I am a porcupine, prickly in advance of the next unknown, of this first anniversary of gains and losses. I don’t know how I’ll feel, what I’ll do with myself. I hesitate to make plans, promises. The only instinct I have is to avoid company, curl into a ball in a dark room and drink myself into oblivion for six weeks until it’s over.
I did it once. It worked. It was my last day working for a software company with $37,500 in annual revenues despite $10 million in venture capital. The inevitable implosion landed me pink-slipped, but only after three months of the kind of trickle-down angst that brings out the very worst in people.
No, I wasn’t by myself (point for being social: Kate). Yes, I was the only person getting drunk (point for being a spectacle: rum). It was some random Tuesday after I arrived home and declared, “I just lost my job, and I’m about to get completely plastered. Feel free to join me if you like.”
I remember hearing a knock on the bathroom door and muffled whispers asking from the other side if I was, umm, okay. The door opened a crack and through the steam she would have seen me passed out in the bath with my clothes on, head tilted back, underwater except for a breathing hole, the lower half of my face forming an island of what I’m sure was boozy, open-mouthed snoring through a fjord of suds.
Are you blind? I remember thinking. I am perfect.
An entire evening of precisely orchestrated stress relief culminating in horizontal, zero-gravity, amnesiatic, thoroughly medicated heat? I woke up hungover, embarrassed, and cured.
On their birthday I may be all cupcakes and dancing, lightened with blessings, or maybe not. Ben was saved but the Liam that might have been was lost, the day he was flooded and then died and then was born and then brought back to linger for us for as long as he could.
This first year, I don't know if I've got it in me to pretend that May 5th wasn’t the most catastrophic day of our lives. I want to wake up to a kick in the head from my three-year-old as per usual and tap my barometer and make the calls to say “Why don’t you just come over for some tea and something sweet and I might even have some little candles in the junk drawer and we’ll see…”
Or maybe nothing but a walk in the woods with the boys. Maybe I need to be alone or send Liam a letter or leave him a piece of cake somewhere secret or just be angry without an audience, promising to myself and concerned family that I won’t be this way next year. That Ben won’t remember me sobbing over a bowl of chocolate batter, left with the impression he’s half of a whole.
This first year, I just don’t know. I won’t know until that kick in the head.