Thursday, December 29, 2011

things I look forward to

1) 10 p.m. - the time I feel I can legitimately go to sleep.  It's crept back from 10:30.  It sometimes backfires when I wake up before my alarm goes off in the morning.  Any night that I don't stay awake for an hour or two in the middle of the night after waking up with a pain in my guts or chest (I wonder why it varies between the two) is a success.  I still don't dream about him. Very different from when my mother died 11 years ago.  I would dream that she is there, but yet know she's dead, and I'd desperately try to reconcile the two. The difference is I watched her die and felt sorry for her, because she felt sorry for herself.  In the dream I would know that she couldn't survive and that I would have to relive her death again - heartbreaking.  Maybe because he didn't know he was dying, I don't have the same kind of dreams now.  But I also don't have the comfort of 'being with him' in my dreams, except for one time, early on, when I dreamed we were walking along a scary cliff together holding hands, and the dream ended as I turned and kissed his shoulder.   I guess that was goodbye.  In those days I felt his presence intensely.  I think it's a defense mechanism we have - goes along with the myth of the spirit staying around for 40 days.  I think it lasted about that long.  Now, I'm constantly aware of his absence.  When I sometimes feel for a second an animal optimism of being in my body, it is immediately crushed in the next moment by the thought that what's the point when 'that' happened.  I also think of this horrible year ending, but can't find any comfort, because 'that' cannot be undone.

2) my mid-morning cigarette

3) my after-work drink

That's about it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I found your notes for a novel from a few years ago. It starts with a phone call telling you your mother's dead. Your biggest fear. You imagined it pretty well - the inanity of the stranger telling you he's sorry; no histrionics, no tears, just the physical weight of it, the broken sleep, the silence. It's uncanny. Just the way it happened. Only it wasn't my death but yours.

That must be the novel that went missing with your stolen laptop. I wonder if it's still out there somewhere.

won't you try?

Do you know there are spaces open and wide?
Believe me, there are days longer than nights
And you will be happy the minute you try
So won't you try?
--The joy in forgetting/The joy in acceptance, Bright Eyes

I had the first line of those lyrics inscribed on the iPod I gave you one Christmas, which you promptly lost.  But who was I kidding.  Days longer than nights?  Never for me.  Did I instill in you this sadness you couldn't bear?  You tried to be stoic, but you were too exuberant.  Not like me.  I can trudge like this forever. But you said:

"Everybody wants to go forever. I just want to burn up hard and bright."

That you did.  That you did.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I'm sick and feeling sorry for myself.  I don't know what I'm trying to be anymore - superhuman or something? I'm trying to be philosophical about it, but the animal in me just bleeds.  I feel like my soul is hemorrhaging.  Yes, I need to be loved and I need to be pitied.  I'm not above that.

But there's only so much other people can do for you.  I regret every decision I ever made.  The difference between a world without God, I read today, is not lack of morality, it's lack of redemption.  There is no redeemer.  Everything is cast in stone.  Loss is forever.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


From the first moments this happened I've been fighting the feeling that it couldn't be real, because it's so literary - to be precise, it's like a bad novel.  Life shouldn't be so pitch perfect, with everything taking on meaning, everything being foreshadowed.  Life should be messy - the bad guys should win, nobody should get what they deserve, a parent's worst nightmare shouldn't come true. No, this can't be reality.

As a result, it's not only his death that seems unreal, but my whole life has taken on that tinge.  It's like - you can't be serious.  I am not going to play along anymore.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


It was like a horror movie.  I was in a house that was mine, but suddenly these people, who were my friends wanted me out of it and they changed into something else - they were still outwardly themselves, but they attacked me and I realized they were not what they appeared to be.

I woke up with the old familiar pain gripping my stomach and my chest and couldn't go back to sleep for hours.  I still feel hungover.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I am so grateful to have your words.  Some of them are the best and truest things I've read, ever.  I love the technology that has allowed me this glimpse into you - smartphone, Facebook.

I never knew we were so alike.  Though it figures - a misfit will beget a misfit.  This line, especially struck me:

"I'm too judgemental for a real relationship. I always think people should be harder on themeselves than they are." 

But I'm so glad you had someone to say it to.  And to see your growing self-awareness:

"the things we hate in others we learn to recognize from ourselves first. its nice being a little bit more enlightened but it sucks to have to go back  and undo soooo many mistakes. I feel like i have maxed out all my existential credit cards. Its like living on bread and water my greatest achievements involve not fucking up that day." 

"'We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget'  joan didion"

It used to drive me crazy when you would write off the past with a simple 'but I'm not like that anymore.'  I'm glad you came to see that it's not that easy.  Our actions define us, not our intentions, or our words.  I feel all the weight of that judgment now.  How I wish I had dropped everything and flown to you when I realized you were alone and lost.  I offered to come for your birthday, and though you dismissed it, you mentioned it to someone, so you were not averse to the idea.  Instead, I mourned you on your birthday.  The birthday party you never had as an adult.  I wish I had celebrated you more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

his words

I'm sober and at my best, or at least my strongest. I just want to be good, whatever it costs. It really is love it just manifests as fury.

I just feel like there are parts to a person that you have to go somewhere to find. Moving around helps you feel new. It makes you braver.

Shakespeare says being born is like being kidnapped and sold it to slavery. I don't want money I don't want power I don't want any of the things they tried to teach me to want I just want dignity.

I am constantly in love, with all of it. I'm just not strong enough to carry it. It tears me apart. I have to face the horror of it all to be able to really feel that love. At least that's how I have it figured.

Happy is just one thing, it can't be permanent ever. I want more than to be happy. I want to be strong. I wanna be strong enough to carry the weight for those that i love

Aug.18, 2011

I miss my country that deep distant part of it. Everything becomes kind of hallucinatory when you feel so far away from where you are.

I have a need to be wanted. It's a massive cruel weakness.

I feel like my intentions are so good, something just gets lost in translation. That's why I separate myself. I feel like I just hurt people. This monastic lifestyle is some sort of penance but sometimes I still fuck up.  Because I'm needy

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in he has no choice  but to become an outlaw' nelson mandela. That was hanging on the wall at the farm. I don't understand why the world around me seems like its fabricated from my thoughts.

Aug. 19, 2011

I just assume that people are with me until they find something better or newer. Like everyone is just playing to win not trying to love.

Because you are what you love, not what loves you back.
Because love must be courageous.

I'm probably always going to be alone. It's just how it is. I make people sad when they are close to me. It's unfair to drag people into that. I have to much love for the real world.

Aug. 24, 2011

It's rare that I feel that I inhabit the same world as most people.
I was writing for a while, now i feel incredibly agitated. I need some sort of catharsis. I have been reading like 3 books at once like 200 pages a day on top of training and I just feel so FULL I could fucking scream.
I don't know, just trying to live my life I guess. I'm always hungry for more even now its never enough.

Aug. 27 2011

I feel my rich imaginary life helps me live my ordinary one. Ordinary life isnt really that ordinary and when you let your mind swim with really lush shit it gives you faith that you can do anything. I mean maybe its hard to actually become Batman but I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

There's so much more to life than what happens. There's an entire world inside people.

Sep.16 2011

Ive sacrificed fun, I have sacrificed companionship, I deal with enormous amounts of pain and frustration on a daily basis. Sometimes I am crawling on hands and knees but if I don't get better that day I can't sleep. I don't get bored, I fight for my spirit from when I wake up to when I crawl into bed. It doesn't define me it is only one expression of who I am. It teaches me how to live. It teaches me how to persevere.

Sep. 20, 2011
It's the past but emotions are memory.

Sep. 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I always thought I "supported" you. That is laughable. You held me up. You took away the nagging feeling that there really was no reason for me to go on. Now it's back for good. Why am I here? Twenty years in this country and I haven't left a dent. I have nothing to show for it. Less than nothing - painful memories and financial debt. Here's a thought - I don't need to be here. I'll pay off my debts and take my pitiful compensation and leave. I have nothing to lose after losing you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The number of photos of you in my room. Your beautiful face, at different ages. All magnificent. They say you looked like me, or your father, or my brother. But you didn't look like any one of us. You were yourself - unique, inimitable, never to be again, never to get old. Usually I can look at you without crying, but not today. Somewhere along the way I equated your death with your magnificence. You were too big for this world. It's hard to see it as the random event that it was. And yet, it is. You didn't have to die. Your luck just didn't hold out. I always thought the 13th was lucky for me, because you were born then, on a Sunday. And you died on a Friday. Now 23 is forever odious.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


The stable bow

"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth."

I read Kahlil Gibran's famous poem when I was very young and I took it to heart.  Despite being so young when I became a parent, I knew that it was the end of youth.  Youth being the contemplation of the many yous you could become, the many paths you could take, the many people you could love and be with.  I was one thing - a mother.  Everything else was incidental.  My job was to keep still, so my son could wander freely.  And we stuck to those roles, although as he grew up he would exhort me to 'get a life' even as he never relinquished his right to eschew stability in favor of pursuing whatever struck his fancy.   That his life would end before mine, emptying mine of its purpose is, of course, the ultimate irony.

But that's not the only reason my life is barren without him.  As mundane as most of our communications were, he was the only person I know, who lived for the sublime.  In practical matters he was frustratingly inept.  He told me a few weeks before he died that he admired me, but had no idea how I do it.  How I did it is I had him as a flame I had to keep going.  At any cost, through winds and storms, through barren days and nights.  How do I do it now?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vale of tears

All this time I haven't allowed myself to think of how this affects me. I've been thinking of how you lived, how you died, how you suffered, and the joy you had. All the rest is self-pity, I told myself. I cannot allow myself to wallow in it. My first duty is to you. I had to take it, for you. But now as I survey the remains of my life, it is a desolate landscape, indeed. How will I trudge through it? You were the only being I felt bound to live for. (In anger you told me once you were the contract I couldn't break - that much was true, although you were wrong that it was just duty that bound me to you.) As you did for me, I hoped. What now? Why continue to suffer through this vale of tears, when you have shown me how easy it is to leave it? Sure, I can tell myself it's still for you, but you don't exist anymore. And I don't know how to live for myself. We are mere animals, after all. If we cannot procreate, what sense is there in our existence. And it seems I got the terminator gene.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


So typical of you to throw away what others go to extreme lengths to preserve - life itself.  You threw away whatever privilege you had, and the comforts others hold so dear.  There was nothing to take away after you died, you had so few possessions, and those were expendable.  Nothing to tie you down.  You quoted Camus:

"Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."

I wish you could have borne it a little longer, for my sake.  But I understand that you couldn't.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The weight of your heart

350 grams.  So says the coroner's report.  Larger than the average range.  But you were so tall, you needed it to pump the blood all the way to your extremities.  Bruises on your body from the martial arts.   But otherwise perfectly healthy.  The drug that killed you was at a "relatively modest level" in your blood, but "in the potentially toxic range."  Death ruled accidental.  So you didn't want to die.  That's good.  It was all a stupid mistake.

"It wasn't me, I wasn't there...And it doesn't count 'cause I don't care." 

I forgive you.  I know you didn't intend it and I will gladly suffer the pain to know that you didn't know it was the end.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


"Time, so far from soothing the agonies of our past, may simply preserve and even intensify them."

 This is from a review of "The Tree of Life," which deals with the loss of a child in terms of its cosmic significance.  Not a bad attempt.  Not a good one either.  There was another movie I saw not long ago on the same topic.  It said a mother's grief never fades away, but feels like a brick you carry in your pocket, which you kind of become fond of and touch, because you don't have your child, but you have that.  It's all been said before.  What could I possibly add to it?  Just that it's not a sharp pain.  Not at all.  It's just always there, sometimes getting heavier, sometimes receding.  It's worse when I think of it as something that was not accidental, but maybe inevitable, when it's not something that was just inflicted on me, but something I had a part in.  Even if that was just bringing him into this world.  Bringing him into suffering.  Not that I regret it.  If I had a choice I would do it over.  That's it - I wish I had a do over.  But you never do with life.  That's the unbearable lightness of being.  

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.”

Again, nothing original to say. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Saw the movie "Melancholia".  My reaction was "yeah, so what?  I already knew there is no point to anything."  My husband:  "it was about depression."  Me: "yeah, what's your point?"

Depression.  I've always thought of it as realism.  Smart people are depressed, because they see through things.  It doesn't mean they don't try.  But they know that in the end it's only sound and fury, signifying nothing.  My son was diagnosed with it when he was barely a teenager.  They put him on medication. The kind they issued warnings about only a few years later, because it leads to suicide in teens.  He didn't commit suicide, but he committed social suicide and got himself expelled from his prep school.  He said it made him not feel anything.  And he dumped the pills in the toilet one day.  I saw his point.  But why did I agree to it in the first place?  That is perhaps my biggest regret. It was his gateway drug.  I've always been leery of mind-altering substances myself - legal or illegal (the only time I tried pot I turned green and puked, and another time, just from the second-hand smoke).  He, on the other hand, probably tried everything he could get his hands on.  He almost died twice before.  Third time was the charm. 

But back to depression. It runs in the family.  My mother had it, my grandmother had it - along with migraines, they passed it on to me.  But at least I got some of my father's dogged get-on-with-it-ness.  My son got it from both sides.  Sometimes he blamed me for picking his father to procreate with (never the other way around).  It was useless pointing out that any other child I would have had would not have been HIM.  But I see his point - we have qualities that get exacerbated in our children.  My son's height for one - my own height was taken to arithmetic progression in him - he ended up at more than six and a half feet.  My depressive tendencies, as well.  To that he added anxiety.

In the movie the character of Kirsten Dunst, the depressed one, appeals to her mother, and tells her she's scared.  Her mother tells her everyone is and basically to get on with it. That cuts uncomfortably close to my own attitude.  But in the movie the world ends.  I'm longing for that ending.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


"After my father left us, my mother cried all her sad-sac tears into the meals she fed me and my brother.  All those tears are no good for a boy -- they sit in his stomach like broken glass, eating away at his strength. .... All her fears leaked into my brother’s dreams, and his heart became like an attic full of trapped animals."

This is from a story my son wrote a few years back.  It's about two brothers, one of whom dies.  The narrator is the survivor, obviously.   When I reread the story now it is so clear to me how he wanted to be the strong, cynical narrator, but was afraid he was the weak, sentimental brother - the dead one.

The portrait of the sad mother is damning to me, although I'm not divorced, nor had he ever seen me crying, except on his account.  But I know he blamed me for being sad.  Hell, he blamed me for bringing him into this world.  Now we're even.

In the story, the brother dies at war and is given a hero's funeral, but the narrator knows he really died of his own weakness and stupidity and he can't bear his mother's exalted mourning of him.

"People never remember the dead for who they were, everyone’s life becomes the television biopic of itself."

I am guilty of some of that.  I want people to remember the good in you.  I know you do, too.  You were all about the image.  People actually think you lived life to the fullest and were always happy.  I know better.  I remember all of you.  You are part of me.  Sometimes I feel the best part.

I got a tattoo in your memory.  I hate tattoos.  Your father hates me for getting it.  This morning I looked for it and stupidly missed seeing it for a moment and got scared.  But it's there.  It will always be there.  I can always look at it.  You didn't mark me in childbirth.  I was too young - my body bounced right back.  But you have marked my life.  I know you had many fears, but you never accepted living in fear.  Losing you was my all-consuming fear.  Now I am fearless.  But I have no life.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Unconscious

As much as I try to be rational, to think life is finite and dying is not the worst thing that can happen to you, my unconscious seems to be rebelling.  Until recently I could sleep and not dream of my loss.  But now I've been waking up with tear-crusted eyes.  Last night I dreamed I had a fight with my mother, who's also not alive.  She was blaming me for not cleaning her house (not something she would do) and I was really upset and told her she never taught me how to clean a house.  But furthermore I was upset that we were arguing about something so stupid and I wanted to tell her that none of this matters now that my son is dead.  This mirrors a fight I had with my son three weeks before he died, except I was the child now.  He blamed me for not giving him guidance and inspiration.  Then he took it back, but I know he meant it.  I will always regret not saying more than I did then.  Though I did tell him I loved him more than anything, I never told him how proud I am to be his mother and how sorry I am that he's had to struggle so much.  (Does anyone ever do that?)  But that's not why I cry now.  I simply miss him.  My life doesn't make sense without him.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Beast

The title of this blog comes, of course, from a story by Henry James, a writer so cerebral that many find him unreadable.  All is allusion and moral ambiguity - bring it on, I say.  Anyway, the point of the story is that this guy, who thinks that something terrible will happen to him in his life shares this thought with a woman, and they spend many years musing over it.  She obviously loves him - to spend her life commiserating over his phantom misfortune - and only when she dies does he realize that the terrible thing he was envisioning has actually happened: that he could have returned her love, but didn't.

And so did I spend 26 years of my life - my prime, as they say - afraid of losing something that I never really appreciated while it was here.  Sure, I cherished the early years with my son - it was hard not to - he was like a magical being that every day brought me new wonder at his precocious mind and he was lovely to look at - with a clear amber brown gaze that even when he was a baby appeared unchildlike and thoughtful.

But when I had to release him out into the world, it just killed me.  Thinking of  him out there unprotected filled me with angst.  So I tried not to think about it.  That was easy enough - I had to work hard to keep our family afloat financially and to get ahead.  I was the sole breadwinner.  I was also only 20 when I had him.  So instead of confronting this world alongside him, I let him fend for himself.  And this was in the new country I brought him to.  As the years passed I understood less and less what he was going through.  I trusted in his intelligence and social aptitude.  I let teachers bully me into things I never should have agreed to.  And most egregious of all, I never got to know his friends.

When he died I found out what these friends thought of him.  Their response was overwhelming.  So many of them spoke of how well he understood them, saw into them, taught and inspired them.  How could he be that to so many?  How could I not know this?  Of course, I thought the same of him, but to others he offered the best of himself.  To me he often entrusted the worst.  Perhaps not the very worst.  That he kept to himself.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Case in point: I dreamed that my son is 3 years old and his grandmother let him wander out of the apartment (in a Manhattan high-rise) so that he would "learn a lesson."  We both went in pursuit and got stuck in the elevator, whereupon I woke up with the typical waves of dread rolling through my torso.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing and Life

I have always known I should write, but other than letters, emails and quasi-diary entries I have mostly resisted this imperative.

Literature has always been more real to me than life.  Growing up isolated in a foreign country, it taught me the language and it taught me how to live. It made me happy.

My first boyfriend encouraged me to write.  He said he knew I had it in me.  It was mostly a long-distance relationship, so I wrote him many love letters over the four years we were together.  When I didn't want to be with him anymore, he returned them and took his back.  He wanted to be a writer and thought his would provide good raw material.  I dumped most of mine in my grandparents' outhouse.  I couldn't bear to look at the childish handwriting, often veering off on a diagonal across the pastel unlined pages.  I never looked back, either to him, or the writing.

The writing that I did keep still feels like I could write it today.  I'm the same person I was at 16.  I haven't learned a damn thing in 30 years.  Not about writing, not about life.

Which brings me to life.  I never aspired to be a writer, because I had no personal ambition to speak eternal truths.  I thought if I could just be understood by one person, that would be enough.  I wanted an ordinary happiness - a lover, a child, an occupation where I could be useful, some friends.  For that I would forsake the eternal truths. That's the bargain I made with fate.

That bargain failed.

I kind of always knew it would.  Somehow, I knew my life would be spectacularly shattered.  That's why I made the bargain.  If only I was never too happy, I would never be in too much pain.  But life thrust on me something, which would make me so happy that I couldn't bear its loss.  My son.  And so I spent my life in fear of losing him. When he was a baby I would wake up paralyzed by a nightmare that he was falling from a height.  But I didn't lose him then.  My fears were lulled.  Until he grew up and refused to live by the rules, refused to stay safe, refused to accept an ordinary happiness.  Recently I started waking up again, with that paralyzing pain that spread from my stomach to my chest.  I tried not to think of him.  I tried to think of my petty happiness (or lack thereof) instead.

And now I've lost him.  And I know I made a false bargain.  If only I had loved him without fear, I would have had a happy life.

That's not possible any more.  So all I have is words.  They will have to do.