suffer since i am beyond redemption or atonement. When the snow stops falling it gets very cold.
All that day it darkens so that when night falls i cant tell exactly when it starts. No one is out. All the dogs are quiet. I think about my mother’s angry fits when she would hit me in the face with a glass. I hate fits like that. I’d just had such a fit. I hadn’t hit anyone but don’t words hurt worse?
I don’t go to class. For all i know they’ve been cancelled. When it snows down here everything stops.
Wednesday, February 13
The next day i do not get out of bed but keep sedating myself. This morning i hear a rooster crow far away and the window is blushed in a soft wash of rose. I sleep and dream and in those dreams find only torment. I sleep and wake and across the yard a cardinal drops like a torrent of blood.
I don’t go outside except to get the mail. The first thing I get from her is a card of some kind with a smiley face where the return address should be. And a letter in that heavy, expensive stationery with a crying face where the return address should be. I put them both into an envelope unopened, seal it, put a lot of stamps on it, and leave it for the postman.
That’s just snail mail. There are frantic e mails from her. This makes me angrier still and I almost delete them and block her but I cant bring myself to be that mean. I file them away unopened and start another e mail account so I can avoid her.
Thursday, February 14, 2002. Valentine’s Day
I am weak from hunger and dehydration but today I struggle into the bathroom, shower and shave and put on clean clothes. The jeans she bought me at Christmas are loose and I know I’ve lost more weight because they are almost falling down showing my butt crack. I put a belt on.
Late that afternoon someone pounds at the front door. It’s Frank.
Let me in, Michael, he says. It’s cold out here.
I open the door and he brushes past me and sits on the living room sofa.
Jesus, Michael, don’t you have any heat in here? The plaster’ll fall off the walls.
I bump the heat up to seventy degrees and hear the hateful mutter of the furnace.
I sit down beside him and say, What’s on your mind, Frank?
What happened between you and my daughter? He demands.
We broke up, I say.
Uh-huh. Well, she’s crying and wont stop. Says you broke her heart.
More rage blossoms in me and I feel my face drain of color.
What? I say. She told you that? I broke her heart. I broke her heart? She broke mine. Just shredded it.
He rolls his eyes and says, Okay, she broke yours first. What’s the difference? Come see her, Michael. She wants you back. So do I, if that matters to you.
I cant do that, Frank. She wont love me the way I need her to.
Go see her, Michael. She’s there now and wants to see you. I’ll drive you. You shouldn’t drive as upset as you are. Kiss and make up. Deal with it, whatever it is. She loves you and you love her so I don’t know what the big deal is. If I didnt think you were worth it I wouldn’t have bothered coming over here.
He goes on, Swallow, it son. I’ve lived long enough to tell you it’s not the last time you’ll have to. I’ve been doing it all my life. You know you want to. You just needed an excuse so here I am.
You make suicide sound so rational, I say.
What you’re doing now is suicide, he says. Sherry’s worried you’re not eating. When’s the last time you ate?
Not since I was over there Saturday.
That’s been nearly a week. Have you been out of the house?
Just to get the mail.
That’s what I thought. So you haven’t been to class?
Well, you aint missed much. A day, maybe two. Everything’s been closed. Come back with me and make up with her and go to class tomorrow…tomorrow’s Friday, and catch up. I don’t want a drop out for a son in law. And after you do, for Chrissake eat something.
Alright, I say. Let’s get it over with.