No place to go

Loss and threat of loss

ABFF: I read about the breakup and your insomnia, are you ok?
Me: Strictly, speaking, I haven’t been ok since November 8, 2015. But I’ll survive. After all, that’s what I do, right?

Wrote once that anxiety is fear of the hypothetical. But if you look at it from the fear side of the equation, there are really only two types of anxiety:

  1. Fear of loss
  2. Fear of the threat of loss

I’ve dealt with the horrible realization of some of the worst fears any human being can imagine. Repeatedly. And whenever I thought no horror could top what I was experiencing, life was like: Not done with you yet, man.

On a smaller scale, some fears regarding the Gymgirl were realized recently. As I said, everyone’s grief is grief to them, even when they’ve dealt with the worst-of-the-worst for so long.

After all, I adored the girl.

This blogger named Jamie Anderson wrote:

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

The start of my insomnia was actually because the father of one of my oldest and dearest friends just passed away, in a similarly horrifying and grotesque way. I actually fell to my knees when I heard. Literally, my knees buckled. Because I knew everything he was feeling and felt it with him.

What happened with the Gymgirl happened the very next day and just added fuel to the fire.

Agony plus grief is, well, just a lotta f__king grief.

I sent my buddy the quote above in the hopes that understanding grief would make it a little more bearable. It did for me. Kindasortamaybe.

The plus side of this type of grief is clarity, i.e., the disappearance of anxiety. My buddy, I hope, has some peace cause the hypothetical becomes concrete.

Although, I’m sure he, like I, wish it were all concrete in the opposite direction. Then again, I wish for a lotta things. Like I wish I sold my bitcoin back at 20K.

For me, I now know all this information that I never knew before about my relationship with the Gymgirl. She knew, I didn’t, rather.

If nothing else, this new info allows me to see things in a different light, and that’s somehow better. Somehow.

Her: I’m sorry, Logan. You don’t have time for this.
Me: (dismissively) Don’t worry about me, I’ve been through this, so many times, before. Sometimes you’re the dumper, sometimes you’re the dumpee. I’ve always said that I prefer being the dumpee if given the choice.
Her: Why?
Me: (shrugging) Cause there’s nothing for me to do but take my ball and go home. Now she and I both know what’s in the other person’s head. It’s too bad we weren’t listening to each other this whole time.

Him: [The Gymgirl] sounded great. Can’t you two work it out?
Me: (rolling eyes) How do I do that? Make a 15-slide powerpoint presentation that starts: Reason 1 that the kid and I should be enough…? That’s not how it works. She’s an adult, I gotta respect the choices she makes. But there is an upshot to alla this.
Him: What’s that?
Me: (thinking) I now know that I can feel something for someone again that’s not Alison. That’s eye-opening. Was always worried that it would just be a parade of randos that I’d have to somehow explain to the boy.
Him: (amused) So, no parade of randos?
Me: Well, I didn’t say that. The boy has his own room, I could always…
Him: (laughing, interrupting) I’ve seen your powerpoint presentations. You should consider that first, Logan.

Gradgirl once told me: I could never love someone that wasn’t in love with me.

That was good advice.

I joke about the parade of randos but some people leave a deeper mark on my life than I care to admit.

Location: on a white couch with the boy
Mood: okay
Music: we are fools. Throw our lives away, for one happy day
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How did you sleep?

Alison made for the world

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.

Yet, each morning, I push all of it to the side of my mouth.

Each morning, it’s the same: I wake up to the sound of him on the baby monitor: Papa! Daddy! Papa!

Each morning, I wish he was calling for her.

And each morning I get up, stagger to his door, take a deep breath, and straighten up. I smile my widest smile and say in the happiest, most awake voice I can muster as I open his door:

Good morning! How did you sleep?!

Him: (laughs) Papa! Daddy! (jumps up and down furiously in the bed, laughing)

And I think: God, I love this little person that Alison made for the world.

I love him like a fat kid loves cake. More, even.

Location: insomniaville
Mood: terrified
Music: I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
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It’ll never be ok

Just like that, I’m back

Woman: Mister. Mister. Are you ok?
Me: No.

This past week, I had a number of clients and friends contact all at once.
I’ve not really worked in any meaningful capacity in almost three years. But I’m right back as if nothing happened.

And yet, so much has happened.

Had a meeting on the Upper East Side with my buddy Steele’s wife for some work the other day and I’ve always prided myself on always being punctual.

She was on East 80th Street so I took the train to East 77th and got off.

When the train pulled into the station, I was so concerned about being on time that it didn’t occur to me that I’d been there. So many goddamn times.

I forgot that’s where the hospital was. The last hospital we went to.

As I walked up the stairs, saw it and my knees buckled. Ended up sitting on the stairs as I tried to catch my breath.

For those of you that know me in real life, that know my aversion to germs and dirt, picture me wearing one of my suits and sitting on a subway stairwell.

It was surreal.

Passerbys asked me if I was ok, if I needed help. Told them that I was beyond help.

Made it to my feet and made it to my friend’s door. Don’t even remember how.

Her: (opening door) Logan! Come on in. So good to…
Me: (interrupting) I forgot. (leaning against wall) I forgot this is where the hospital was. I…(chokes)
Her: (steps out, gives me a hug) It’s ok.
Me: It’s not. (shakes head) It’ll never be ok. (her baby cries)

Just like that. I’m right back as if nothing happened.


Steele and I chatted about it afterward.

Me: BTW, I’m sure the wife will tell you but I had a mini-breakdown in your apartment and may have scared your kid a bit.
Him: I can’t blame you. He’s gotta toughen up anyway…

Funeral Blues
by W H Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Location: A black desk
Mood: tired
Music: I’m broken and I don’t understand
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Random Meetings at Arte Cafe

Empty men


She collapsed exactly two years ago today. So today, I drink.


Went to my law firm the other day for a bit of work. It was the first honest work I’d done in a while. It was as if nothing had happened.

Afterward, walked over to the train in a daze. An older fella asked me for directions to my neighborhood for a party and we got to talking.

Him: You know, I was supposed to go to this party with my business partner and he can’t make it. Why don’t you come with me?
Me: (laughing) I should head home.
Him: Why? You just said that someone was watching your son. You look like you could use a drink. It’s an open bar.
Me: You had me at “open bar.”

We walked a bit when I realized that the place we were going to was the very last place Alison and I ever ate out at: Arte Cafe.

She got nauseated when the food came and we both assumed it was from the pregnancy. I only learned later it was probably the tumor. She gave birth soon after. Then everything went to s__t.

My face turned white, so the man asked me what was wrong and I told him everything.

Him: (gently) Come in. One drink. It’ll be good for you.

I nodded and went in. Stayed for a moment cause it was too much and I politely said goodbye to the man, who nodded again that he understood.

As I walked out, someone handed me a glass of wine and I downed it in a gulp. I turned to leave and bumped into a young woman with brown eyes.

Me: (smiling, holding out hand) Logan. You must be…?
Her: (laughing) Sharon. Nice to meet you. Who are here with?
Me: Well, Sharon, it’s a bit hard to explain…

I chatted with her for a bit and left. I don’t know why I do it; meet so many random people for no reason. Something pathological about me and my childhood loneliness, perhaps? Who knows…

I put on personalities like you would an old coat. Take them off just as easily. But I always feel empty afterward. Like I’m the coat and not the person. It’s why the Devil calls me a friend; the devil likes hollowed-out men.

I’ve got so many stories that’d blow your mind. But I don’t want you to think less of me.

Not that I care. I only care what Alison’s family and my family thinks.

And the Gymgirl. She’s different to me than the others. Mainly, I suppose, because she actually tried to help us when Alison was alive. That means so much to me.

And because of this conversation:

Me: It’s only fair to warn you that I’m a mess.
Her: I expect that. If you weren’t, I’d think something was wrong with you.
Me: I should also tell you that I’ll love her until the end of the world.
Her: (nodding) Of course you will. She sounded amazing.
Me: She was. (pause) Thank you.
Her: For what?
Me: (exhaling) For letting me be in love with her. I miss her terribly.

Location: inside my head
Mood: empty
Music: maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
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Profiles

Broken me

Heart Graffiti in New York City

Gradgirl: I’m reading your online dating profile book. You can be my dating coach!
Me: (laughing) Sure.
Her: Do you think you’ll ever do it yourself? Get back out into the regular dating world?
Me: (shaking head) I’m not ready for anything like that. I’m gonna stop wearing black in 2018. So maybe then.

If I ever did write one, it’d probably sound a lot like this:

Wish list
Works in a non-profit or just likes to help people. Highly educated with at least a masters degree and two foreign language skills. From a good family, preferably military, with close ties to them. Likes to clean and hates to cook. Wants children. Eats chili. Strong resemblance to Jennifer Aniston but with green eyes (preferred). Self sufficient. Likes to sing to me almost every night and never comments on my constantly singing off-key. Ideally, always wants to have dinner with me. Loves children – and adults – that eat predominately peanut butter. Kindness a major plus.

Non-negotiables
Must love broken things.

 

Location: In front of a mountain of dishes
Mood: indescribable
Music: Mama’s pearl, let down those curls
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So, I’m not ready for weddings

Especially not her wedding

Rose: So, did you clean up at the wedding?
Me: No, not even close. I *grossly* underestimated how emotional it would be to (a) go to any wedding, let alone (b) the wedding of the woman that came every Wednesday to give Alison food.

My goal has been to cry less than five times a day. Most days, manage to keep it under three. Some days it’s just once. Those’re rare but welcome.

Cause a body gets tired of crying all the goddamn time.

A few months ago, told you about a woman named Annabel that cooked for us every Wednesday for over a year. Well, she just got married this past weekend.

It started pretty well. Hopped on the metro and sat next to a young lady wearing all white. I’ve been wearing all black since the day Alison passed.

Asked her to take a picture with me.

Lady in White, Man in Black

Then I got to the place in pretty good time and pretty good spirits.

But promptly lost it when Annabel saw me and gave me a hug. She looked beautiful, of course.

Reminded me of Alison on our wedding day.

Lemme tell you: I coulda died the day I saw I Alison on our wedding day and woulda died a happy man.

Wedding ceremony in Brooklyn

But I digress. Annabel sees me in the middle of taking pictures at the front of the ceremony and gives me a hug.

So there’s Annabel in her wedding gown – and she’s like the only soul I know there – hugging me in the middle of everything and I lose it.

Like I’m 10 and someone took my security blanket away. Which, I suppose, is kinda what happened.

Anywho, her entire family came over to try and console me.

Her mom: We pray for you.
He: I don’t believe he listens.

Turns out that, my max for not crying was about 30 minutes at a time. And I didn’t think to bring tissues so I’m running to the bathroom every half-hour.

Pretty sure some attendees thought I had food poisoning. (Food was great, BTW – I may have cleaned off an entire tray of steak myself)

After all that, I needed a drink. But it was a dry wedding. So I went with two people I met there for a beer around the way.

Beer at a Biergarten

Later on, another woman, who caught me during cry number six or so, told me she had whiskey in a flask and gave me some of that.

Told the bride and groom that I wished them every good thing, which I did and do.

Me: (to groom) My married life was the happiest time in my life. (choking) I hope it is for you too.

Jon, Annabel, and Logan

Left early and made it home by 11PM.

The next day, a friend of mine – who just got married herself not that long ago and knows about my single life – asked me how it went so I told her, per the convo above.

Rose: You need to meet some old family-money type girls. Like trust fund babies.
Me: Yeah, these looks aren’t gonna last forever – especially in my advanced old age. I’m time limited.
Her: (laughing) Botox.
Me: I’ll have to botox my entire head. 

Wedding arch in daytime in Brooklyn

The truth is that that’s not the entire story of the night.

And Gradgirl stopped by over the weekend but these are other stories for other times, I suppose.

Waitress: Do you want to start with some drinks?
Me: Oh, yes.

Picture of a Polaroid
That’s sweet tea and whiskey, courtesy of a prepared young woman.

 

Location: home, drinking again
Mood: back to being heartbroken
Music: all out of love, I’m so lost without you
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My Bobby Pin Monster

Being hit all the time

Have you ever been hit in the solar plexus?

When I was a kid, got hit there a buncha times. What happens when you get hit there is that your diaphragm spasms and you can’t breathe at all.

You get lightheaded and double over, fall to your knees, and/or pass out.

Find myself regularly feeling something similar for a variety of reasons.

When I got those emails from my neighbor, for example, I had that feeling.

Just got it last night while (still) trying to clean up.

Alison used to joke with me that I’d never just put things back where I found them when I took them out.

I’d retort that I was always finding her long hair as well as random bobby pins everywhere.

There’s a table we have that still has Christmas decorations on it. Finally found the strength to start cleaning it when I found two bobby pins behind a basket.

And I felt that same hit in my solar plexus I felt as a kid and had to sit down. I haven’t seen her hair anywhere in over a year.

This was probably the last time I’d ever find bobby pins from her ever again.

So much for cleaning any more that day.

I can’t handle all the unexpected hits all the time.

Can’t handle being hit all the time. It’s slow torture.

 

April 2014…

Her: Is that a jar of peanut butter next to the bed?
Me: … No?
Her: Why is there a jar of peanut butter in the bedroom?!
Me: It’s probably the same creature that sheds bobby pins all over the place.
Her: (laughing) Great, we have a peanut-butter eating monster made up of bobby pins somewhere in the house.

\’

Location: in front of a donut and rum, the breakfast of champions
Mood: struggling still
Music: taken more hits than a world war blitz
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True Love is Gravity

I try to float but I crash


Write this as a general response to everyone that asks me how I’m doing.

In my sleepless nights, I’ve come to conclusion that true love is most like gravity. It’s something that we don’t really think about, but it’s there to anchor us to the world. Both true love and gravity gives things weight and heft.

If either goes away, you’re unmoored. Adrift. Everything floats.

Since Alison’s left, found myself … fuzzy. It’s probably also the insomnia. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. My head feels like a balloon on my shoulders.

I further help the floating by forcing myself to not think about the loss, and self-medicating.

But it comes back. And – as you’d expect when gravity suddenly comes back after being off – everything comes crashing down.

Went to pick up Alison from the cremation place the other day.

Went alone. Took almost 90 minutes to get to her. 90 gut-wrenching minutes.

I’d been floating for the past 48 hours or so. But it all came crashing down when I walked through the doors of that place.

They told me to sit down and wait. So I took a picture of my sneakers cause I didn’t know what else to do. Another funeral was taking place.

Then someone called out “Mr. McCarthy?” I looked up and he handed me a heavy box. When I realized what, exactly, I was holding, started weeping so hard I could barely see.

Thought pure agony was setting up cremation services for your 38 year-old wife you love more than life itself.

No, man. Pure agony is what happens when you pick her up.

Somehow made it home 90 minutes later. Don’t remember much of it but I stood outside my door with this box, trying to will the ability to open the door and bring her home.

Remember laughing with her when we got married about whether or not I should carry her through the door.

Now, I carried her through the door one last time and fell to my knees.

I’m so sorry, I said, and kissed the box.

So, how am I doing? Not well. I float. I hear you and see you but I’m not really here.

Part of me is in a fucking cardboard box in my living room, so I’m not well at all.

I’m fighting gravity and trying to bend time and space with pharmaceuticals and fine, aged spirits.

Please don’t ask how I’m doing, cause you know how I’m doing. I’m struggling to make it to the other side.

I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you. I’d kill myself a thousand times over if I could bring you back as you were.

 

\’ FOR NATE

Location: home with her
Mood: dark
Music: I’m all messed up, I’m so out of line, yeah. Stilettos and broken bottles
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We’ll get through this

She’s gone

Alison’s gone.

She was supposed to get 28,871 days here; she got less than 13,540. It’s so damn unfair.

Someone wrote a public FB post after his own wife, Sunday Dennis, passed from a GBM. Sunday’s last words were, “It could be worse, don’t worry about it.” Her husband said that at the end, people are simply their truest selves, because there’s no reason to be anything but that.

I agree.

One of the last things that Alison said to her mom was when her mom sat on the bed and Alison felt the room spin. She asked her mom, “Are you OK?” because she was worried her mom was going to fall.

And in the last real interaction Alison and I had, she heard me sighing and reached out to me to take my hand.

She said, “Don’t worry, Logan. We’ll get through this.”

Even at the very end, she was worried about her mother and me.

Which isn’t to say she wasn’t still witty and charming; when we told her brother’s birthday gift to her was a surprise visit, she grinned and said, “Send it back.”

That’s the essence of Alison and why she is the only woman I ever truly loved. Because she was everything I ever dreamed of: beautiful, smart, witty, neat as a pin – the importance of which you would understand if you ever saw the bachelor version of my pad – and, most of all, kind.

So incredibly kind.

Kindness has always been one of the things I’ve found most attractive in people. Because people value what’s rare and true kindness is so very rare.

After those interactions, Alison simply slept more and more until she could no longer speak. But when we said, “We love you,” she would mouth the same thing: “I love you too.”

In her last days, she’d feel around with her right hand for our hands. When she found them, she’d smile slightly and squeeze our hands, as if to reassure us that we’d get through it.

I hope she’s right. She was the brightest thing my life and I struggle in darkness without her.

I’ll love her until the end of my days.

But you knew that part already.

Me: I promise that I’ll take care of you until the end of my life. Because I love you and, even more, she loved you. I’ll never choose anyone or anything above you.
Son: (stares at me, smiles)
Me: We’ll get through this life together, you and I, OK? Your mamma said so.
Son: (laughs, runs away)

There will be no funeral, wake, nor memorial for Alison.

We didn’t have a ceremony for our engagement, wedding, pregnancy, or Nate’s birth so I’m not gonna start with a funeral for her.

If you want to do something for her, consider re-posting this or sending it to someone in lieu of flowers.

For those of you new to our story, the start of it is here although our life together really started here.

And the start of the cancer part of it is here.

Location: misery
Mood: hollowed-out
Music: none
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I’m here

Our first date, revisited


We went on our first date together almost nine years ago today.

Went on other dates that week, but I don’t remember them. I remember Alison’s in particular because she was late.

She emailed me to tell me she was going to be late because she was working to get a generator for a village in Africa – which wasn’t an excuse I’d ever heard before.

She worked at Helen Keller, you see. She spent almost her entire professional career trying to help other people.

She set herself apart from the beginning.

With her education, she coulda gone anywhere. But instead she worked long hours for little pay trying to help others. She was always flying to Africa or Washington to try and make a difference.

She made such a difference in my life as well.

Just one of a million reasons why the world and I are better because she was in it.

That night…

Her: Hey, I’m here.
Me: (laughing) You were getting a generator?
Her: Yes – I was waiting for the donor to confirm.
Me: Did you get it?
Her: (beaming) Yep!
Me: Great, let’s drink to that.
Her: You’ll drink to anything.
Me: (nodding) This is true.

Last week…

Me: (waking up in the dark) Are you ok?
Her: (weakly opens and closes her right hand)
Me: (takes her right hand and sits beside her) I’m here.
Her: (squeezes my hand)
Me: I’m here.
Her: (squeezes my hand again)

\’

Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: numb
Music: Don’t like reality, it’s way too clear to me
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