Okay, I give. I can’t stand anymore. This whole thing can be over now. I get through the days fine. I laugh. I make people laugh. I carry on conversations and make decisions. I drive a car and walk the dogs and do laundry and plant plants, some of which have died and some of which have not. But this little pin prick in my heart – that somehow feels like it weighs at least one ton – is getting to be too much for me to carry. Just as when some unruly nightmare of a person twists your arm behind your back (or pins you down and stuffs dirty underwear in your mouth…) and evilly commands you to “Say Uncle!” I have winced and taken deep breaths and done everything I can think of to ignore or withstand or stop the pain, but I can’t do it any longer, so, UNCLE MOTHER FU#&%ER! Unfortunately the pain doesn’t stop.
The reference above to dirty underwear? Yes, that happened. And yes, Kelly was that unruly nightmare of a person who was straddling my chest, pinning my hands under her knees stuffing dirty underwear in my mouth. I can still see that grin on her face. I won’t say it was an evil grin, but it was decidedly not playful. It’s funny to me that now I would give anything to have that happen again. For the record we were kids. I was probably 9 and she was 14. And also for the record, they were mine, and they weren’t very dirty. It is very possible (i.e. likely) that I had done something horrible to her, like cut the wires to the speakers on her maroon boom box or worn one of her shirts (without asking) and ruined it somehow.
It wasn’t all dirty underwear in the mouth though. We have alot of great memories. Kelly and I once took my dad for a hike at the river on Father’s Day when we were in our twenties and the trail began to slope gently downhill along the water and I said, “Let’ s run!” and Kelly broke into a jog, and I said, “No! Really run! Like we’re kids!” and we both started running down the trail, hooting and laughing and jumping over small rocks and making fake motorcycle noises until we couldn’t breathe anymore. After we caught our breath she had a huge beautiful smile on her face and said “Thank you.” It was like a huge stress had been lifted off of her, but at the time I had no idea what that stress might be, and I didn’t ask. This was back in the days when the tension between us was hella thick ya’ll. (If you know Kelly you know the phrase “hella thick ya’ll” would definitely have gotten an eye roll out of her…) I mean a fight could erupt within a nano second over who knew what.
We have a few memories like that. One night we boogied down in my parents’ driveway to MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This, which we could hear blaring from a wedding at the country club on the property next door. We were capable of having a lot of fun together and I will hold onto those memories as long as I can physically and mentally do so. But the other night while I was doing dishes a different memory popped into my head. I remembered a time when we were able to talk. To simply carry on a conversation – good or bad – but at least we had the option. Now we don’t. So now my most cherished memories of her include, “that time we could talk, because you were alive.”
Now that I’ve cried UNCLE and this strange and constant little pain that weighs me down has still not gone away I’m not sure what happens next. I guess perhaps it’s time to stop trying to change the pain and instead change something else, like the way I view the pain or carry it or try to numb it. I don’t know. But I’m beginning to have a better understanding of what people mean when they say they used the pain of heartbreak – whatever kind of heartbreak – as motivation to accomplish something. I can see how it’s a fuel that can choke you if it’s not used, not “burned off” so to speak. I used to try to lighten a mood by telling a friend or loved one who was a little frustrated or angry about something to “Turn it to something else…” as a joke, but perhaps it’s time for me to take my own advice, and take it seriously.
I read a story once of a couple whose two children were killed in a car accident while a trusted neighbor was giving them a ride home from school, and the pain was absolutely unbearable for the couple. They suffered through as best they could until a series of seemingly random events presented them with an opportunity and they decided to do something with the pain in honor of their children, so they opened an orphanage in Africa. And although losing a sister is much different than losing your only children, I can see how the pain of loss is great enough to power a move from the United States to Africa, the building of an orphanage and taking on the work of raising fifty-plus children day after day after day for years and years and years. I can see how the pain could sustain that forever actually, an endless supply of power if properly tapped into. Otherwise, as I have been experiencing, it becomes a heavy wet suffocating blanket that causes you (me) to sink deeper and deeper until I feel like I can’t breathe. Almost like I’m being pinned to the floor while someone stuffs dirty underwear in my mouth…perhaps Kelly was simply trying to prepare me for this.