Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

I’ve been having the wish to just go and get away from my skin, my head, my life for the past couple of days — to get out with friends, and pretend like things are “normal.”

My wish was granted when a very dear friend and ex-roomie, “Foote”, now living in Brooklyn, said she was in town and would pick me up. She came bearing granola, and whisked me away to see an old friend: San Francisco.

Walking down Polk Street, I suddenly became aware of this second world out there — I stared at young, hip, urban kids passing me on the sidewalk, with a destination, purpose, busy making a life for themselves in the city — and I wasn’t one of them.

It was like talking to your ex and being reminded that in the past two years, he has moved on with his life, too. (Which is another thing I’ve done recently, much to the tweaking of my central nervous system.)

It felt strange and exciting to be in SF; she welcomed me back with bittersweet familiarity. She reminded me that I no longer fit there.

Foote had a room at the Westin for the week, and after dinner with friends in Berkeley we drove back across the bridge. We succumbed to paying $47.81 for valet parking (no joke), we schlepped ourselves up to the room to retire.

While she tucked herself into bed and read Steven Colbert, I ran the water for a shower.

I undressed, and sat on the toilet, naked and tired, while the water turned warm, and then warmer, and then hot. Steam jumped from the flow and crept up the mirror. I closed my eyes and felt the weight of my bones settle.

The night had been wonderfully spent with very close friends, laughing and drinking and “philosophizing.” (As the DD I drank mulled cider; as the linguist I winced at the word “philosophizing.”)

But it had also been a trying day. I felt like people kept looking at me askew, saying they were “worried about me,” that it was so incredible I was out having fun, “under the circumstances.” I kept feeling like people wanted me to be crying my eyes out. I was sorry to disappoint.

I suddenly wanted to be very, very alone. I slipped my foot over the lip of the tub and let the sting of the temperature run up my back. I tilted my hair into the stream from the shower-head, and exhaled until I thought I would turn myself inside-out. I imagined the water washing off memory and consciousness, the tub filling with the past couple of days, the past month, my childhood, down the drain. I rinsed and repeated three times.

After I showered and readied myself for bed, I slipped under the thick, floating white covers. Foote had fallen asleep already, so I clicked out the light.

Just as suddenly as I found myself alone, I wanted to be very, very not. The city pulsed on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling window, sirens singing a familiar tune.

Ah, yes. I remember you.

My heart fluttered in my chest and my eyes found rest only on the bare white ceiling overhead. I could not sleep.

I tried imagining I was on an Island in Belize. The down blankets around me I imagined as sand, the creaking from the person in the hotel room above became the clacking of palm trees, the incessant bathroom fan that did not turn off — the sighing of the ocean.

No cigar. The city was too talkative. The swishing of cars and blinking of lights reminded me of everything I didn’t want to be reminded of.

The next morning, Foote drove me back to Sonoma County. The burden of reality was immediate, as if crossing county lines made my brother’s death real.

What I need, I thought, is to be away in some OTHER rural country town.

That night three friends emailed, telling me to pack my sleeping bag, because they were taking me to a Mendocino retreat Sunday. Could I be ready to leave early?

I wrote back that I would be ready at 6am.

§408 · December 28, 2007 · Unthinkable Loss · · [Print]

1 Comment to “Ask and Ye Shall Receive”

  1. Maren says:

    Shannon, I know we haven’t been in touch for nearly a decade, but after reading through your entries for the last few weeks I just wanted to tell you how moved I am, both by your loss and the incredible way you’re dealing with and recording it. I’m sorry I never knew your brother, but he was lucky to have you for a sister.

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