Saturday, December 29, 2012


Writing is hard.  Not writing is hard.  With writing we create our own world, our interpretation of the world.  Writing brings us within.  Living brings us out.  Which is our true self?  The inner one, most would say.  And yet, the one we show to others is what will remain of us.  Is there really a reality that is not shared?  We can share our writing, too.  People can say they understand us.  But that doesn't break the solitude.  Maybe it intensifies it.  Life is a trap.  We try to forget ourselves in others, but nobody can really hold on to that.

"Because sorrow feels too heavy and joy it tends to hold you with the fear that it eventually departs."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

of writing and pain

The writing has stalled for a week.  Of the two parts, as I see them - the fantastic plot and the real details - I'm much more interested in the details.  Those flow, but they are not what will make the novel.  I need to think about it all the time, to plot it, but I'm not really interested in that.  I knew it - I always lacked ambition.

Coincidentally, or not, the pain has also subsided.  The last time it flared up it was different.  It was in the chest, the solar plexus, or the heart.  Where it belongs.  Since then my depression has abated somewhat.  I can contemplate the day ahead without wanting to end it.

Writing is both a chore and a pleasure.  I avoid it, but then am relieved to be doing it.  It's the only thing that stops time.  It's painful, but I seek out pain.  It's the only emotion I can feel.  I do the same when I wake up in the middle of the night.  I think of painful things until I get tired enough and can fall asleep again.

The question is whether the writing makes it harder or easier to be me.  That's what I have to figure out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


The pain has subsided a bit - when I do get it, it's only a mild burst of heat in my abdomen.  It's really more panic than depression, and I'm not the anxious type - I can usually talk myself down, so I manage it.  What is always there is the despair - the thought that my baby is dead and there is no future without him.  But really there was no future all along, just the illusion of one.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

quick, short, sharp shock

It went away for a while - the pain upon awakening.  Then it came back recently.

It's different now - kind of a quick burst that spreads quickly.  Not quite the gut-wrencher of before when I would have the moment of anticipation before it reached its deepest.

My depression has gotten worse - this is perhaps its physical manifestation.  Or just existential terror.

Monday, November 19, 2012


So, I've been writing. It's going better than expected. I've discovered the secret to fiction - the story line is made up, but the details are real. Go ahead, laugh. Yes, I've been reading for forty years and I never quite got it till now.

I don't know if I can follow the story line he wrote. It's too foreign to me. What I'm doing is using it as a platform to go back to his childhood. To tell it from his perspective, without sentimentality.

It has a life of its own. Hopefully, it will find a shape, just as the other one did.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Life after death

Boredom really does yield fruit. Being stuck in the house for a few days and not being able to start a solid read, I think I finally found an answer to what I am meant to write next. I've had the title for a few days but I had no idea what it would be about. I knew it would be fiction. It will not be about my life after his death, but about his life after my death. It will be the novel he wanted to write. It will be the life he should have lived.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Après moi, le déluge

I so wish this could be the end of the world. Then it would have all worked out for the best.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


"All the time that I’d been thinking, I cannot continue to live, I’d also had the opposite thought, which was by far the more unbearable: that I would continue to live, and that every day for the rest of my life I would have to live without my mother. Sometimes I forgot this, like a trick of the brain, a primitive survival mechanism." 
The Love Of My Life
Cheryl Strayed

That piece of writing touches on almost everything I have experienced with grief.  Except the acting out.  I haven't been bad.  Not in any recognizable way anyway.  I have stuck to duty.  I have been mean maybe, impatient, but not self-indulgent.  Do 2-3 cigarettes a day count?  In the magnitude of my loss - hardly.

So is this it?  Have I overcome?  Have I healed?

"Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do."

Done.  But it doesn't feel done.  It feels like everything might still fall apart at any minute - my carefully constructed ordinariness.  My body that feels as strong and fit as ever, with hardly a wrinkle marring my brow.  Surely this can't go on.  I will wake up one morning and not recognize myself in the mirror.

"Somewhere, floating on the surface of my subconscious, I believed — I still believe — that if I endured without her for one year, or five years, or ten years, or twenty, she would be given back to me; that her absence was a ruse, a darkly comic literary device, a terrible and surreal dream."

A surreal dream made all the more terrible by the lack of outward change.  I want to see the monster in the mirror.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012


27 years ago today I didn't sleep, because I was becoming a mother.  Typically, I tried to cheat and dozed off between contractions.  But you were coming fast and I had to rouse the snoring nurse next to me to tell her it was getting serious. 

You were so big, they had to cut me, but you came out perfect - round-headed - a little white bunny as the nurse called you.

Last night I slept, but in my dream I worried that you had dropped out of school, and about what were the options to remedy that.  Then I woke up and realized I needn't worry about you anymore.  I miss the worry.  That was my gift.  I'll take it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2 dreams

I don't dream of him often, but when I do I feel like I was really with him.

This one was the other night: he came home with a tattoo on his face - temple and forehead.  He had tried to cover it with makeup and I started wiping it off.  Something about 20 or 22 days, to do with Sudan.  He was 17 by my calculations and this time I didn't let it go.  I marched him to the tattoo place, which was in an apartment, like a doctor's office and threatened to sue them.  They didn't seem too perturbed.  Then he was in a hospital bed, presumably to have it removed.  He was really skinny, his ribs were sticking out of his chest.  He wasn't mad at me, but I felt bad about causing him additional pain with the removal.

This one was five weeks ago: I was with him and it was now.  I think my mother was there, too, but we went out, me and him and this is the only part of the dream that I remember.  It was dark outside.  We went to a girl's house.  Everything was kind of dingy - the place, as well as our clothes.  He was wearing something like pajama bottoms, or loose thermals - two layers of them.  At her place, the girl had some white powder out and she casually snorted it.  I thought it was cocaine.  He had some, too. I didn't, but I didn't try to stop him.  It seemed like it was not a big deal.  When we left, the bottom of the wooden staircase was blown out, so we had to get down from the first landing which wasn't too high, about chest-level, but I wondered how we had gone up.  Then we went to some kind of club.  Before that, I noticed that he was now wearing pants, but I was wearing the pajama bottoms and I thought it would be best to change.  I had my yoga pants and I thought that would look more decent, but I ended up wearing jeans under a dress.  When we got to the club I thought they were going to ask us for IDs and I realized I had left my wallet behind.  I told him that and he laughed and said "don't worry, I have money."  They let us in.  The club was kind of dingy, too.  He seemed at ease in this world. I felt it was a place where I could be with him.


I felt some yesterday for the first time and it wasn't for the past.  It had to do with the crisp autumn air and I felt it in my legs.  Of course, I wanted to kill it, because I can in no way satisfy it.  But it's a sign of life.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I think the animal in me has gotten used to missing you.  I no longer wake up every time with a spasm of pain in my gut.

From now on I shall no longer mourn you.  I will only celebrate that I knew you, that such a force of life came through me.  Through the tears I will be grateful for being granted the privilege of loving you.  And I will try to deserve the love you gave me and the trust you had in me.

Friday, September 14, 2012

a brick wall

That is what I hit any time I think of the future, any time I have a fleeting hope, any time I try to get around it somehow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I've been holding up so long, it's like I can't feel it anymore. Wondering if the floodgates are bound to break.

"You are what you pretend to be."

Friday, August 24, 2012

my room

Here I have known the worst pain in my life. And yet I'm grateful for it. I trust it to contain my pain. Here I find oblivion, and sometimes dream. But even if I lie awake in agony, at least I lie awake alone. I have no one to answer to. I don't have to put up a front. In my room I can let the longing and the obsession do their worst. No one has to know. Here they lie in wait for me. Here they keep me company.

Monday, August 13, 2012


That is perhaps the hardest pill to swallow. I can deal with the sadness, the regrets - they mean that there once was someone, someone who occupied my thoughts. But as Kurt Vonnegut says in Mother Night:

"There's another clear moral to this tale, now that I think about it: When you're dead you're dead."

So all my thoughts can't benefit anyone. I might as well forget. 

And another one - for the survivors:

"I was like almost everybody who came through the war. ... Every job was a job to do, and no job was any better or any worse than any other."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


"I don't want what you want, I don't feel what you feel."

So this book I've been reading is a bowl of laughs. Its premise is that there is no purpose to life, it's all an illusion perpetrated by adaptation to make us get out of bed, and if you can't deal with it, there's Prozac.

Here's a quote from it:

"Introspection can't provide a good reason to go on living because there isn't any. ... But introspection keeps hoping, looking, trying to find a reason to go on.  Since there really isn't one, those who look hard eventually become troubled."

Troubled is a nice way of putting it.  The first quote is a lyric my son kept coming back to, so much so that he joked he would have it tattooed on his forehead.  I said in my book that he wasn't well-adjusted, that he couldn't be fooled.  He saw through the meaninglessness of it all.   He didn't buy into the whole getting out of bed for no reason but to perpetuate a bunch of molecules.  Of course, any body wants to keep going, but he fooled his by driving it to death.  No, he didn't will it, because there is no free will, but he slipped one by evolution.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

natural selection

My son joked once that when he grows up he wants to be natural selection.  I'm reading a book about it now and wondered if he was defeated by natural selection - his traits too rarefied, too unfit to perpetuate.

I once planted flower seeds that a friend had brought me from Holland.  I knew nothing about it and planted them in pots that were too small.  They grew tall but never flowered because the stalks broke - they were too tall and fragile to survive.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


This is a new phenomenon for me. I find myself gripped suddenly with a longing for the past - any past - not just when my son was here, but even before that.  Any past time in my life now seems idyllic.  Even last year when I was undeniably depressed.  I want that back.  Anything but this, anything but now.

Friday, July 20, 2012


"the hours after you are gone are so leaden..."  Samuel Beckett, Cascando
"All the years keep rolling/The decades flying by/But ahh, the days are long..."  The Walkmen, On the Water

I can deal with the years, the decades without you. It's the individual moments that can break me. The void is too much to bear. My love is going into a black hole, never to be returned. I am slowly turning cold.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


So I had a crisis after I finished the book. At first it was about the reaction to it and thinking of maybe having to rewrite it (which I can't and won't do).  But really it was about not having it as a nightly ritual of grieving.  Where to channel my grief now?  Can I let go of it or will it come back with a vengeance? 

The pain I get upon awakening has been a little unpredictable lately.  Sometimes I don't get it immediately.  Sometimes I look for it and that provokes it.  Other times it skips me.  Then it comes back as usual.  That is also something I've been clinging to, I think.  Without it, what do I awaken to?

This morning I had an intimation.  I woke up thinking of him.  It's strange that people think the photos of him covering my walls would be a constant reminder.  They are not. I don't need a reminder.  What was different this morning is I caught a glimpse of the endlessness of despair.  I have been telling myself that grief is forever.  Today I felt it.  The finality of it.  Every Saturday I will wake up to nothing to look forward to.  He is not just away for a while.  There is no substitute.  There is no way for me to rejoin him.  Even if I die.  We die alone.  He died alone.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


When it comes to writing they say the deeply personal is also the most universal.  I think that applies to my story, as well.  I know it has the power to shake people up.  I think my critics so far have been too close to be objective.  I will try a couple more, who are not that invested in my well-being.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Well, I asked for it and it's unnerving.  Even the well-meaning comments from friends and family still feel like an intrusion.  What happens when I put it out there?  Will I regret it?  Will I want to un-know what people think of it?  Maybe I should give up on a wider audience.  Maybe some things are better left unsaid.

Monday, June 25, 2012


So, done.  I've shared my manuscript with a few key people.  Now it has a life of its own.  I still have to perfect it and find a way to get it to a larger audience.  The process is daunting and makes me queasy, but it has to be done and technology has made it that much easier.  I've done harder things than that.  But nothing as wrenchingly personal

I must pull myself out of my self-ascribed mediocrity to reach for greatness.  Not for him, but with him. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I'm trying to wrap it up.  I already wrote the ending, but I'm not sure it stands up as a whole.  I've never written anything as long.  I start reading it to revise it and I get caught up in it and change almost nothing.  I guess that's a good sign.  But I'm not sure a casual reader would understand it the same way.  Some of it is written almost in shorthand.  I've done this twice now.  And yet I'm not satisfied with it.  It seems both too short and too long for what it is.  I'm not sure what it is - it's a hybrid, really, of trying to reconstruct my feelings about his death and his character traits which might explain it.  A lot of it is his words. That I'm satisfied with.  He needed a forum.  But I'm not ready to part with it.  Will I ever be?  I should let someone else judge.  Soon.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Mine. Had my first surprise party (was really surprised), got my first bike (am really intimidated by it). Shows how little I've lived. I've basically just hibernated.

A friend wrote to me that she dreamed of my son.  She's not the first to say so, but she described it so eloquently.  His hair was like spun gold, she said, streaming with an otherworldly light.  He was sitting at a big table and he wasn't eating but she knew he has everything he needs to be satiated.  I'm sure that's right.  He lacks for nothing now.  And I'm still accumulating stuff.  For what?

Sunday, June 10, 2012


“She upset Billy simply by being his mother. She made him feel embarrassed and ungrateful and weak because she had gone to so much trouble to give him life, and to keep that life going, and Billy didn't really like life at all.” - Kurt Vonnegut 

Really that says it all.  I can try to dissect it and reconstruct it, but it seems that one truth is inescapable.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


"some mornings its alright, some mornings you pet your cat with bare feet and watch him eat breakfast"

If you have a cat, that is. Maybe if he'd stayed with the cat, he would still be here...  They say that animals can regulate your heart rhythm if the connection is there.  He said he missed him, when the question of love and loneliness came up.

But that's not what I wanted to write about.  Some days you just can't put one foot in front of the other without thinking of all the missteps you made.  It's common wisdom that only the present exists - the past is gone and the future is uncertain.  But I think only the past exists for sure.  And it's unchangeable.  The present turns into the past with each breath.  Just as you can't change the past, you can't change yourself.  That's why regret is useless.  Even if you return to the past you would still be you.  How could you do things differently?  Even with hindsight.  It's not like I lacked foresight.  I was just powerless to change things.  The game is rigged.  All you can do is wait for it to play out.  Then you'll know the score.  And then it doesn't matter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

near death

Yesterday I went out to eat my lunch in the summer heat that had descended on the city. I sat down with a friend on a bench on a dead end street near a park. Seconds after that something seemed to explode right next to us. A huge umbrella had been blown off the roof. Its cast metal stand separated from it and shattered on the pavement, with pieces scattering at our feet. Only a couple of yards separated us from the site of the impact.

I proceeded to eat my lunch. I was not even fazed. Somebody I shared this with told me I had a super power now. Another person said an angel was protecting me.

Both are true. I do not care about death now. My son gave me this gift. I survived his death, so I'm ready for mine, whenever it comes.

Having watched my mother part with life was one of the most heart-wrenching things I've been through.  I'm glad my son won't be there for mine.  And I promise I will not be sorry to go.

Monday, May 28, 2012


First summery weekend in NY. The hot, humid air always conjures up my nostalgia for this city. When I was growing up here I was always lonely. I longed for the summer when I would go back home and see my friends and later my boyfriend. Then I would return, usually around Labor Day, to the suffocating summer city. That came to symbolize New York for me and when I was away from it for nine years, that is how I imagined it and missed it.

When I came here with my own little family I felt I had won - I had the best of both worlds - the city I loved, without the loneliness it went along with.

The first summer I sent my son home to his grandparents. When he came back he was all tan from the beach, with sun-bleached hair - a vision of beauty at 7. We went to Central Park and as we were descending towards the little pond near the Alice in Wonderland sculpture we passed by Paul Simon and his then pregnant wife, Edie Brickell. Our son was running ahead of us dressed in a white button-down shirt bought at a garage sale and khaki pants. As they passed us, he turned to her and said "what a beautiful boy." I felt so fortunate right then to be envied by someone who had everything.

My beautiful boy is gone, but that vision of beauty still makes me feel fortunate for having had it.

Friday, May 25, 2012


The truth is we can only feel so much of it. Then the body's anesthesia kicks in and you feel nothing. I feel nothing most of the time. Only upon waking up, without fail, do I feel the gripping pain in my abdomen. First consciousness, then pain. Then it passes and I either fall asleep again or I get up. I know the drill now, I wait for it to pass. I wonder if it will ever stop. I wonder if other people feel this. I wonder if it's a coincidence that that's where my womb is. Sometimes it spreads to my chest. But it always starts in my core. Sometimes I wonder if it's a muscle spasm. But no, it's just in my mind. And it will never go away. As long as I live.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


8 months today.  Not that time is relevant.  Every day is the same day. 

"I get up in the morning, put my dreams away.  I get up, I get up, I get up again." 

It's from a song by a group called Dead Man's Bones.  Ryan Gosling's their frontman.  My son told me about them, of course.  All their songs feature death.  In a non-morbid way.  There's even a children's choir.

When there is no future, does time really exist?  Once we stop growing up, we measure time by our children's lives.  That's when time is meaningful.  Now it doesn't matter.  Yes, I'm getting older, but when you're already dead, age doesn't matter. Just a little bit older and colder every day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

good death and bad death

So I read this article today, which asks if death is bad for you.  I have always said no.  The quote above is from Dylan Thomas, This Side of the Truth.  I wrote a term paper on it in high school and it has stuck with me.  The deal, of course, is that there is no good or bad death - it's all the same in the end, or as my son was quoted as saying "We all fall short in the end."

So why do I feel bad about my son dying?  For myself, of course, because I miss him.  But I also feel bad for him, though not because it's better to be alive than dead, but because of what I failed to convey to him, because of all the times he felt lacking, because of his self-doubt.  I want to make it all better, but I can't, because he's gone. 

I don't know where I read this - I thought it was Dostoyevsky, but I couldn't find it in The Brothers Karamazov, it could have been C.S. Lewis - that heaven, if it is to exist as a valid concept, must go back in time and remove the pain that was suffered by innocents.  That's what I want to do, but I can't. I can't make amends.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I had a dream that my son had died, but he was younger - 9 or ten. We had scheduled the ceremony and informed people. But as I was watching the body he awoke. I was only briefly startled, then I was happy and relieved. He was still weak, but he was calm and seemed happy to please us with his revival. As I stroked and kissed his head I watched him for signs that it was really him. We had given away his clothes, so I thought I must go buy him new ones and that pleased me, but then I thought maybe I should ask someone with older boys to donate some. I remembered some of the clothes he had at that age or earlier and thought he would have outgrown them anyway. I had the feeling that we can start over now.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

reading Batman

I dug out from under my bed the stacks of comics he left. Roughly a third of them are about Batman.  He kept buying them up to when he died.  They even emailed him after to pick up one he had prepaid.  It was called Avaritia.  I liked the name.  In our last fight I questioned the recurring charges at the comic book store.  “Sometimes I buy lots of comic books because they let me feel like a little kid for a few hours,” he replied accusingly. 

I am looking for the key to his obsession.  Why Batman?  There's a lot about death and redemption.  I'm reminded of the novel Fortress of Solitude, but Yassen never liked Lethem.  Too close to home?  I don't know if I can read any of these.  It's an alien experience.  But I'm running out of ways to get to know him better.  To understand.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

woke up screaming

...last night. 

There was an elaborate assassination plot against my son.  We were trying to subvert it with the help of decoys - other tall young men.  But I realized they were tracking us by our cell phones, so I went to the terrace to throw out mine, but couldn't because there was some kind of net that I had to claw through first.  Then the assassin caught up with me.  It was someone I knew.  My first boss in the US.

I woke myself up with a choked out cry of "I'll kill you!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

past life

My husband made me take one of those silly tests, multiple choice - he didn't tell me what it was about, I assumed it was a character test.  It was, but with a twist - it was supposed to determine who you were in a past life.  It said I was a nanny on the Titanic, because I stay calm under pressure and my first thought is to help others.

He didn't see the irony of it.  I had to look away because my eyes filled.  If that was indeed the case, let's consider how I feel about my present life.

No mothers day

There's a well-meaning, if misguided, campaign by that title, asking mothers to disappear on Mothers Day to bring attention to the preventable deaths of mothers in childbirth.  Look it up.  But this is not what this is about.

Mothers Day last year was the last day I spent with my son.  He had come to NY to meet with a casting agent, who had seen his photos on FB.  When he told me he was coming I reminded him it was also Mothers Day that week.  He rebuked me for reminding him and said that's why he was coming then. 

The night before he quarreled with his father.  He almost left then and there, but I convinced him to stay.  We went out on Sunday.  First I took photos of him, because the casting agent wanted to see natural light ones.  They were terrible.  I probably cost him the job.  If he had gotten it he might have moved back to NY instead of going to California, where he died.

There is also a photo of us taken by me - the worst photo ever, actually, two of them - the second one is worse, but they are the last photos of us together.

We went to brunch at one of the neighborhood restaurants.  Waiters were handing out roses to the obvious mothers in the room.  He looked at me, not getting a rose, and said - you know it's because you look too young to be my mother.  That much was true - we could have been a mismatched couple.  We got that a lot on a cruise we went on several years earlier.  I was neither flattered, nor upset. 

Then we went to the park where I took the photos of us.  On the way back he got hungry again, so we stopped at an Asian restaurant.  I had undertipped in the morning, just because I couldn't calculate after the Bloody Mary, and he was upset with me.  Here I overcompensated and he asked me sarcastically whether I liked Asians better than Mexicans.  I admitted I was bad at tipping.

That's all I remember of that day.  Next day he left and four months later he was dead and I never got to see him again.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How are you?

I mean, I hate the question in general, because nobody wants to know the answer, so why not just end it at hello?  But now I've begun to dread it, because I'm not a vacuous person who can smile and pretend it doesn't mean anything when you ask me that.  So when I shrug and say 'okay,' I expect you to take that at face value.  And I mean okay, considering my son is dead, not okay in general.

Yesterday someone actually answered me with 'just okay?' and when I confirmed, he proceeded to assure me that I would feel better on the weekend.  Umm, actually, no, I prefer weekdays, but thanks for ignoring the reality of my life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

can't breathe

I had agreed to be transported somewhere while in a tight and airless space. It was like a car, but I was pressed against the window, and we were supposed to go under water. I tried to practice yoga technique, telling myself I would be okay holding my breath and won't suffocate, and I shouldn't panic. But I guess I did panic because I woke up.

I went to the bathroom and temporarily forgot the dream. But then when I went back to bed I kept having trouble breathing and was wondering why I was upset. Then the dream came back to me.

The thought that first came into my mind was I must scatter my son's ashes - he shouldn't be in a box. Then I thought: maybe this is what he went through when he died. Did he dream he couldn't breathe and he couldn't wake up?

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I finally finished the book by her that I started last summer - her first novel Run River.  No wonder I had trouble finishing it.  A 26-year-old dies in it. Her sister-in-law burns her journals, because she doesn't want her husband, the brother, to 'see the pattern.'  He blames himself for not keeping her safe.  He eventually kills himself after he murders somebody, and as his wife holds his body, she tells him her memories of him.

"She hoped that although he could not hear her she could somehow imprint her ordinary love upon his memory through all eternity, hoped he would rise thinking of her, we were each other, we were each other, not that it mattered much in the long run but what else mattered as much."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

the horror

A friend wrote to me when she found out: “You gave him so very much of your life to help make his... horror. what horror. how incredibly cruel.” Cruel, yes, but a waste, as is implied by the first statement - emphatically, no. He made my life as much as I made his. Maybe more.

I always felt sorry for couples who were childless by choice. Maybe even felt superior to them. I know, that’s not very nice. Do I feel chastened now? To the contrary. A child is not an investment. A child is the closest an atheist can get to God. That’s what I felt when I was in labor. I was just a vehicle for life to come through me. That’s what I always felt it was – a sacred responsibility. That’s why I feel like such a colossal failure. I had a treasure – I held the meaning of life in my hands – and I lost it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


In going over his Facebook posts, trying to keep his voice alive in my head, I’ve come across this quote repeatedly. It was like a mantra. It’s from Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem:

“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.”

This is its continuation:

“We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

Except when death freezes things and the present stops obscuring the past. Surely then we don’t forget.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

from a reader

"Maybe he knew it all along. Knew that this was just a brief visit.... Through his death and your writings, you have become closer than ever. You see your similarities. Maybe this was what scared him sometimes: he was afraid of exposing his own vulnerability to you, because he knew you would understand too well."

Thank you, E. for making me feel understood.  And thank you to all of you reading this and making me feel less alone.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


This is an excerpt from the book I'm writing:

He told me I was in denial, but really he was hiding the truth from me all along. ‘Can I trust you now?’ I wanted to ask him. I don’t want to relive my whole life, I just want to redo that conversation. Even if it fails to change anything. I just want another chance. There are so many things we think are impossible to change, but death is really the only one. There is always another chance before death. We just don’t want to take it for fear of being wrong. I didn’t ask him ‘can I trust you now’ because I thought he would fly into a rage as he did whenever I doubted him. I predicted his behavior and acted accordingly. But what if I was wrong? What if that would have been the right opening? What if even if he had still died we had had a different conversation from all those other ones. There are signs that he really changed towards the end. I missed out on the opportunity to acknowledge that.

“Every day I wake up and spend five hours training my body to exhaustion just so I don't have enough energy to actually throw myself off a bridge. Everyday I am forced to reconcile the mangled peices of a human being and I don't think you've even noticed.” 

Of course I noticed. With a mix of pride and terror I watched his boastful postings about his injuries. A really bad shin scrape, the ‘still prettier than you’ almost broken nose, the bruised ribs he complained of a few weeks before the end and which I suspected had caused him to overmedicate. The Fight Club therapy he was practicing. Was he rebelling against me? Against my emasculating power. He ended our last fight with: “I have to go hit people now. Thankfully.” Three hours later he apologized. It was self-punishment, wasn’t it? Freud’s melancholic, who rather than hating others turns it upon himself.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Dark Knight

I got up last night to write down this dream.

Batman had to withdraw from the world because of a super villain who was after him, so he feigned his death and from then on would live in secret with his family. And that would be enough because being with the people you love is like being with everybody. This was a movie in the dream, but the ending was only revealed after the movie ended, so it was real.

Some writer said you never have to revise what you get up to write in the middle of the night. I guess it's true. I was questioning the title of my book, but I have a reason for it now.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I've been wondering all these months what people mean when they say it will get easier, except not knowing what the hell they're talking about, obviously.  But I think I know now - it's this, this terrible calm, this acceptance that nothing will ever be the same and yet things will go on regardless.  And this is so much worse.  It's like hoping for a death sentence and getting life in prison.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

live in dreams

In my dream you had come home because something went awry with your plans - you screwed up.  But I was happy because you were there and I could hug you.  You looked over my shoulder as I was cooking chicken and kale - what I actually plan to cook today. 

When I woke up I wasn't pained that it wasn't real, because in a way it was.  I got to hug you again.

Friday, March 30, 2012


First time I remember that I've had money in my account come the end of the month.  It hurts so much.  I wish you were still here, so we could keep arguing over money and getting me into debt.

You were right about that, as about so much else.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


“No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.” - Jack Kerouac

Writing is becoming a tyranny.  Not just this, but the 'book' I'm writing.  I'm tired of judging my emotions by how good a writer I am.  Yes, a lot of it is trite.  That doesn't make it less true.  'Trite', a word I learned in creative writing class in middle school.  The worst condemnation.  Enough.  I just want to feel.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


The nice weather makes me want to die.  And I don't mean just now.  I've always been like that.  It's like I've been created to tough it out, but I don't have what it takes to let go and enjoy the warmth.  No, that makes me want to quit. "Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair."  It brings so many expectations that will never be fulfilled. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

more dreams

Well, I thought the fear had disappeared.  That gut-gripping fear upon awakening.  But that's because I hadn't dreamed of him.  It came back one night.  I was following him and watching him go somewhere, a bad place, at night, looking for danger. I wasn’t trying to stop him, more spying on him, but I was cut by the knowledge that this is what he does, that there are things I don’t know about, risky things.

Then last night I had quite a different dream, a very Freudian one.  He was 6 or 7, we had gone back home for good and I was concerned that he would forget English so I was going to get my father (a former Ambassador) to ask at the American embassy if they would accept him in their after-school program so he could go there maybe once a week. I was concerned that he would grow up not speaking English. There was also some other opportunity - a play(?) that I wanted him to try out for. The embassy's back yard abutted on our own (or what appeared to be my grandparents' village house yard). We could hear the kids playing. As I was formulating this plan there was some urgency to it, but at the same time I thought, well, what's the point, when he's dead now, but I still planned to go through with it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

End of the day

Such a blessed relief. Especially on weekends when I'm at a loss as to what to do with myself.

I did my yoga, I cooked lunch, I did my writing (thank god for that), I'm having my drink (never enough, but I resist overindulging) and soon (not soon enough) I will be unconscious. Overall a success, I think, considering I have no hope for the future.

'Life is how it is, not how it was.' - Bright Eyes

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the question of self-pity

"People in grief think a great deal about self-pity. We worry it, dread it, scourge our thinking for signs of it. We fear that our actions will reveal the condition tellingly described as 'dwelling on it.' We understand the aversion most of us have to 'dwelling on it.' Visible mourning reminds us of death, which is unnatural, a failure to manage the situation." - Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

How many times did I say this to people - it's only self-pity that makes me sad. I'm not sad for him - he is no more, I'm sad for me. But I'm also sad for who he was. Now that I'm writing about him the hardest thing is not writing about the death. That gives me a certain comfort. I can feel a certain detachment as I'm describing what I'm going through. But when I write about his life, everything makes me sad - the good and the bad, the things we did and didn't do. I wish we had done more.

I wish we as humans didn't dread death. What is death to us? I just wish we knew what we have while we are living. But we can't. We just can't.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I've started writing what I hope will be a book. Working title is Our Dark Knight. In a way it comes easily. I'm never at a loss as to what to write next, but it comes at a cost. Being truthful brings up pain that would otherwise lie below the surface. I realize that I'm in a peculiar state, one in which anger and self-blame become one. But I have no choice. I've failed at life. I need to succeed at writing. Otherwise I have no excuse for continuing to occupy space on this Earth. I owe it to him. His life is complete, but mine isn't. It's a lonely task. It makes me feel like I'm at the bottom of a well. Memories are not things you have. They are things you will never have again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues

 I first heard the poem in "Four Weddings and a Funeral".  Was reminded of it reading Joan Didion's memoir about the death of her daughter, Blue Nights.  Went on to read the one about her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking. 

I never liked Joan Didion, although she was one of my son's favorites.  I always found her cold.  Now I think she is just like me.  Or maybe all people who lose their only child are alike.  In any case, it helps to read about someone else experiencing the exact same thing.  It makes you feel less alone.  Thank you, Joan.  You take comfort where you can find it.  I have always looked to literature.  Never thought I would find it in non-fiction.  It has changed my perspective on writing.  That even the most profoundly personal can be universal.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

just deserts

Lately I've been feeling that I deserve what happened.  More than that - that we all deserve what we get.  And so I deserve this barren life, bereft of its only meaning - love.  Why?  Because of cowardice.

You told me I lived in denial.  Not exactly.  It's not that I couldn't see.  It's that I couldn't act.  My sins are all ones of omission.  I never did the wrong thing.  I just didn't do the right thing.  Because of fear.  There are instances that come clearly to mind.  But this is not the place. 

I said in the beginning that I knew I was always meant to write.  The reason I haven't is not because I think my writing is not good enough.  It's because I have no imagination.  I'm always amazed at how wildly imaginative my dreams are.  But in real life I have no access to that power.  But there's one thing I can do.  I can write what I know.   I was kind of a journalist after all.  I can take what I know and make people understand it.  Maybe even feel it.  That's all I need to do now.  I need to write about you.  Because you were amazing.  Because you had no fear.

Another reason I gave myself a pass on becoming a writer is because I thought you could do it better.  You were as good a writer as me, but you also had a life.  But although you wrote, you didn't leave behind much.  You were too busy living.  Well, I have no life now, so I have all the time in the world.  I will write about your life.  I don't pretend to know all of it.  I was in denial, remember?  But there are people out there who know about it.  They can help me fill in the gaps.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

no love

Oh, who am I kidding?  Love can't save anyone.  You knew that.  You were wiser than me in so many ways.  Love is at best an illusion.  The best kind, but still an illusion.  No one can take away another's pain.  No one can give another's life meaning.  I was naive to believe that.

And you were right about me - I did live in denial.  As cynical as I am, I could never face up to how ugly things really are.  I was always secretly hopeful that truth and beauty will prevail.  

I am no more.

Friday, February 3, 2012


"everything passes before you get to scream I LOVE YOU out the the window of the train"
I hadn't seen that one before.  I know you meant it more than literally, but that's one of the biggest regrets I have for you - that you never really found a deep romantic love.  I think that if you had, it could have saved you.  I know that mine couldn't.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

black hole

I think it gets harder with time.  Fresh grief has its consolations, not least among them - disbelief.  I remember the night it happened.  My mind balked at accepting it.  It tried to remove itself.  It would forget for a moment and then be cut anew by the knowledge. 

Now it can't hide from the knowledge.  I don't have to remember it each time I wake up.  I know it even in my sleep.  There is no place to hide.

It also gets harder to evoke your existence.  Your words are still fresh.  I get a fix of them every day, but there are only so many of them.  They are only you at a certain point in time.  They are not your essence, which was ever moving and evolving.  The hardest thing is not that I miss you.  I missed you even while you lived - you were away most of the time and the phone was a poor substitute.  The hardest thing is that you are frozen in time.

You lose a child continually as it grows up.  You miss the different stages of its life.  But you never expect its life to be complete.

One thing that I did not miss while you lived was your love.  It was as strong as when you clutched me with your chubby baby arms.  I feel supremely unloved now. 

Worse - I feel all my love is going into a black hole, never to be returned.

Monday, January 23, 2012

four months

"The continuity of being is lacerated; the settled course of sentiment and action is stopped; and life stands suspended and motionless." -- Samuel Johnson

And yet time goes on, to no avail.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

dream where I die

"I'll trade you one for two nightmares of mine,
I have some where I die, I have some where we all die." - Bright Eyes, Hit the Switch

They say you can't die in your own dream.  Nonsense.  Here's how I did it.

I was in my parents' apartment.  The time was twenty-some years ago.  Everything was correct - the topography of the apartment, everyone's age - my brother and I in our twenties, my parents fiftiesh, my son (who was absent) around five.  My parents and I opened the door to the bedroom and there lying on the floor by the bed were two bodies.  One was my brother, who was in some kind of fit, but conscious.  The other one, lifeless, was me.  I cradled my brother's head trying to calm him and I told him my son would need him as a friend.  My parents were strangely detached, just there as observers.  Nobody mentioned the body, but it seemed to be the reason my brother was distressed and at death's door himself.  And, of course, my son would need him, because he wouldn't have me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I find it hard to explain to people why I am not crying all day long.  When I do cry, it is for myself, because I miss you, because you were so precious and so profound and there is no one I can relate to or love as much as I love you.

But as for you - I feel you got the best of it.  I read some speculation, just to confirm, that your death was a painless one.  You stopped breathing and your brain was tricked into not panicking at this.  I knew that already when I saw how peaceful you looked in death. 

You were free while you lived.  You even traveled across the country like you wanted to and you loved it, despite the discomfort of being confined on a train.  In one of the comments on your photos you wrote:

"The country unfolds in your heart. The landscape is such a powerful message. Makes you want to run wild like a comanche. Brother I am in lov with this life."

You never had to compromise.  Yes, 26 years is short, but it is well beyond the time when most people find they have to settle, and let go of a limitless future.  When I was 26 we came to this country and I started on the 20-year grind to sustain our precarious existence.  Now I am safe, but with nothing to show for it.  The reason I lived for - you - is gone.  You, on the other hand, never lost your child-like optimism.  You still felt anything was possible.  What better way to end.

Still, I can't help wishing for my sake that you were more ordinary and less foolhardy.  That you are still here.   

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I always wished I could take your suffering on myself and now I have.

Friday, January 6, 2012


That's what the book was really about.  The fact that some words of unrestrained cruelty could unleash a chain reaction that ruins lives.  When you're with someone from the time they're born, when you are solely responsible for their very survival, how infinite are the chances of being thoughtlessly cruel. 

I am sorry, my son, for making you feel worthless because you didn't conform, for making you feel like a burden because you made my life difficult.  At least that's what you heard.  It wasn't what I meant.  I was angry at you for making yourself suffer.  Your suffering was my suffering.  Your well-being was my well-being. You were never separate from me.  I told you I loved you more than anything.  But that doesn't begin to describe it.  I love you more than being.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


"Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be."  The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

Figures that the first new book I like is about a young suicide and his converse - the guy who "wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded - and how pitiful that was."

What kills me is that I knew this when I was young.  I just closed my eyes and hoped against hope that it wasn't so.  I irresponsibly created another life, just to justify my own.  And he had to die in order to open my eyes to the ultimate meaninglessness of what I had done.  He died for my sins.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I had braced myself for the holidays.  They are mercifully over.  But now I feel worse.  The new year is supposed to be a new beginning, but all I can do is cherish the past.  There is no light on the horizon.  No new life.  All I can do is gracefully wait for it to be over. To be freed of the chains of existence.

I know there are heavier burdens than mine.  I will try to be generous with what I have left to offer.  I sent a contribution to the project that made his last days brighter.  I know he would have wanted to keep that promise unbroken.  A part of him will live on in the extreme passion he lived and preached.  That's all I can do.

I decided I don't want his remains scattered in this country.  It wasn't kind to him and he railed against it.  What I didn't expect was that shopping for an urn to keep his ashes in would bring me down so.  Hiding him within a pretty object is not what he would like.  His friend, who visited on New Year's eve asked to see them and cried.  I look at them every day and feel nothing.  I know that's not him.  I knew it even when I saw his stiff body emptied of its organs.  His body let him down.  He was so much more than that.  He was light.  And darkness.  His father painted a shadowy half-angel just before he died. There is more of him in that than in the white ashes in the black box.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The first time I heard this story, I reassured the person you had told it to that it was a tall tale.  But last night an eyewitness confirmed that you didn't break your foot slipping down a flight of stairs as you had told us.  You jumped out of a third story window after your friend died.  This ups to 3 the number of times I know you were near death.  I'm starting to think we were lucky to have you around this long.