february

by essayan hart

these hands don’t want to move. its been a long week. besides the merciless stream of appointments, the two dollars left in my wallet, there is the impending celebration, and the following heartbreak.
last night i slept 16 hours. there was an attempt at Kabbalah study, the captivation, and the moment i “just closed my eyes for a minute”. i woke up after midnight with the words Ein Sof drifting without aim through my vanishing subconscious.  the morning passed in a series of alarms, and when i woke i considered making belle and sebastians reference to “the state that i am in” as a pocket novel, a reality.
its like this every February. the moment of achievement, having passed another year without a needle in my arm.  this time its the big ten, a decade of consciousness.  there are the cravings, the complex web of emotions surrounding my daring feat of doing nothing.  then come the dreams.  and the anniversary.
february 15th, 1997, my father took his own life.  it was the middle of the night, and to my 17 year old heart, it was still valentines day.  i had awakened on the 14th, expecting the roses dad always left in three vases on the kitchen table.  they were not there, and it felt ominous, but in no way prepared me.  after school the following day i bought a box of black hair dye, preparing for a great alteration. i wanted violet blue contact lenses and black hair.  it was all i had talked about for weeks.  my mother, of course, found the bottle of dye and erupted with rage in the name of all things proper, socially acceptable and normative.  she called dad on the phone demanding that he take her side.  he always secretly liked my hair, turning corners after monumental fights to whisper “i think you look sharp, kid.” this time he was plaintive.

“please, just wait until after graduation.  for me.”
i promised i would, knowing from his tone that the fighting was more than he could handle.
that was our last conversation.

on the 15th, i was up the street crushing my medication and getting high when the call came.  mom insisted on sending a family friend to drive up the street to get me. it was less than a  two minute walk.  i sat quietly in the near strangers car.  something was wrong.
i dont need to tell the rest, not now.  not the way i screamed, or the force at which my backpack hit the perfectly white dining room wall.  i dont need to talk about the eerie calm that came over me when she told me it was suicide.  the deep understanding that set in.  he was just like me, and he was tired.  i knew. i felt close to him then, in a way my mother and my sister would never understand.
what i want to talk about is how i spent the rest of the week.  drunk, high, crying on acid on nikki’s mothers kitchen floor.  nikki trying to coerce me into bed with her and her boyfriend while i was grieving.  then a few bottles with justin. the beginning of a great betrayal.
with justin i could be as real as blood, and i wandered into the street half drunk and screamed at the stars.  i pounded on his chest, the way the grieving are inclined to do.  i made him promise that he would never take his own life.  i made him promise.

thirteen years later, and two years ago, he broke that promise.  it was the first week of march, but it felt like february.

_______________________________________end notes

i will sleep tonight. i will study kabbalah, and the five pillars. i will be ecstatically grateful for the life i have today.  my skin feels wet, just under the surface, and even in the california winter a chill has set into my bones.  but spring comes.  my friends are having babies.  i am writing and singing.

i finally did dye my hair black, twelve or so years ago.  it looked all wrong on me, but at the time i was angry, and it suited.  i never did get contacts, but i lined my eyes in red.
maybe dad thought it would serve me better in my grief.
there’s the part i can’t understand.  how can you know the grief you are about to cause, strike the fatal blow yourself.  alter the course of the heart for your friends, for your children?

i keep these two ghosts together now in my head.  they have been keeping each other company.  strange, that they should have the same unusual middle name . strange that even after all of the chaos Justin and I caused, with our drinking and my leaving home (another story for another time, perhaps), my dad still rushed a hot thanksgiving meal to Justin’s single room occupancy with me.

I remember how much care we took to make sure the food would be hot.  the speed limits we broke.

my father was kind.  he was rigid, and carried his burdens silently, behind secretive eyes.  they were those blue eyes that erased sorrows.  like mine.
i learned a lot, losing him the way i did.  i talk a lot, maybe more than i should.  i cant imagine faking a smile on a hard hearted day in february. i sing the blues.  i dont pretend.

 

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