I’m reblogging today, based on the following post from a friend. No need for a comment from me, this speaks for itself. The original blog post can be found here.
Unfortunately, we place such a shameful stigma around the kind of child sexual abuse that ultimately took Day’s life, that we literally create a conspiracy that silences even the VICTIMS from their own shame. The kind of abuse I mean is this kind: Rape. By family members, by friends, by neighbors, by cops, by priests, by coaches – by people we TRUST. We want to believe that most child sexual abuse is done by creepy pedos in vans, by strangers. Not even close. We don’t even call it “rape” when an adult rapes a child – we call it “fondling” or “molesting” — bullshit, it’s rape.
Until this stigma goes away, until we take child rape as seriously as we do adult rape, until we lift the veil of shame — nothing will change, and beautiful, brilliant women like Day will suffer in silence, and disappear before their time.”
This a collection of my posts regarding the life and death of someone very very close to me. Please forgive the unedited writing, all of these are literally one-take writes, as I cannot read them yet.
This is Friday, who was always and will always be “Day” to me. I loved her like breathing.
Day took her own life at age 40. The final disappearance in a lifetime that ran like a river full of wishing to disappear. The child of a sexually abusive father, she was remarkable in every way. But there are some things that we cannot outrun.
She was, as I am sure anyone who reads this will see, more than just special to me. She deserved so much better, but she wore it with grace.
I tried to keep her here as long as I could. I tried to give her a reason to stay. But there will be stars that hang in your sky, and there will always be just one that burns across it.
They are just random memories with my observations about them, but I hope they help someone else who was victimized the way she was, or someone who tried to love and care for a victim and lost them to suicide the way I did.
One person is enough.
William S. Burroughs said: “Writers, like elephants, have long and vicious memories. There are things I wish I could forget.” Agreed. I have a memory that is frightening almost it is so good, and there are times I wish this weren’t true. But remember we must. Because love, is memory too. The silent saying and saying, of just one name — until we can remember no other.
If there is an overlying theme to everything that I write, and to this collection, it is this: Beauty and sadness are truly inseparable.
You just have to choose which one you are about.
I know which one she would have wanted me to choose when it comes to her memory and legacy. And so it shall be.
And the needle touches down
as the days spin, smoulder and burn
And the song says
boy you’re gonna carry
girl you’re gonna carry
Boy you’re gonna carry that weight
a long time
I will. For the victims. And for those, like me, who tried to love them through it.
I debated this with myself for quite some time, but decided I owe an explanation as a debt of friendship to the many, many people who have inquired after me the past several months. I will leave this up for a few days, and then that it’s it. It isn’t about returning to Facebook, that’s not happening. And with all due respect, I’m not answering any questions or making any comments.
I am aware that there are those who have the barest of information about this part of my life who have tried to research it on their own, and come up empty. Leaving aside the morally questionable aspect of that kind of activity, suffice it to say good luck if you are so inclined. One of the things I learned from the person who is the topic of this is: Privacy is for sale. The ill-informed clichés that “some records can’t be erased,” the rules that you think apply to us thousandaires, just don’t apply at higher points on the net worth curve. You can buy as much of it as you wish.
Everyone has a secret heart that beats differently from the one they show the world. One big love, a dream, one thing that they hold as close to themselves as they can. As if each little share, every drop of the secret that leaks out could dilute it and make it disappear with the day. I tend to be that way more than most, I hold many things very very close, but I think most of you know what I mean. This one aspect of my life, I held the closest, for 20 years.
The building in this photo is where the worst day of my life occurred. 21st and Walnut. June 3d, a long time ago.
One day I went to work, and while I was gone, the person I was closest to in the world attempted suicide. I never saw it coming. She was brilliant and trip over your own feet beautiful, wealthy beyond anything I ever experienced, wild, so funny, and seemingly very happy.
She survived it. I found her and called 911. I also called her father, who came and took her away before she was even fully conscious to the wealthy enclave in New York where she grew up. I never spoke to her before she left. I never saw her or spoke to her again until 2009. Until that time I was variably sometimes stunned, sometimes confused, sometimes angry, sometimes guilty, sometimes numb, all the time haunted – and always quiet about it.
I moved back to Wilmington and said more or less nothing about what happened to anyone. It was already one of those relationships where we were in our own world and living away from family and friends as it is, and at that age in our 20s, it was much easier than you can imagine to just change the subject to “What are we doing tonight?” when people asked. It just faded away. Except when I tried to sleep.
In 2009, we re-connected, instantly as close as two people can be, just as we were a long time ago. It was different of course, and there was physical distance. But it was an intensely close, complete the other person’s sentences type of relationship. What I found all those years later was the most solitary person I had ever known. By far. She had spent the last 17 or so years withdrawing more and more, until she had effectively disappeared.
I was for all intents and purposes, her only friend. Her only family.
We talked every day, and for hours at night on Skype. I went to see her, she came to Philly, we met other places when we could. It was lost…and found, but with its own twist, as life will do to you.
What I also found all those years later was that the father I called to come to her side after her suicide attempt, was the reason for it in the first place.
There are some sins that are not to be forgiven. There are some sins that cause a child to become a woman who spends her entire life in pain and wishing to disappear.
I would never tell this story if she hadn’t finally done it. I knew it was coming one day. The better part of me has been waiting for it back in that building on Walnut Street ever since the first time she tried. I won’t talk about the details of the month of June, but suffice it to say that it was bad.
Hopefully that is enough for all of you to understand that I didn’t return any of your messages or calls all summer for a good reason. I hid in the Ocean and with my kids and my summertime surfing friend who I call KJ who, maybe didn’t save me, but sure helped me finally start to try and save myself after losing 30lbs and all interest in everything.
There is no redemption in any of this, no lesson. I will never talk about these past 4 years in any detail. What it is like to be the only person on Earth someone that damaged trusts. What it’s like to love someone like that. The rehabs, the attempts, the despair, the self-hatred. The constant fear and mess-fixing. The searing hatred for the person who did this to someone you love. The pain of seeing THAT kind of despair and self-loathing on a face THAT beautiful, in a heart THAT good.
The knowing in your gut that it will not end in any other way but with one last disappearance.
Suicide wills nothing but guilt and unanswered questions to its heirs. We always took trips and did fun over-the-top things on her birthdays. Last year, I chose to do something else with her blessing. I doubt I will ever forgive myself for missing it. The last one.
She left a note and a 20 page letter to me talking about everything we ever did. I can barely read one sentence at a time.
You can’t stop it if it is coming. Trust me, you can’t.
What you can do though is keep your eyes open. What you can do is help any child you can in any way that you can, as early as you can. The damage an adult can do to a child with physical, psychological or sexual abuse is literally incalculable. It is measured in blood and in pain that never stops. It is measured in handfuls of pills that are meant to make it finally stop. It is a life sentence. For the victims.
There will be stars that hang in your sky, and then there will be one that burns across it.
Thanks for listening.
“I will see you again one day, where the time goes when it stops. I will see you one day, again.” ~~ The last sentences of Day’s suicide note to me.
A serious minute: When I decided that I would post something here about why I have been avoiding so many good people for so long, it was partially driven by what I felt was a real obligation that I owed to so many friends for even giving a shit. The human condition is probably most characterized by the disease of loneliness, and the fact that most of us do not realize this should drive us to our knees to give thanks for the reason that we do not — which is because we are blessed with people who care for us.
That said, my desire for privacy would have likely trumped even the obligation I felt to friends, if in fact that was the sole reason for the post. But it wasn’t.
The thing which tipped the balance in favor of posting is fairly typical of me. I wanted to break your hearts. Not for me. Those who know me best will tell how wildly uncomfortable I am with sympathy, praise, or really any form of attention directed at me in between.
I mean heartbreak for her. For every single victim, now and to come. For every single child who never got to be one because an adult lacked a soul.
Writing is almost effortless for me, but I have to say that it was really hard to write the post in a way that would achieve both of these goals. Make it too heartbreaking and it looks like another Facebook attention-grab, which I would LOATHE. Make it too matter-of-fact and there is no heartbreak.
And this said, I am not sure I broke your hearts enough re-reading it now. Trust me, it could have been infinitely moreso. Infinitely. I have talked about maybe 3% of it here.
So I will tell you the one thing of so many that breaks my own heart the most: When we were together in Philly, she was a wild sleeper. Talking, nightmares, moving all over the place. And sleeping with her shoes on. Falling asleep with them on at times. Waking up with them on at times, when we both knew she didn’t wear them to bed.
We laughed about this then, often. It was always a big big part of how we related to completely rip on each other, to compete over every little thing, and I had a lot of sleeping with your shoes on jokes. We knew not what lurked just beyond her consciousness then. What would step out of the shadows and into her memory’s lighted hallways one day soon.
Years later, after she told me, we had 100s of talks about it. In each, some new horrific detail would spill from her and keep me up for days. During one of these, she told me how she remembered during therapy and as time progressed, that she would go to bed dressed and with her sneakers on — on the nights when he was home. Thinking, in her little girl’s thoughts…….that this time, she would run.
Now, the next time someone asks you for money, or time, or an ear for the cause of protecting or trying to salvage these children? The next time someone dares to make an excuse for the Catholic Church conspiring over Centuries to cause, enable and conceal 1000s of child rapes?
Picture a beautiful little blonde-haired girl, with huge green eyes and this one strand of hair that she never could keep out of her eyes. 8-9-10 years old. Scared, terrorized, her childhood forever stolen, her adulthood forever poisoned.
Wearing her sneakers to bed.
Once, when I lived in an apartment in Unionville, Day was here for a couple of days. It was 2010, and I know it was Indian Summer, brilliant and beautiful, early October.
We looked at these huge farm properties most of the second day, because the vicious but brilliant b–tch who was her financial advisor had suggested it. It was sweet and lazy time, and we spent most of the time cracking up at her driver, who she always used when she came here and who she called Axl because he was a dead ringer — before Axl got all fat anyway.
But there were questions that hung in the air too. She had just bought a massive ranch not long before in the Upper Valley in Steamboat, and was seemingly going to make a home for herself finally, but, here we were looking at “investment” properties a few miles from my meager shack…..
We took Abby to the park and then came back to my place at the end of the day, and she fell asleep in Sammy’s bed. She was blessed with being beautiful (although for her all it did was draw greatly unwanted attention) and it could take your breath, especially like that, peaceful and sleeping. But, I panicked a little looking in on her at one point because she wasn’t moving, and I actually felt her pulse with my fingertips.
A flashback to a long time ago I guess when I found her nearly dead.
A while later, I was thinking about it, and wrote this down.
Like anything I write, it was “about” more than just this one memory. Still, it is very eerie to read now. It makes me think that I knew what was coming, even though at the time I was not thinking this way at all:
Curled as only a woman can ease into a child’s bed
once, I put my hand there
and felt the rush of years through her sun-warmed wrist
each cell hurtling past my fingertips
carrying a secret not then for me to know
Like April’s thaw coursing through stone
the channel cut over years by the water’s breath
or the way that gravity wants us in the ground
the will of its pull rounding off our lives
into odd-numbered sighs and even-numbered wishes
Love too can dwindle into a small thought
trembling at the edge of sight
and then gone
like a millstone ground it to sand
As we sift and settle
Like anything else I write, especially the things that are born of something personal, I really have no idea if it is total shit or something less than that. No reference point, I never took a class or whatever about writing, and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how the people who judge these things decide what is art and what is crap, or even how I would go about it.
So, I just read it and think about the memory that sparked it, and about how I read it now has changed from what was in my head when it came out.
And about how, everything, always, changes.
Sunday Sermon: Everyone, is someone else’s secret. Day was mine, and for me it was more meaningful that way, it meant more. But there are other kinds of secrets too, the kind that eat you up inside.
Her secret eventually took her life. And secrets like hers, are usually kept not from a desire for privacy, not from strength,. But rather, from shame. Those people you know who think are so “private”? Chances are that desire for “privacy” is fueled by insecurity, lack of confidence, shame.
In the story I wrote about the time when she finally told me her secret, there is a part where the male character ask the female character why she never told him all those years the reason for her suicide attempt when they were living together. The exchange they have is almost verbatim what she said to me when I asked her, and is taken right from that. She had a way of burning through things to the truth, and this is truest thing I have heard to date on the subject of secrets:
(Here is the link to the entire short story: http://dividethesky.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/oyster-bay/
He scratched the back of his hand for what seemed like the 12,000th time, kicked at what might have been a still-burning cinder near the firepit, finally decided to quit delaying, and blurted out: “Why not the whole time? Why all that time?”
Perhaps too laconically she thought later, she said: “You mean, why didn’t I reach out and explain to you I suppose?”
“Uh huh. With people-skills like those, no doubt it would’ve been a home run if you did.”
Laughing at the jab she said: “It’s funny how silence is usually interpreted as being the result of confidence and strength, isn’t it?”
His agreement was more of a shrug, which she ignored, adding over her shoulder as she worked at the fire: “But the truth is just as often that silence comes from the lack of it, from not knowing what to say. From shame. And you come to wear it like a shield after a while, as if it were confidence – when it’s really just trying to run through the rain and stay dry.”
“In other words, you were lost and wondering, angry, and confused I am sure. And me? I was ashamed to tell the only man I ever loved that I was raped by my father. Lose, lose.”
Shame which usually comes along with self-hatred or at least a struggle to love yourself, is nothing more than this: The almost always false assumption that people will think less of you because you have been victimized, because you are “different”, because you have scars.
And I want all the people who messaged me since I decide to talk about this to tell me that they understood all too well her experience to know this: You are not even close to the only one who did.
So, don’t be ashamed to get help, to talk about it.
It might save your life.
I’ve posted this photo of D before. It’s just my favorite I guess. And she liked it too, said “I look like I’m deep in thought when I was probably just PMSng.”
Once she allowed a friend to use photos of her on his business website and a lot of them got swiped and used elsewhere. They were all over the internet it felt like. I still see some at times, never this one though – yet.
I sued one scam site for her, it purports to be a place where new wanna-be models can “get discovered” by paying to have a profile posted, and they used photos of D to create fake profiles, and also as tag photos that came up in Google searches that brought their site up. I guess the idea was to pretend they had real models as “clients.” This pissed her off to no end because they were ripping off these girls who had no shot at getting into the business, and I think her direct quote was “put those m-fers out of business.” : )
The 1st time I saw her I tripped almost, she was sitting down outside of Jeff where she had class. When I saw her next it was 17 years later give or take, and the 1st thing I did was trip again. Always was real smooth like that : )
A story from this song that spans from when I was a kid all the way to Day.
My Mom was a vocal prodigy as a young girl and was offered a vocal scholarship to Julliard. When she would sing to her records in our house when I was a kid, it would fill every corner of the house and make the hair stand up on your neck, and I grew to think that music was all that Heaven will allow us to see of itself here on Earth.
She loved John Denver I remember, and so did I. I had this record as a 45 with Country Roads on the B side when I was 7-8. And, I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a beautiful song, and when she along to THIS song? Wow. So I grew up wanting to both play and write songs and pitch for the Yankees, and I had a phase where I tried to do the music thing in my 20s, but I had sinus and throat issues and lost the little tiny bit of ability I had to sing that I received from Mom really quick. When I was probably at my “best” (which is not good) at playing and singing I lived in Philly, taking lessons for both and privately, as with all my artistic attempts, working on it all.
Day was a music freak like me, our first date was to see Nirvana at Dobbs, and we went to every show and local gig we could, and it was a huge part of our lives and what we did.
Years later, when we re-connected, she had pretty much transitioned from living in Denver and wintering in Steamboat to living in Steamboat all year. I didn’t understand then, that she was withdrawing from the world and getting ready to leave it, but the withdrawal became much clearer as time went by. She was a punk rock and Replacements kind of kid like me and we liked all the same bands and had the same eclectic taste, except, I was more of a “sucker” for folky stuff like JD according to her.
So, as part of the ever-ongoing teasing relationship we had, I used to play this song all the time when I was around her or we were on Skype, and she would get all aggravated: ” I don’t even live in the f-ng Rockies….” — which made me play it even more.
When I went out to Steamboat this June, I was in her condo on Christie, and there was a little note there from her to me, and it said in part “Remember how you used to play Rocky Mountain High all the time just to piss me off? Well now I can tell you that I secretly loved that song too : )….”
Strange how things connect sometimes……
I’ve had a lot of people close die, so I know all about grieving etc. But, I do it my way. Not by choice, just by sheer difference. I do very little that reminds me of anyone else. Never have. So I let it ride as it breaks in this thing too.
The first thing that happens is that you just miss ‘em. And with D, this really should have held true. There were real things to miss.
Like several nights a week for 4 years talking on Skype. Like how I used to post on FB late at night as my last post of most days: “Skype with Day in 3,2,1….” Like the first person you tell something. Like the smartest person you know and the one who sets your head straight when you can’t see something. Like so many travels and experiences. Like someone who loves you as you, and has for a very long time.Like vice versa.
But it wasn’t like that at first this time. It was like getting a hole blown in you walking around the corner by some dude with a sawed-off. It was and is really bad dreams and sad sad ones, which may be worse. It was re-visiting the first suicide attempt, which frankly f-ed me up bad. It was the usual whys and guilt and the usual suicide torture.
And it was really really really personal since I was all she cared about or trusted in terms of people. A note and a really long letter to read. Addressed to me. Not to whom it may concern. To me. Last wishes that I spread her ashes, just me. Notes left in her condo to just me which she knew I’d find. Etc.
Now that the trauma (and it was way worse than I have said here back in June for a reason I will keep to myself) and the so very personal nature of it is fading some, the missing part is taking over. And for me, because I have such a crazy memory — it still is pretty much photographic, basically I remember everything in a really visual and really accurate way and nearly verbatim IF I pay attention to it as it happens — the way I miss is BY remembering.
So, the memories are starting to come as I start missing. The primary one for now being, every night when it’s late, remembering that I don’t need my laptop to bring up with me to bed, because we ain’t gonna talk on Skype, ever. No 3-2-1.
And a photo memory can be a real blessing they say, but not here, not when I can remember every word of every Skype chat and everything she was wearing in each one, whether Whisky was there or not and what he did — and I pretty much can do that, as Rainman crazy as that is I wrote something once in a larger piece that is excerpted in this pic, and it seems dead on when I think about the remembering that happens — that is happening now.
It’s just that love — it IS memory.
Who and what you love, you pay attention to, every detail. You remember them in a totally different way, in a way that imprints itself in all of you, not just on your brain.
No line once drawn in memory, should ever be erased. Because love, is memory too. The silent saying and saying of just one name. Until you can remember no other.
And when I think about memory, I also think about what my friend Teddy said when our friend Roy left too soon by suicide two years ago, and we were all so stunned and sad at how and why, and how it gave me comfort because I knew it was true: “The good memories win out eventually.”
I have to write about this at night late, because it’s either that, or try and sleep. Easy choice.
Early on when I first got back in contact with D, the subject naturally came up of how we each felt about the other person during all those years after she disappeared. I had a lot of confusion and guilt and even anger at times early on, and just heartbreak and crazy awful dreams from finding her all blue and half dead. And she had of course, shame and guilt. And we both, we agreed, missed each other, loved each other just the same. It isn’t as if we broke up, we got interrupted, in the worst and most unresolved way.
And in one of those deep, long, always brutally honest talks we would have, I told her something like this: “I would think to myself and even promise myself that I would always feel the same about you, but I had this thought that depressed me too – that hearts, all of them, carry these hidden expiration dates. Ones you can’t see. And even though you think it is always going to be there, one day, it’s just not. It just expires, with no warning. Like the way water rises in a flood, silent and suddenly it’s at your neck.”
And she said: “But they don’t, they don’t. Hearts don’t expire. It’s not love that expires. It’s hope….it’s hope that eventually expires.”
And the way that she said this, even though I knew she was right, was so sad. When she talked about hope expiring, it didn’t sound like other people talking about it. The kind of sad that came from her saying it was the kind that just wrapped itself around you, got into your bones, and made you wish you could do anything to make her not feel his way. And it was the kind of sad where, you knew deep down too, that there wasn’t anything you could do — which made it go deeper in you than just your bones.
So, I told her this story. It’s a true story from when I was a kid.
When we were growing up, my Mom took in strays. Stray people I mean. It was a natural outgrowth of who she was, part hippie, part artist, part saint. They just followed her like Jesus was a woman, and she saw value in and gave value to all of them.
Some of them she’d meet through our Church, some just in life. There was this one woman in particular, who was an amazing story. She was maybe 25-30 or so when I knew her, and Mom met her through Church I believe.
Her “job” under my Mom’ wing was housecleaning and some babysitting for us. Lisa, that’s what I’ll call her, wore her hair boy length short. She always had black boots on. Jeans and heavy flannel shirts – even in the Spring and Summer. And nearly all year round, she wore a knit hat — like a ski hat – pulled low.
You could mistake her for a man easily. She rarely made eye contact when she spoke, and she had this deep voice and little to say when she did. She startled easily. She would clean our house and lock all the windows and doors if she was home cleaning alone.
She had some rough edges, but was clearly fragile. She wasn’t like anyone else I had ever met.
Eventually Mom told me – because I was the oldest and precocious and was told everything – that Lisa was raped. Which explains a lot more now about how she was than it did then when I was in grade school — but being a different kid myself, I understood her well enough after that.
But here’s the thing about it all that I have to remember — remember like I can’t forget it: Lisa also became pregnant by her rapist. And she elected to have the baby.
And that baby…..I saw her, a lot, as an infant and a young girl. She grew into the single most beautiful little girl I have ever or will ever see, with the presence and manner of an angel.
Lisa’s family turned their backs on her after she decided to keep the baby, and that little girl was all she had in the world – but it was enough. She was, literally, redemption from all that evil that rose up from the bottom of where we don’t want to look to hurt Lisa so bad that one awful day — come to life.
And you know, I’m not religious. I would never tell you that this beautiful girl coming from this evil was fucking “God’s will” or “God’s plan” or some bullshit like that. If it was, then ALL of it was his plan. And that….is more than we want to contemplate.
But, it still struck me like a bell whenever I would see that little girl. And what I ended up thinking was this: There are no fixed outcomes. Joy and pain aren’t mutually exclusive. Beauty and sadness may be inseparable, but it’s ok that they are.
Heartbreak can stumble into heart-found. Hope, can rise from hell.
Just like that beautiful little girl did.
And I wanted this story to give her hope. And sometimes I think about it, and I wish so bad that it had worked. At least, for a little while longer.
But sometimes too, I want to think that it did work. That what she said in her note to me at the end: “I will see you again where the time goes when it stops. I will see you, one day, again” — the way that this sounded so clear and so certain, they way it rings like a bell in my head now — that this was the first true hope I had heard from her all of these last few years.
I don’t know, and my mind changes all the time. But, maybe, this story will give someone else some hope. My friend T who is going through an awful loss that I can’t even fathom right now and who I feel for so much. Someone, anyone.
Hope is essential. There’s no life without it.
Exhausted. I just stay up every night it seems as long as I can, because trying to sleep is ugly and falling asleep can be much worse.
There was some respite at the beach, it was different and away from everything, and it was easier to get some distance from it.
Among others, I have this recurring dream where D sits on my bed and tells me stories about things we did. Sometimes she reads them from this 20 some page letter she sent me through her estate lawyer that talks about everything we ever did — and there was a lot, tons of travel, we lived in Malibu for a couple months, we did all kinds of cool stuff.
She had a really distinctive and hypnotic kind of voice, I always told her I was jealous of it, and she sounds just the same in the dream. And I’m riveted by the stories and her voice and by remembering along with them, and it’s like living them again.
But every time, when she’s done telling me or reading me the stories, it’s always a shock. I never expect that she will be done, there’s no warning as to when.
She just says: “I have to go now, but it’s ok. Close your eyes. If you close your eyes Curtis, it will almost feel like nothing’s changed at all.”
And when she goes, it feels like watching her die, floating away.
I don’t have strong beliefs one way or the other in ghosts or an afterlife. I just know that if there is anything, it’s not the idiotic simpleton fairytale of Heaven and Hell we were taught.
But it finally hit me though about this dream: She KNEW when she wrote that letter that I would never be able to read it. She knew me way better to think I could ever read that thing. And I can’t. I am 0-100 now on even trying.
And she definitely knew I would be that way about it. So, as eerie as it sounds, I think maybe I have these dreams because she knows I can’t read that letter. And since she wrote it because she knows that I need to start thinking about the good memories as soon as I can — she comes and reads it to me to help me do what I can’t.
That sometimes is what love is. Isn’t it?
You help me do what I can’t.
I help you do what you can’t.
Who says this has to change after someone goes away?
I asked Day after a while what it felt like to want to commit suicide that first time and to really try, but to wake up still here, still alive.
Still alive, and having to face what she had to face.
You know how sometimes you hear awful news or just have a terrible day, and there is this small part of you that wants to believe it isn’t true — and then you wake up in the middle of that night, or the next morning, and you realize that it is true? And you feel like you never want to get out of bed?
She had to wake back up to a place where she she didn’t want to ever wake up to again. From a place where she was happy and in love and loved and had everything, to a whole new and different and evil world. To the realization that he father did what he did to her all those years, that she had kept it from herself somehow, that everything she thought was true was all lies.
She had to wake up to a world where the game she thought she remembered where her father chased her through the rose garden when she was a child – was no game at all, but rather a memory she created to explain why she hid in her mind’s eye in the rose gardens in the wallpaper on her wall while he was there. The kind of memory a little girl who wanted to believe her father loved her would create.
She said something like this: “When I woke up, it felt like all the hard places were worn soft. The ones I needed. It felt like I melted into something. Something with no shape, no identity, something that felt like a bowl of water filled to the top that someone was carrying. Something far too easy to spill.”
I can’t imagine how it felt. And….I have tried to so many times.
And I can’t imagine coming back from that, having to start from that day — that day after you tried so hard to die and failed. But she did.
In many ways, even though she couldn’t outrun it in the end, she was the strongest person I knew.
When I went out to see D in ’09 in Steamboat, I hadn’t seen her since she tried to kill herself that day and I found her, and I hadn’t spoken to her but for a few times over those years, all in the previous month or two.
So the whole 16 years or so, she existed in my head as who she was before the attempt – and I knew that was going to change, I just didn’t know how much.
When she told me that he raped her that young while I was out there, it was like a hole under my feet opened up and I just free fell into it. And the things falling after me were all these things she told me that I couldn’t get out of my head.
Heartbreak, it always lives in the details, the little things. Those things have never left me, those details.
She told me how she realized that when were together and she would fall asleep with her shoes on, or wake up and put them on in the middle of the night – it was because as a little girl, she would wear them to bed on the nights when he was home, thinking “this time, I will run away.”
She told me that when it would happen, she would imagine herself into the thickets of these flowers which grew intertwined on the wallpaper in her bedroom, imagine herself crawling through them to lose herself, the smell of them was real to her, the thorns, the dirt on her feet. The experience was like a shield she said, the rush of it all in her senses kept the horror away.
She told me how she knew she a secret, and she saw it in her mind as a darkened area, crossed out as if scribbled over in black crayon for those first few years. But when she turned twelve, she said she began to see this wolf. He was always just in the corner of her eye, just out of sight, in her dreams, in her closets, in darkened rooms, waiting for her. And she said that she tried to tell everyone about him, her father, her brothers and teachers and friends but no one believed her, and they ignored her and teased her and she kept more and more to herself.
She told me how later when she was older and in her late teens, she thought she had a memory of playing this game with her father – a game where she had her sneakers on, and he chased her through the rose garden. And she said, “I never questioned why in my memory of this game, the roses were BLUE not red or white or pink or yellow.”
Until one day — she went to our friends’ place in a building right near ours on Walnut Street, and she wasn’t paying attention and walked into the door of the building next to it, and she walked into the lobby — and there was that same wallpaper. And she said, it all came back.
The wolf stepped out of the shadows and into the light, and she saw it all, and she saw who it was, and she wanted to die.
And so after she told me these things, the rest of the trip, I was struggling with myself to decide who she was. It was like she was so familiar and all the memories came rushing back when I saw her, but there was also this incredible and heartbreaking thing about her to try and absorb. And it all crashed around in my head, the old and the new, and I just struggled to feel who she was to me now, who she was at all. How I should feel about this person, is it the same person? Does it make sense for me to feel like she IS?
And then, one of the last days I was there we were kayaking. And I was watching her just looking off across the lake, and the Sun was at her back and she was sort of folded in on herself and quiet the way she could be. And she reached up with her right hand and brushed the hair from her eyes – the same way she had always done when I was with her so long ago, the same strand of hair, the same motion, and it was this powerful deja vu like I had never experienced before.
I wrote this later on, and it is about trying to reconcile the old and the new in my head. This last bit is about what I saw her do at the lake.
The way she brushed the hair from her forehead
on that day and at that hour
Its shimmer circling
like the arms of the angels
to keep what yet remained to her alive
in the late and fading sunshine
And I realized right then and there when I saw it — that the little girl wearing her sneakers to bed, the little girl hiding in that garden in her mind, the little girl who saw this awful scary wolf, the little girl no one believed, the girl who felt so isolated and different and alone and didn’t know why — that I knew exactly who she was all along, from the very beginning.
That it was her. And that the choice was easy.
Just love and whatever love requires of you. Every minute in your life can be a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you make a choice, and all follows. The shape of your path is visible from the beginning.
Just not to you.
She had a way of retreating when you talked to her sometimes, which was easy to miss if you didn’t know her like did. She would just fold into herself and leave no trace. She also had a way of disappearing. Sometimes for days. Sometimes for weeks. And once, for 17 years.
And so, I knew how to wait with her when she retreated or disappeared. How to wait without waiting, like surfing. She always turned up, and there were times she just showed up – from Colorado or anywhere on Earth as she was always traveling in the beginning. She had her own plane, so I guess that helped : )
One time in February of 2010 when I lived in the apartment I moved into in 2009, she showed up there. I knew she was in Philly at the Ritz where she always stayed and was expecting to see her, but not at 3 AM and not that night.
It was snowing really hard I remember, and I sleep like a cat so I heard her coming up the stairs. The kids weren’t there, which back then was unusual. I cracked the door and she was inside in 3 seconds, threw herself on the sofa, boots on the coffee table, snow melting in her hair.
She lived like a murder sometimes and drank like the bomb was on the way. She was lit but happy and talking away. She could literally startle you she was so striking looking, could even do it to me if I hadn’t seen her for a while, and it always took 20 minutes to stop staring and start listening – it did this time I remember too.
She always started with a question. It was how we talked. She asked. Sometimes I answered straight away. Sometimes, I parried with my own – and vice versa.
“When did you first know?”
I parried this time. “Know what?”
“Shut up, you know what I mean.”
“Ok, so I do. And I’ve told you this before. I knew the first time we had a fight. The first time I saw something that I did could hurt you, and realized how much that hurt me when it happened. I knew then.”
“And what about you?”
“I don’t remember it as anything but this feeling that something broke inside me. It was as if I had my arm stretched out, locked, pushing on something for so long, and it just gave way all of a sudden.”
“It wasn’t any one thing you said or did. I just looked. Looked for the 1000th time. And that one time, I saw you.”
Thinking back on what she said, it reminds me of something I realized the past few years. So often, who loves you, who you love, what you need versus what you think you want – it’s right in front of you. And always was. If you, like KJ says “don’tlookaway”.
But we so often do look away, we think there’s something or someone better, we CHASE our “feelings” instead of sitting still and FINDING them. We look away. And then it’s gone.
And on another much more personal note, thinking back on it, that moment, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I can see the snow melting on her coat, in her hair, off her boots, hear her laugh. Love is memory, and that — cuts both ways.
“I can’t be near you, the light just radiates….”
Don’t look away, you’ll be glad you didn’t.
It’s interesting to me to see how people react when they know you’re going through something difficult like a death. I’ve never been open or up front about anything personal before – hell I kept 99% of the whole 18 years to myself – and it may seem that way to some, but if you go back and read my posts for the last few years, it all adds up to a total of nothing specific truly revealed. You won’t even be able to tell who I dated or anything specific about me and other people.
That said, there are reasons for being a bit more open this time, and they aren’t about me, but rather about other victims like Day.
I think reactions are driven far more by personality type and what’s going on in the lives of people at the moment than many people think. We tend to personalize these things too much – “She hasn’t even called me since my Mom died”, etc. – when we should be thinking about who the person is and trying to understand why based on this.
Some people just aren’t comfortable with the personal in any form, and they avoid it and limit everything to surface interactions. Some people find it such a struggle to stay positive in their daily existence that they stay away from the ‘negative’. Some people feel like these things are for family and close friends, and it’s not their place to say much. Some people wallow in it – anyone’s grief. Some people are just naturally truly empathetic. Some people can’t or won’t introspect and avoid things that cause them to do that always, whether they are aware of this or not. And some people, I am sure from my own experience, find themselves reminded too much of their own losses and instinctively avoid for this reason.
I don’t dare to deem to judge anyone’s reactions, and have zero expectations of anyone. Although there are always one or two puzzling silences and lack of even basic empathy from people who were close that you can’t understand and probably never will.
I just think it’s interesting how people react, and that it is wise to think before you over-personalize their reactions.
And on a slightly different note, I have said this before, but it bears saying again: For every single one of you who has messaged me and said that they can identify with what happened to D, or with losing someone to suicide — know that you are not even close to the only one. Not close.
That seems important to me – that you believe this – it’s true.
The last time I saw D in person and not just on Skype was in Philly, she was at the Ritz like usual and I went up a couple times. She had torn up her knee at one of her kayak competitions a while before and hadn’t been traveling as much, it was a pretty bad injury and she had a guy she hired helping her out when she was on crutches, etc. I never met or saw the guy, and she never really made a big deal out of it. This story is about when I finally did meet him:
I go up to the Ritz one night and meet her in her suite for a bit, and then we go down into the lobby of the hotel, which used to be an old bank and is cool to hang out in. There aren’t a lot of people there, and we’re talking for a while and having drinks. She looked happy and ageless like always, but she was drinking at her usual Hunter S. Thompson pace.
So after a bit, we go down to the little restaurant district that popped up off Passyunk and get dinner, her driver guy Axl took us and he hung out for a bit with us like he usually did, and then she’d say “Axl, GTFO” like she always did, and he’d give us some space. At one point I remember that we were talking about a photo that a gal friend of mine had just texted to me. She reeled off 8-10 things about her just from the pic that were dead on accurate, “hates being tall”, “shy”, “hates attention,” “should stop tanning and smoking”, “much more beautiful than she knows,” etc. I never knew how she was able to do that, but with women she had this incredible empathy and insight. I always loved that about her, that she was that way towards other women. Being victimized like he was can make you bitter or lacking in empathy, but she was never that way – it seemed to giver her a radar about others who were damaged in some way too.
After we had hung out for a couple hours and Axl was out in the his ride getting baked probably, we had this conversation:
“So, when did you get the bodyguard?’
“What? What bodyguard?”
“Well, when we were in the lobby at the Ritz there weren’t a lot of people there right? But did you see that huge brother about the size of a Coke machine – remember him?”
“Yeah I saw him.”
“Uh huh, and after a while it occurred to me that there are 500 empty chairs and sofas that this dude could’ve sat in — but instead he’s sitting on this tiny little artsy divan that looked uncomfortable as shit. Looked like an elephant sitting on a footstool. And I got to looking around and I realized that this was the only chair in the area that was facing towards us\ and that this must be why he chose it. Plus, we were there for 2 hours and he never drank, never met anyone, and never even pulled out his phone. And so, 1 + 4 = 1….I figured he was watching you.”
“Fuck you Sherlock “
And that’s how I met the personal assistant.
Once I was out in Steamboat visiting Day, and we drove from her condo on Christie Peak in the direction of her ranch on a Sunday morning.
The idea was to kayak in from a spot a few miles from the western edge of her property, and then throw the kayaks in a boathouse she had there and hike in to her cabin. She hadn’t owned the property long, and there were just-forming plans for a proper house and her horses, etc. For now, she had the cabin and 600 plus acres of jaw-dropping beauty and, for her – the key – utter solitude.
We drove there in her old beat up Rover with the kayaks up top. She loved that thing and insisted on driving even though she could have driven anything. It looked like someone threw it off a cliff. I had an old Subaru when we lived in Philly, and I remember she used to like to kick dents in it when she was hammered. I kinda did too, and we kicked the Rover a few times too for old times sakes, so it looked even worse.
She drove like a homicide in progress usually, and those roads were crazy as we got closer to the lake, but she was just rolling and driving slow this time, and showing me things. The beauty of the place could make you forget almost anything, and I know it was a big part of why she was there. She was tied to that place, and it to her.
We came up this one ridgeline in the Rover and the Sun was maybe a half an hour into being up, blood orange and it felt like it was in you it was so intense.
There was a song on a CD, Alexi Murdoch’s Orange Sky. It’s hypnotic and beautiful and branded on me like that whole morning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfNnca-w0zY
She said when we stopped: “I could go away now and leave no trace but this, you know that? How often do you take a ride like that with a ghost you never thought you’d see again? Even the song matched the sky.”
I couldn’t say anything really, just let it swirl around me. That’s what it felt like too. The sunrise, the mountain, the road, the lake, the air, her words, the past, they all just swirled around me……like someone whispering to you from behind, just out of sight but so you can feel their touch.
You can never love someone as much as you miss them.
I still can’t really sleep. I still feel like these small hours are for talking to her on Skype like we did, and when I do sleep, there’s the dreams.
I was remembering a time a couple of years ago when D was in a bad way. She was drinking a lot and went to Whistler as she often did, but this time she stayed much longer and dropped off the grid. I was used to her disappearing, and knew how to wait. But it still was an ever-present worry. You can’t find someone after a suicide attempt all blue and seemingly dead without it crossing your mind every time they drop out of touch for a bit, that they did it again. Even if it was 17 years ago. Trust me, you can’t.
She ended up in a bit of a mess up there this time, and I went up and unwound it for her. And we went to a place she loved, with the idea that she would stay there for a while. A beautiful hotel in Canada that floats on a lake.
She was quiet and on and off mad at me the few days I stayed there. We both had this fierce independence that teeters on the unhealthy, and this is what made her mad at me – that she needed help. Not my help. Help.
One morning it all caught up with me and I slept late. I went looking for her after a bit, and found her sitting out on a dock. She said without turning around:
“Can you stop interrupting me when I’m ignoring you and being all dark and damaged?” And then got serious and said: “I know you get nervous, panic even. I hate that, that I cause that.”
I told her: “You don’t cause it. I do. I caused it by making a choice.”
“To worry? Why would you choose to do that about someone as fucked up as me, who can’t even be the same way back all the time?’
“I didn’t make the choice to worry. I chose love, and whatever it may require. Sometimes, it requires me to worry and panic and flashback and take some last minute flights……but mostly, it’s just love.”
“I don’t know how to feel more grateful for that. It’s like it’s something too big to put my arms around or express.”
“That’s enough, just cut out the mad shit.”
Whatever it requires.
I was thinking today that the one common thread that seems to run through the entire story of Day and I, of which I am telling bare fragments now, seems to be that of secrets.
I always thought of a secret as something that you tell one other person. But some secrets are too painful to share even with ourselves. And that was the case with Day’s secret.
Those of us who have children know this: A child, cannot keep a secret. Not if you whisper one in her ear and ask her not to tell. But this is a healthy child, told a happy secret. A child who has been GIVEN a secret, born of shame and of fear and of violence and of rape, goes deaf and turns mute. Even, to themselves. And so she did.
And on top of her secret, another was laid when we met and became so close. Her secret was now kept from herself, and from me. Unknowingly kept, but kept all the same. I have often thought about those days in Philly, and wondered about what signs I saw, or if I saw any at all. We were young and (cliche or now, just ask ) wild, and it was all love and fun and shared mindset. And I feel like I saw nothing coming, maybe the outline of a rider far off on the horizon at best.
I wrote about the idea of it once in a larger piece. The idea that there was a secret then. The idea that secrets have a way of making themselves felt, even before you know there is a secret:
Once I saw an Ocean on fire
an oil slick burning they said it was
And just as the music and the laughter
peeled off of you
in those emerald days
and on those untamed nights
so did the fiery secret under the soft skin
the brand new flesh sinned against
and worn so blessedly thin
And when they came for you
as sudden as a birth
they left me with only my stories
and fears that hearts carry expiration dates
And when they came for you
it was not yet our time
And on top of this secret, another was laid. Because on the very day that she did learn her own secret, she tried to take it to the grave with her — for shame, for fear of telling me who she loved what she now knew and what made her feel so unworthy. And she nearly did take it there.
And on top of this secret, another was laid. Because the very day that she tried to die but failed, she went away to Oyster Bay, taken there to be “cared for” by the animal who gave her his own terrible secret. And she took her secret with her and away from me: Leaving me to head back home to Wilmington, not knowing what her secret caused her to do, and carrying a secret of my own. A secret that I kept from everyone, until now.
And she finally told me her secret, as I have talked about. 16 years later. And yet another secret was born by this telling. But this secret was different. There was beauty and love in this secret.
A friend keeps your secrets for you. But someone who truly loves you, they help you keep your own secrets.
And someone who truly loves you, they keep you as THEIR own secret.
And these things we did.
Not all secrets are shameful. Not all secrets are bad.
Sometimes, beauty can be hidden too.
And, always, what we hide — is what we are.
Today’s a day I have been in my own head a lot. One thing I was thinking about was how much of a roller-coaster it could be the past 4 years with someone like Day.
Her disappearances. The effects of the abuse and the damage leaking out of her in toxic ways. The constant worry about another suicide. The fires to put out. The ledges to talk her down from. The indescribable feeling when someone you love wanders into fields of despair that you can’t fathom, other than to compare it your own at watching her stumble through them, helpless to lead her out.
Both of us, the lost among the missing.
I would bet that if you are one of my friends, you would nod your head in agreement right now if I said that I was less than predictable the past few years. I come and go, even when I am there. I disappear too. I engage and then I don’t. I feel like I want to do something and then the day comes and I decide I don’t. This was why. It changed often in fact, and it changed often in me. My fear and worry levels would ebb and flow, and so did my engagement with the rest of the world, in unison with those tides.
There were times when I would feel good about her, that she was safe and making progress, and I always had our late night Skype chats to validate this during these times. But there were times when, I knew it was coming.
And when I knew that I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. The feeling would just rise in you, like water in a sudden flood.
An example of how it could change so quickly:
I remember once when were on her ranch, she fell asleep outside the cabin by the fire. I watched her for a long time, she was seemingly at peace. And I thought: “If it were to fall to me to make the world, I would make it just so, and no different. That I would place her name into a box and drive it somewhere where no light escaped from the horizon, to the ends of the Earth, and leave it there safe and away from harm. And then I went to wake her so we could go inside, and when she felt my hand on her in her sleep, she panicked or reacted in fear, and was hitting me and pushing me away, gashing my wrist. Sheer terror like I’d never seen in her. Or in anyone.
And when this had been calmed and she was awake and all was normal again. I sat and held my wrist, covered in blood, and I thought: Look at the vastness of this place, the billions of stars electric and right on top of us, trees six feet thick, things buried in graves beneath us centuries old, the decay of a thousand eras before us in layer after layer below, things primordial and older than man crawling and hunting in that forest which cared not — and look at us. The two of us, with this thing that lives in the way.
It just seemed that we were nothing. With one and only one certainly: That we were in something’s way.
And that feeling would come back to me at times months and years after, when I was worried for her. When I had cause to be, which I often did. And I would disappear.
I wrote this about what that felt like, on my birthday in 2012. I was in a place where I thought she would die when I wrote this. I can tell from reading it now:
Over-eyed like cattle at market
short on sleep
and humming tuneless
to the iron clockwork of the world
No one is an orphan
We are all watched
And I feel that there are
but these two motions
left to me now
those of stars
and those of reaching for them
And I have waited here, poised
and hardly aware of the waiting
Waited for what seems
all of my life’s breaths
Waited open and watchful at your elbow
waited in quiet want of relief
Waited not to be counted
by the gods of absence
as one of the lost among the missing
Waited to yet find a way
not to turn a wish
into a knife
But if you ask me, I will tell you
the most important question is
Did you will this, or was it imposed on you?
And if you ask me, I will tell you
that the last time I saw myself alive
I drew the curtain back
and stood by my sleeping body
knowing how long it had waited
and how little time remained for it to prepare
And if you ask me, I will tell you
that there is love that will only last a minute
like headlights flashing by in dusk
And if you ask me, I will tell you
That I no longer believe
I am capable of protecting myself from its light
by hiding my face in my hands
The truth is this: We are all, just barely possible. Think about the people you know who should be here, but are no longer. Think about the ones you know who should be gone, but are still with us.
And live like that. Live like it’s a miracle that while we are clinging to the 3d stone from the Sun and desperately hoping that it does not just shrug us off one day – we still somehow manage to experience joy, hope, love.
Live like you are barely possible. Like everyone you love is barely possible.
Because we are.
After Day told me what happened, about the abuse, I couldn’t get the images of it out of my head.
A little girl wearing her sneakers to bed, thinking she would run this time. And so many others.
For 17 years I was haunted by her suicide attempt and not knowing why. And for the last 4, I was haunted by knowing why.
And, although I am doing this because my heart breaks my heart for every little girl who has been abused like her. And although I am doing this because her heart broke for them that much more….
She was not just any little girl to me. Imagining it, hearing about it, thinking and dreaming about it, was therefore that much harder.
I started to have this dream not long after she told me. All the time:
In the dream, I could see her. Long before I knew her.
See her in the place where we are before we get here. See her in the place where we go when we are no longer here. The place where the time goes when it stops.
See her before it started.
She is 6, maybe 7 years old. Ash blonde hair blowing like wheat, with lost locks straying across her forehead. She brushes one, always the same one, from her eyes, just as she did when I knew her.
When I see her she is skating. A frozen pond in the half-light of the Upstate New York winter. There are drifting geese, spruce boughs weeping slow in the wind. Woodsmoke.
Grace and motion without words. She is young and happy. He will never come to her room. It will never happen.
And I keep thinking as I watch, she just has to keep skating. If she does, she will stay there, frozen like the pond. Gliding in the tracks left by her skates. She will never die.
Then I wake up, in total fear because my first thought is — that she stopped.
After a while I came to understand this about the dream: I was the one who was running, skating, dreaming, trying in it – as hard as I could – thinking if I just keep going, it will be ok.
And the waking up part is the realization.
That it might not.
I stopped having that dream when she died.
I honestly can’t even look at it in my head now. I used to have the scene of her skating on that pond like a photo in my head, but now it literally appears blinding when I look at it, as if the Sun is low and the whole scene is bathed in its light so that you can’t see her. And I have to turn away.
“I can’t be near you the light just radiates…..”
I was thinking about D’s note to me just now. I try really hard not to, but it comes as it will.
One thing about her that was perhaps not completely unique but certainly not the norm either, was her acute self-awareness and brutal – and I mean brutal – honesty. About herself. About everything. She was just too goddamn smart, and she had no time or tolerance for anything less than the kind of truth that burned through everything around it until it stood there alone and unquestioned.
In these things we were much alike, and this made it easier. With her, what it meant was that she knew just what the damage done to her was, she could see it, talk about it, acknowledge it — she could do everything but change it. So, for example, when she would push me away at times because that is what those who do not love themselves as they are do to people who do love them as they are — she would be fully aware of it and of why she was doing it. We would even joke about it.
She understood that for someone like her, having someone around who loved her for exactly who she was – was just like having someone around who was holding up a mirror to her. And she did not always like what she saw in that mirror, because what was done to her forever took that ability away from her.
So she would disappear. Tell me I would be so much better off with someone who was capable of full-time intimacy, capable of what comes naturally to so many. Tell me she didn’t love me. Tell me I didn’t really love her, just felt sorry for her. And so on.
And in her note, she acknowledged this at the very outset, and said that she wanted me to know this: “Even when I said I didn’t, I did. Even when I said I wouldn’t, I would. Even when I said I can’t, I could. Even when I said go, I meant stay. Even when I said no, I meant yes. I did, I did, I did….”
And this made me realize, yet again, that while love may seem like such an elusive and ethereal thing — in the end, it turns out that it is the only part of us that is truly solid after all.
When the world goes dark, and the curtain comes down:
It is the last thing to leave the stage.
It is what you say when there is nothing else left to say.