The boy “graduated” from his school earlier this week. Two, actually. One was an art class, the other a music class. But really, they were a way to socialize him with kids his age. That was the goal, anywho. Along the way, I met these women that became the Mother’s Group that I talk to almost every day. In that sense, it socialized us both.
Friend: This is it, a first graduation! Me: Whoa – well, let’s hope it’s the first of many.
Gymgirl: (watching TV) I’m pretty impressed that you figured that part out. Me: (dismissively) Of course, I’m ridonk brilliant. Her: Eh, you’re alright.
Speaking of graduating, not only did the Gymgirl graduate as well, she also started a new job recently so she took me out to eat Korean BBQ in Korea Town at place called Jongro. A boy could get spoiled like this.
Went to that place years ago with my college buddies.
Leigh’s husband wrote me to tell me that he thought The Gymgirl sounded like an amazing person. It’s a lot for someone to deal with people like us that are saddled with such grief. I agree.
Although I feel I enrich her life in my own inimitable way.
Gymgirl: I need to post on social media that I graduated. What did you post when you graduated? Me: I didn’t have the internet back then. Her: (laughing) Good god, you have to put that in your blog.
My Father’s Day was spent with the Gymgirl taking me to dim sum in Chinatown but the lines were out the door. So she bought me two lunches back-to-back. Soup dumplings at Joe’s Ginger and then Pho Bang on Mott Street. Was gonna stop by to see my buddy Rain but we had to get the kid.
The thing about the Gymgirl is that’s she’s so young, she never really thought about how she might raise a kid. But I’m pleasantly surprised that she and Alison woulda seen eye-to-eye on a lotta things.
Yesterday was the first Father’s Day I remember since everything went down last year. Don’t even remember if I saw my dad last year. Was in such a haze of grief, exhaustion, and alcohol.
After the Gymgirl left to see her own dad, I went shopping with the boy. He wasn’t feeling well so he just sat on the sidewalk and refused to move. Thought that was kinda frustratingly amusing. My dad woulda thought so too.
I always sigh when I think of things like that. Did it again just now.
God, I loved my father. He was difficult, but I think all fathers have to be a little difficult. Alison always told me, “Remember that we’re gonna be their parents, not their friends. At least, not for a really long time.”
When the boy sat down on the street, I tried to reason with him but ultimately had to start walking away for him to get up. Sometimes you gotta do that.
As for me, this lady named Mignon McLaughlin once said that, The past is to our back. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it.
Don’t believe in much of anything these days. But in my head, Alison and my father are behind me, with a hand gently on my back in support.
Then, one September day, we told each other that we didn’t wanna be with anyone else.
Alison: You’ve finally accepted that I’m your Ship-in-the-Night Girl, huh? Me: (nodding) Yes.
That was a great day. Probably one of the happiest days of my life.
A good friend of mine was given an opportunity to start his own gym and asked me my thoughts.
Told him, honestly, that he owed it to his future self to take his chances as they come.
I mean, that’s the thing with every facet of life, yeah? You’re presented with an opportunity and you have to decide whether to stay with the devil you know or push all that doubt to the side of your mouth, shut up, and take your chances.
When Alison met me that night, my business was failing. A family friend stole most of my money. Was drinking and womanizing way too much.
And yet she saw something in me that made her take a chance on me.
She believed me when I told her I was looking for her all those years. While it was the truth, I can see how that might be a hard thing to accept with a fella like me.
I admit that in my sleepless nights, I worried she’d wake up one day and realize she’d made a terrible mistake.
But she never did.
She’s been gone only a year and I’m already in another relationship. Can’t express how guilty that makes me feel. But she’d want what was best for me and the boy.
And Alison knew I loved her and only her. That’s all that really matters to me.
That’s not entirely true: I want the kid to know I loved his mamma completely.
Did everything I could to save her for us. Life f___d us anyway.
The Gymgirl left this story a while ago. Suppose in the simplest terms, she and I both thought that it was too early for us to be in relationship. She had school and life going on and I had…well, you know what I had going on.
But I can’t be a hypocrite and tell my buddy, and everyone else, to take their chances as they come and not do it myself.
You see, the Gymgirl sees my broken self and thinks I might be something or someone great. Or nearabouts. And I think she’s something great also.
In the movie, Say Anything, even people that’ve never seen the film know that stupid scene where Lloyd holds that boombox over his head in the rain. Always thought that was idiotic when I was a kid and still do.
But the part I liked, and remembered, the most is at the very end where Loyd and Diane, who hates to fly, are on the airplane. Loyd goes:
All right, high level airline safety tips: If anything happens, it usually happens in the first five minutes of the flight, right?
And he says that smoking sign dings at around five minutes so they have to wait for the ding. The last two minutes of the film are them waiting for that ding.
Man, I’m so old, I remember smoking on a plane. And check out the hat the girl wears in the scene on the bottom.
But, to paraphase my sister, getting old is a gift. Not everyone gets to grow old.
On that note, May’s almost over, and the days I feared/hated the most in May are past.
Did some projects on the 24th to keep my head busy and made it through the day drinking only a little, relatively speaking. The Gymgirl helped.
It was still kind of a blur. That type of pain is like looking at the sun; you can’t do it for long otherwise it’ll damage you permanently.
Friday and Saturday were both better; on Friday, went to the gym and then introduced some of them to my fave dive bar in the Upper West Side.
On Saturday, met up with some people from my old gym out in Queens for a BBQ.
Why we all left the gym is a long story for another time but in a nutshell, it was because of the gym owner, albeit for slightly different reasons. It was good to see them all. Had a long talk with one of them about the nature of god and whether or not s/he even exists.
Him: I think, if anything, I’m agnostic right now. Me: I think that’s where I am too. If there is god, he wants nothing to do with me and I, him.
Sunday, I was supposed to have dinner plans with a friend but he bailed on me because he got a better offer, which is another story for another time.
Him: It’s not that big a deal. Me: No, you don’t get to piss on me and tell me it’s rain.
So I sent out a random Facebook event invite telling a handful of people that I was going to go downtown to get some all-you-can-eat sushi and if anyone was free, they should join me.
Called it: You have about 90 minutes to decide.
Surprisingly, both my coach and two students from the old gym – one of whom was at the BBQ – showed up and we ended up having a great time.
Me: Goddammit, wait until the first batch comes in before you order more food. Gee: This is not my first rodeo, Logan! I know what I’m capable of when it comes to all-you-can-eat! (food comes, we demolish it) Oh, look at that, now we need to order more food. Me: I’m sorry, you’re right. I never shoulda doubted you.
Took the train back with one of them and we were talking about our lives.
It all felt surprising normal.
Got out of the subway and went home. The Gymgirl was on a hike and the kid was away at my mom’s so I sat down on my white couch and poured myself a glass of rum and thought about everything. Old Memorial Days and such.
After I’m done writing this, probably gonna go see some other friends and pick up the kid from my mom’s.
There’s a train track that passes under 149th Street between Roosevelt and 41st Avenues in Queens.
When I was a fat kid, another boy once told me that he would kill me.
Don’t remember why; do remember that I believed him.
I was terrified. To the point that I seriously contemplated hurling myself in front of that train to avoid that.
Remembered wondering what I should wear. How odd.
Suppose all bullied kids have had similar thoughts. It’s unbearably sad to me when I hear of one going through with it. And yet depression and suicide have made regular appearances in my life, not just with me but with those close to me.
Never had the nerve to make that final cut. A good thing.
The oddest thing about Alison’s passing is that, since at least March, I’ve gone in the opposite direction.
I’m terrified about getting injured or, even worse, dying. Need to survive to take care of the boy. It’s a feeling I’ve never had before – the need to survive – not even for Alison when we were deliriously in love.
Alison used to tell me alla time that she loved me like a fat kid loves cake. That always made me laugh.
Alison loved me. But she didn’t need me. Didn’t want her to.
(When Alison was pregnant and before the cancer) Her: What if I need you? Me: You don’t. I don’t want you to. You need to take care of the kid. A boy needs his mama.
And he still does. But she’s not here. Wish she was with ever atom in my body but she’s not.
I am, though. Man, I was supposed to be the backup if everything went to hell. Everything went to hell.
Now I’m it cause this kid needs me. Like, he literally cannot survive without me.
Nuthin – no one – has ever truly needed me before like he does now.
I’ve never felt such a heavy and awesome responsibility before. It’s terrifying, really. It’s as terrifying to me as that bully that threatened to kill me.
The pastor from Vision Church stopped by my neighborhood.
Me: I’m always surprised anyone ever wants to do anything with me. I’m a whirlpool of sadness, I think. Him: People care about you. You should let them.
We went out for a cup of coffee that I promptly spilled onto the neighboring table with an older Italian couple.
Me: Well, looks like the clumsy is still working. Sorry about that. Italian gentleman: That’s a fine. No harm. Me: You’re Italian. My wife was Italian.
The pastor invited me to a concert and I told him that the last concert I went to was a Coldplay concert. Told him that concerts were much more her thing than mine.
Speaking of things, I didn’t feel up to going out with people on Saturday – Alison’s birthday – but I had several people, including my mother-in-law, contact me to tell me to get out of the house.
And the Gymgirl came by and insisted we do something so I found myself walking with her down Amsterdam Avenue.
We ended up at a restaurant that Alison liked called Hi-Life. Grabbed a seat outside under the awning where I had mixed rum-drinks while she had some red wine and split a burger. The Gymgirl nabbed the check afterward.
We went back to my place but not before stopping by a wine shop where she bought a bottle of red and a bottle of white.
I recalled that it was almost exactly a decade ago that Alison and I shared a glass of red wine, back when I called her Heartgirl.
The Gymgirl and I opened the red when we got back.
Her: We should watch something funny. Me: Have you ever seen Brian Regan? I saw him live with Alison once, years ago. Her: Let’s do it.
After a while I felt a bit better and we demolished a rack of ribs that I made. My intermittent fasting diet went out the window.
It wasn’t until midnight that I felt a sigh of relief. As if I accomplished something.
Like I said, everything that should be happy is sad instead.
Her: (pouring the last of the wine) I liked this. Me: It was pretty good. It wasn’t rum, but it wasn’t bad. (pause) I miss her. Her: (nodding) I know. I’m sorry. (lifting up her glass) To Alison. Happy Birthday, Alison. Me: Happy Birthday, Alison. Her: (nods, leans in and kisses me on my cheek)
A friend of my sister’s dropped by yesterday with gifts for the kid – an owl plush toy, and a children’s book – plus a gift for me: Rum.
Her: I didn’t know her but I wish I did. She sounded like an amazing person. I hope you don’t find it strange that I show up here as a stranger.
And I spoke to an old friend I’ve not spoken to in ages.
Him: I met this girl. I’m selling everything and moving outta the city to be with her. I wouldn’t have imagined doing something like this before but then I thought of you and Alison.
In their own ways, they apologized for reducing the sum of Alison’s life to a life lesson or story.
But I told them not to apologize and related a quote I like from Margaret Atwood: In the end, we all become stories.
All I have left of her are a handful of pictures, two videos, and these stories in my head. And the boy, of course.
In honor of her birthday, let me tell you a silly story. It’s for me, really. To put it out into the aether and make it real again, if only for a bit.
She disliked beets. But I loved them.
Her: You like beets? Me: As my buddy would say: Nothing beats beets. Her: (rolls eyes)
So I came home one day to find her wearing gloves and covered in beet juice. When I saw her, she pretended that I caught her in the middle of a murder (we loved Dexter, you see). She wanted to surprise me with some roasted beets and dried beet chips.
In any case, I asked her if I could take a picture of her and she resisted. She hated having her picture taken. But I insisted. And I asked that she recreate the scream as well. She did.
She disliked all those things: The beets. The pictures. The recreation. But she did them all because I asked. Because she loved me so much.
It’s an amazing thing to be loved so much by someone you love so much.
Dammit, I wish I insisted on more pictures and videos. We never think we’ll need things like pictures and videos until it’s too late.
I f__king hate that I only have two videos of her. It guts me.
For her birthday, do me a favor?
Take a picture – or even better, take a video – of someone you love that loves you as much as she loved me. As much as I loved her.
As for me, I drink. I cry. I drink some more. I’ll be going to a party with friends and drinking myself silly.
And I try to forget that I had someone that loved me so deeply and so much that I loved so deeply and so much.
Her: Why do you want to take a picture? Me: Because I want to remember it. Her: I look terrible. I spent this whole time cooking. Me: You look beautiful. Please? Her: Fiiiiiine. Me: Can you recreate that scream? Her: (laughing) OK. But only for you. I would only do this for you.
Me: Are you alright? Gradgirl: Yeah. Me: Should I stop asking? Her: It doesn’t matter. I’ll keep lying.
And I saw my sister-in-law the other day at her new home in New Jersey to fix her WiFi network and grab lunch. Went with her for her closing earlier this year, just for moral support.
SIL: You should stop feeling sorry for yourself. Me: I don’t think I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry that she’s not here.
It’s weird interacting with people these days for any reason beyond child-rearing. Feel like I’m putting on a show alla time. But I suppose it’s a lotta, Fake it till you make it.
Did see the Gymgirl the other day, though. She invited me to a work/school thingy. We’re trying a few things out.
Gymgirl: Who was that? Me: The Gradgirl. She’s in town for a bit. Her: Are you going to see her? Me: Why would I do that? Her: Didn’t you say you like to make out with her? Me: But I already have. Her: Oh, that’s a good response. (holding up hand) That deserves a high five.
I’ve a neighbor in my building that I never mention but should. After Alison passed away, my neighbor came to see me. She said that her church, Vision Church, wanted to help in some way.
Me: I’m not gonna lie, I could use the help. But I’ve lost my faith in God. In everything, really. It seems dishonest for me to take money from people that believe when I don’t myself. Her: (waving her hand)That doesn’t matter to us. We want to help, in some way.
Told her that I could really use some nannies. So for the past year, they’ve been covering most-to-all of his childcare. And some of her friends also help me with childcare on nights I’m able to go to my fencing class. One of the women from the mommy’s group also happens to go to the same church.
It’s pretty amazing, really.
I’d been meaning to write this post to publicly thank them – and her – for some time now but I’ve avoided it because of all my anger.
My friend who also lost his family said that you never get over the anger. He’s right. For every iota of sadness that exists, there’s a commensurate amount of rage.
Even writing this, I feel such a rage that I cannot adequately express.
Yet the kindness of these people – predominantly strangers – buoys me as much as my anger drags me down.
In any case, quite some time after we talked, I pulled up the website to Vision Church and was pleasantly surprised that their tagline was, Who’s your neighbor?
A guy’s robbed and beaten up and three people saw him but only the last one helped him. The third one happened to be a Samaritan. And he, out of the three, help the man.
“Be a good Samaritan/Be a good person,” is what most people think the moral of the story is.
But that’s not quite the point of the story.
See, the first two fellas were Jewish – the very first was a rabbi, the second, a Jewish nobleman. The third was the eponymous Samaritan – in other words, the third was not Jewish. Put another way, the third was not of the robbed man’s people whereas the first two were.
In fact, the Samaritans were adversaries of the Jews. Some might even say enemies. And yet this man still helped.
The real point of the story is: Help people, even if they’re not of your tribe. Even if they’re against everything you believe in. Even if they’re your adversary.
If you read this blog, I talk about tribes and family a lot.
These people from Vision Church knew I was not of their tribe and still wanted to help me and family. They still do. It’s humbling.
My rage is something I don’t think’ll ever go away. Don’t think it’s meant to.
I contact the Devil more frequently than I’ve ever done in the past because God – if he exists – and I are, at the very least, indifferent to each other.
At worst, we’re adversarial.
Yet, my anger is only ever tempered by my gratitude for people like those of this church and the kind of people that go to it. Those that say one thing and follow that same thing.
They are the good souls and I’m forever grateful for the good souls.
Her: There’re no strings attached. We just want to help. Me: (nodding) Then, thank you.
Speaking of good souls, Alison’s friends are doing a walk to remember her on her birthday this Saturday, May 12th.
I wanted you to know this because I wanted you to know that there are all these people that loved her so much that they would travel somewhere and do this for her.
As for me, I can’t go because … I can’t go.
I’ll be in the Bronx somewhere drinking and trying to forget what day it is. I try to forget a lotta things.
I’ve been dreading the start of May since about three weeks ago. And now it’s here.
I hate everything about everything, I think.
That’s not completely true.
Someone told me that the people you hang out with most after having a kid are other parents. Remember thinking that made sense but I wasn’t really aware how true that was until I started caring for the boy myself.
There are three women that I chat to online or in RL on an almost daily basis.
Me: I have a new hobby since I’ve become a father. Her: What’s that? Me: Well, I prepare all this really great, expensive, organic food, show it to the boy, and then throw it right into the trash.
One is a Slavic woman, another Chinese, and a third, Caucasian that lives across the street from me. There are other great people, almost all women, that I see on a weekly basis but they’re the main ones.
All three were exactly the type of women that Alison would have liked. Witty, kind, and intelligent. And great parents.
Me: I was running late so I crossed in the middle of the street with the stroller. I feel guilty about that. Her: (dismissively) Please, I do that all that time. If someone judges you, that means they don’t have a kid.
We met for drinks around the way the other night. The owner musta liked us because that’s him taking a shot with us.
I’m grateful they’ve accepted me into their club. It’s funny because I must be an odd addition to this group of mothers. An otherwise sad and peculiar single father of this awesome little kid.
As for me, I feel like I’ve stepped into Alison’s shoes and I try to do what she woulda done. At least, what I think she woulda done.
It makes me sad because I’m certain they would all have been friends with her and she them instead of me. I woulda preferred that so.
But I’m grateful that they’re my friends and help me feel like I’m doing something right. I also wish Alison was here so I could tell her about them. That we have that village here she wanted to have.
And maybe they could tell her that we’re ok.
Because Alison always worried about us and I wanted her to know that they think we’re ok.
Her: You’re doing great as a father. Me: Am I? Thanks for letting me know. I worry. About everything. Her: That’s called parenting. He’s such a happy kid. That’s why you’re doing great. Me: It’s all we ever wanted for him. To be a good and productive member of society. (clearing throat) Thanks.