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On Grief

On Grief

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Grief wraps her spindly hands around mine and asks that I stay with her for a while. That I not flee from her touch or offerings. That I grow to anticipate them. Grief is gaunt but sturdy. Every time she visits, it takes time to warm up to her. To remember that she is not trying to suffocate me. To face memory, familiar and forgotten.

 I met Grief as a child, well before I was ready to (if there was ever a time to be ready to meet a force as jarring as she is). Her frame is small, but she takes up entire corners of rooms, rocking, sitting, waiting, arms outstretched. Patient as fuck. Her initial touch singes my skin, but I always masochistically want more. For every move, step, leap, or bolt I make ahead, Grief rolls her eyes. She reminds me to look around and know that facing only forward is lazy. That to live one-directionally is to suck the dynamism out of being human, and what kind of existence is that, my child?

 Turn around, she says. Step into memory, step into mess. Who was he? Who were you beside and within him? Use what you have now to know you then.

I caught myself trying to crawl out of my body and instead I crawled in. Grief said “Go, my sweet.” I let the winds rumble and roar, tensing and testing my breath. They flee, you stay. Flee, stay, go.

Moments of being needed so desperately and never doing enough. Memories being cast aside, seen through. Not seen. Doing too much. A palmful of in-between moments that drip with as much saccharine and sap as I can give them because these are why I stayed.

I can’t hear myself anymore. They’re fleeing, and I’m staying.

“GO”, Grief yells. “GO”.

 What kind of person runs into a fire?

 Go or stay or go or stay or stay. I keep staying. Suspending a moment and stretching it as thin as it will go. Translucent and vulnerable in a home of jagged edges.

I don’t tell anyone, but I like when Grief comes. I’m never ready, and I always have to put down the work or the budget or the problem, but I like to rest my head on her lap.

 I like the wind ripping through my hair. I like pushing against the sea of bodies moving forward. I like to feel small. I like to surrender and see what happens.

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I dream of you. I wake swimming in sweat and shaking.

In my dreams, you are alive and it is fleeting or you are dead and I am mourning. You are alive and then dying. I’m trying to communicate. The world around us is collapsing. Our time is limited. I can’t get you to focus. I’m always desperate. Look at me. Spend the night with me. Talk to me. Process with me. Stay with me. We have one more chance.

Focus.

You are alive, but you are fragile. You don’t seem to realize that you have been given a second chance. You are hallowed and gaunt. You are empty. You are searching. You are vulnerable. I make it my job to remind you that you time is fleeting. We have to use this opportunity to get you well. To give you a second chance. I want you to see me. I want you to remember me and how you loved me, and I want that to be enough for you to invest in recovery. I know that I have one foot in and one out, but I’m ready to promise otherwise. If I stay with you, will you stay alive?

To protect you.

I’m trying to reason with your friends. They are in agreement, but they are also half-existing. We all know we can’t do very much, but there is still an urgency. It is less prominent with them because they are also searching for it. The whole situation feels precarious. A shadow walks by and gives you something out of a pouch that looks harmless, but my gut twists. I beg you not to take it, but you are a zombie. I know, I know, I know in my gut, like I’ve always known. I’ve always known where this is going.

 Within minutes, you are leaving your body. Your friends swarm in, knowing what to do. I am limp. I realize that we are at my parents’ house (but not), and I don’t want them to get mad. I don’t want them to see. I don’t want them to come home to this. Your friends scoff as they take you outside to deal with the mess of dying. I am paralyzed.

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I dream of you. I wake swimming in sweat and shaking.

True as ever, you are distracted. We are in an unknown, bustling city, and unlike most dreams with you, we have time together. I rearranged my life to be with you as much as I can. I try to balance two lives: one that keeps me connected to the world and one that I disappear in with you. One where we shut out all the light and stay up all night together.

As always, I can sense the unsustainability of it all, but I don’t care. Anything to be holed up with you. To feel connection. We numb our senses as the hours grow late. The evening lasts forever, and it doesn’t. We sway and we laugh and we love each other and the precarious state of us and of you is kept at bay. We could live in this space. I wake the next dream morning feeling high on our connection but also dread as it became time to reconnect to the world and clean up after the evening. I look at my phone and notice that I had posted on social media. I am ashamed that I published our intimate evening, but it also allows me a second chance to experience what I barely remember. What I witness is tender. Those moments of pure, pure love. What I held out for.

When we enter the world outside, I tried to keep track of you, but you slink in the shadows, meeting up with strangers to make shady transactions. Gambling with your life. I try to keep an eye on you while also engaging with the bare minimum that I needed to in order to maintain my status as an okay human, but I am distracted. I am never fully somewhere. At some point, I am taking notes, writing an essay that is becoming a story becoming a production. I am coloring in the events of our time together as it was happening: a sort of parallel timeline of how I am being sunk deeper and deeper into my own darkness alongside your own. I am having revelations, but on the other side is still you slinking in dark corners, falling further and further away from me, the world and yourself. And despite knowing all this, I continue to love you fiercely.

We are alone, and it hits me: maybe it is time to let you go. But this is unfathomable. We are too entwined, and I live for those nights of connection. You turn to me suddenly and with more focus than I have ever seen, you say

I think it’s time you let me go.

It isn’t a suggestion. There is a finality to it. You need me to do this for me. For me to survive and move out of the dangerous liminal space I have been existing in. You need me to do this for you. You need to slink further in the shadows until you disappear. You, too, can’t keep hanging on to the in-between.

In all these dreams, and in all those years, I convince myself that with just a little more time or effort, there would be a solution that would pull you out forever. I could sacrifice being fully present in the world in order to bridge you over. Does this mean that you were meant to live in the shadows? To live briefly before disappearing? That you were never going to be able to come over? What kind of a sick game is that? Who designed your fate to be that way?

What kind of person runs into a fire?

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Sicily

Sicily