I put a note on the back of my mailbox--which is not a mailbox, really, but a tiny grey prison-cell box that fills up from just two rounds of circulars among 20 other rusted silver boxes in a block not entirely unlike some Soviet-era barrack--"I think the door on 6 is jammed. Can you please see if there's mail blocking the lock?" fully expecting the rain would smear the blue letters on my little yellow post-it into non-legibility or the mailman would ignore my note, or maybe some child would rip it off just to be cruel (those cruel, cruel, children). I'll never open my mailbox again, I thought.
It wouldn't be the first time; ages ago, the door was stuck from sticky, sugary blue-and-pink goo that coated many of the boxes in what I can only assume was some bizarre cotton-candy explosion. No one bothered to wipe the units down, because after all, who has time for such trivialities? This is a place where cats and children roam free, where puppies with seemingly no owners though dangling tags on their collars race alongside your car, out the gate and into the street, and there's nothing you can do, because you're late to work and this isn't your responsibility and maybe it would teach the dog owner a lesson if your disregard for their disregard led to a tragic end. But you stop your car and yell at the tiny Chihuahua and shoo it back into the complex.
The next day I'm able to open the lock on my mailbox, and my fantasies of hacking into the box late at night with paper clips are replaced with dreams of mailbox doors like manholes or submarine hatches, built horizontally into the ground with absurdly difficult access to the unknown held inside. If only, if only! you could open that door! what should be waiting within? But it's just more tropically colored coupons to inform you of 2 for $3 blueberries and 40 percent off Swedish furniture.
The interactions we have with those who are absent sometimes mean more than the face-to-face ones. Whether they're in real time or just us replaying our memories over and over.
Sometimes I see you walking down the street. At a concert. At the grocery store. It used to be entirely possible, if not all that plausible, that it was you. And my heart would race, in anxiety, and then in curiosity. But now when it happens, I get hit with a delayed thunk to my brain: You are dead.
I wouldn't have known if not for my mother's obsession with the internet. "Did you know Lady Gaga has a head injury?" she says to me with Julian Assange-like authority. "Those Kardashian girls are starting a clothing line--I don't like them. They seem very self-obsessed." My mother, celebrity WikiLeaks. But there's no bigger celebrity for the mother of an only child than her daughter, providing me with my own personal fan base of one: "When are you going to write a new blog post?"; "I saw you tweeted about bacon, that was cute."; "Did you see they put an article of yours up on the website?" Repository of information that she is, I suppose it's not surprising that one December evening before this past Christmas, as we're in the kitchen baking or eating or doing a food-related activity as we often do, she starts whispering in that knowing tone, vaguely hinting at information I "may or may not know," about a certain tumblr post by a certain someone about a certain other someone. I don't even write in my tumblr anymore, so I have no idea what she's talking about. But there it is. We find the post she's already read and processed but hasn't told me about until now that says he killed himself. A Google search for his name brings up his obituary.
He'd done it four months earlier, in September, but news travels slowly when you've cut him and anyone who even vaguely reminds you of him out of your life. You start replaying the already overplayed memories. The extreme highs and lows. The Facebook message hinting at suicide. The texts about "doing as many drugs and fucking as many people as I can." The vague references to a Girl-Interrupted-like event that you can only assume means time spent in a psych ward. And you feel...
What do you feel? What are you supposed to feel when the first person you ever slept with, who was a narcissistic, depressed asshole that hurt you emotionally more than anyone ever had, that made you for almost a year afterward not want to be touched by anyone again, kills himself?
That is not an easy answer.
You feel validated. For those times you tried explaining to friends why the way in which he was hurting you was significantly different than just any-old guy being kind of a dick, but you just ended up thinking maybe you were being too sensitive; maybe he was just-another-guy-being-a-dick.
You feel guilty for feeling validated.
You think, It doesn't surprise me.
You feel guilty for thinking that. You feel guilty for not feeling more sad. You feel guilty for processing your feelings when you hadn't had any contact with him in almost three years, when he wasn't your boyfriend, your son, your brother.
You see him walking down the street, at a concert, at the grocery store. You think: You are dead.