I can’t sleep. It’s so late and I lie in bed, trying not to sob, to shake the bed and wake R. I’m not okay.
I went to my support group this afternoon. I take E to my friend K’s house while I go and as I was getting her ready to leave I looked out the windows over the park at blue sky and sunshine. ‘We don’t need your rain boots,’ I said. But then, when we got downstairs and out the other side of our building, the sky was almost black and heavy raindrops were starting to fall. ‘I don’t get it, Goose,’ I said to E. ‘It’s a sunny day on the other side of the street, and we’re headed into a downpour.’ The symbolism of this was not lost on me.
The sun was out again by the time I dropped E off and was headed back in the direction of the hospital. Sublime came on the radio, ‘Love is (what I got),’ and I remember driving down the Pacific Coast and then all the way through Mexico and back in my yellow VW van. In bare feet and a perpetual tan and so young. And now here I am, nearly middle-aged, on my way to a support group for bereaved parents. It’s all so astonishing, so baffling: how did I get here?
On the way back to pick up E, I try not to cry. K says I look like I’ve been gone for two days instead of two hours. I had no idea it was all so obvious, that it showed up so clearly in my face, my body. But why wouldn’t it? The weight of it presses down on me, makes my shoulders hunch and shoots pain down my arms and up my neck. In the car, driving home, E babbles on in the back (‘Mommy, I just saw Curious George walking down that street so I called him over and gave him a piece of my cookie and he said ‘thank you.’ Is that friendly? Mommy? Mommy?’) and I fight the urge to just rest my head on the steering wheel and sob. At home, when she won’t fall asleep quickly, I yell at her. How I think that will help her fall asleep, I don’t know. I just need a break. I imagine running out, as fast as I can, deep into the park behind us, into the forest where I can pound on the trunks of hundred-year-old trees and scream scream scream. My whole body throbs with the need to not be needed, to be able to just be the saddest version of myself I can face right now. But I am needed, so I compose myself, I apologize for getting angry, I stroke my girl’s forehead and kiss her cheek and sing to her until she’s asleep.
I fake okay. I am not okay.