"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.
And I currently find myself unsure exactly why I am writing this except that it demanded to be written, bubbling up in the middle of the night, unwilling to let me go back to sleep until I liberated it from my mind and allowed it to live on the page. And who am I to argue with a story asking to be told?
I remember the old “landline” phone on the octagonal end table in the living room of the house on 3A, the one that was a replica of a field phone from the 1930s. (I kept it for years even though we no longer had a use for it, unable to let it go because of the memory it held, however painful.) I remember the sound of its ring, and picking it up that day at the beginning of April, 1996. I remember that the sun was shining through the window. I have vague impressions of telling my brother who it was, what had happened, and I remember going into my bedroom and closing the door. You’d have to ask Bill what happened on the other side of that door after that. And then my memory of the next few days is a lot of snippets… and a lot of tears. Tears as I stood in the shower, letting the water wash them from my face, if only for a few minutes. Tears behind my sunglasses when I went in to work to explain that I would not be able to come in for a few days. Tears when I went to tell a mutual friend the news. Tears because I had had a falling out with the friend who had introduced us, so I could not share my grief with her. Tears staring back at me in the bathroom mirror at Friendly’s in North Conway, a final stop made to pull myself together before the funeral. Tears obscuring my vision of the impressionist print on the bathroom wall, the one I could remember having seen in the museum scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
How appropriate that my memories of the moments preceding Tim’s funeral would include a movie reference. I would spend days following his death obsessed with writing down every memory, every movie I could remember watching with him, frantically getting it all down in a journal for fear I would forget even a single moment of his presence in my life. In those journal entries, I measured the time we had spent together in movies. It could also be measured, in the words of T.S. Eliot, in coffee spoons. Not in the way Alfred Prufrock meant when he said it, but in the sense that nearly immeasurable cups of coffee had been consumed in the two short years we spent together.
The world no longer held the soul that had been Tim. Worse yet, he had decided that it should be so. It was unimaginable, and yet it was not. I was not a person who could honestly say that I had never understood how someone could have suicidal thoughts. It was not unimaginable, and yet it was. I could not get my bearings. I breathed, I ate, I slept, I worked, but I did not live for days. Weeks. (Some might even argue that it was years.) I didn’t deserve to feel his loss this deeply— it had been nearly four years since we had been a couple— but I did. It wasn’t appropriate, and yet it was. “Complicated grief”, some books call it, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just knew it felt wrong. Everything just felt… wrong. And then, a year later my friend, Amy— the friend who had introduced me to Tim— would make the same tragic decision, and my grief would become even more “complicated”.
I would be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder only a few years after Tim’s suicide, and it is not lost on me that my struggle to accept and process his death probably contributed to the breakdown that led to that diagnosis. It is likely a complete overstatement to say that his death might have saved my life, but since that thought popped into my head as I was typing, I feel as if it wants to be said. Again, who am I to argue? The story seems to know what needs to be said.
Apparently, it knows that someone needs to hear it. I don’t know who, and I don’t know why. Perhaps it is someone who is experiencing a similar loss who needs to know that they are not alone. Perhaps it is someone who needs to know how much they would be missed, were they to suddenly vanish from this world, and how deeply their absence would be felt by those they love.
Or perhaps it is someone who is learning that sometimes, letting the words flow like rain, letting them cleanse and disguise the tears is the only way to coax the memories back to where they belong, where they live as gentle reminders of all that has come before, of all that has led her to the beautiful life she is currently living. They’ve had their way now, convincing me to write their story— my story, Tim’s story— but now it is time for them to go home.