Define The Word Crazy
How tightly can you hold to things you know to be untrue before you begin to resemble what some may call crazy?
When it is only five hours after she died, which means five hours ago she was here on this Earth, if only five hours have passed are you allowed to lay on the floor of her bedroom and talk to her? At that moment can you speak to her out loud? Or is even five hours too long? Are you already too late?
What if you are walking through her bedroom and in her French notebook you find the page where she was practicing writing, "I miss you," --in French, of course. If you feel, in your heart of hearts, that she left this message for you to find, does that too make you crazy?
What if it is Thanksgiving, the first holiday without her, and the day has been treacherous. You felt as though you were sinking into a cavern as you ate your turkey and stuffing, wishing she were across the table to joke with. When you are driving back to your mom's, you see a shooting star at the exact place you last saw her. If you believe this is her way of saying, I'm here, I really am, and I love you. You aren't as alone as you think, is this something you should keep to yourself so people don't start to worry?
What if you keep writing notes on her Facebook wall and dropping letters at her grave just because you need some place where you can still talk to her?
What if, four years later, you are coming home from a vacation in Italy. You're waiting in Moscow for a twelve-hour layover when you see her across the terminal. When you get closer you realize she is twenty pounds heavier here and ten years older, but other than that the resemblance is uncanny. It could have been her. As you stand there, unable to take your eyes from this girl, you start to cry. The flight crew announces boarding, but you don't budge. Tears cloud your vision, but you can't stop looking at her. You imagine being able to walk over, sit down beside her, and start talking. You imagine what she would say and how she would say it. You realize you're standing in the middle of the Moscow airport, staring at a girl you don't know, and crying uncontrollably, but you can't take your eyes off her. Because you want it to be her.
My teacher in high school had lost her husband not long before I took her class. Her husband, I later learned, had died while driving across town. He stopped suddenly, and the printer in his backseat catapulted toward the windshield, striking him in the back of the head. How fragile we are.
There were rumors that she couldn't accept the fact that he was gone. Someone said she never moved his things from the living room. They were still there, years later, just the way he'd left them. Coffee—stale, half-gone. A book—lying open, face down on the arm of the chair, spread to the page he'd been reading. Slippers—ready to be shuffled into. The last moment of her Before—suspended in time.
I had thought she was teetering on crazy, slipping into the insane, and during class I'd search her eyes for signs of vacancy. But now, looking back, I don't blame her a bit. I can't.
I used to call Al's phone again and again to hear her little voice on the answering machine telling me to leave a message after the beep. And then one night, as I lay curled in my bed, the robotic recording of the operator greeted me instead.
In that instant I hated my mother, who had disconnected Al's phone, for she had taken her away from me, my last shred of her. Never again would I hear Al's voice.
If she hadn't disconnected it, I imagine I would still be calling her now, listening to the loop of mundane words just to hear the cadence in her voice. I'm certain of it in fact because as I wrote those words I searched my phone's contact list to find her number, hoping perhaps, just perhaps, I would call and there she'd be: back on the other end. The recording, I mean.
But her number is not in my contact list any longer. It hurt too much to scroll past it whenever I was searching for someone else. Eliminating moments of potential heartache has become vital, for subjecting myself to that day-after-day would surely devastate me eventually.
I remember the first time it rained after we buried her body. It was dark outside and smelled of dirt and ocean. A clear sign there's a storm in the air. When the downpour began, I panicked.
She was going to get all wet.
I was laying here under my quilt, dry and safe, and she was out there getting soaked by all that rain, cold, wet, shivering. As soon as I had the thought, I realized how ridiculous it was and clicked on the TV to distract myself from it all, worrying I was teetering too closely to sanity's boundary.
Dad saw it in himself too, I think.
"I got a light," he told me one day.
"Oh?" I asked. "For where?"
I cocked my head.
"Why?" I asked gently. He looked sheepish as though the thought had never occurred to him.
"I go at night a lot. To sit with her. It's always so dark. Some of the other graves had them. She needed one too. I don't want her laying there in the dark. It's scary."
At some point, I suppose, this will happen to all of us. We'll love someone so much that it will be impossible to stay completely in this world if it means we'll be here without them.