I can’t write it. I can’t call you by the name I used. I can’t.
I haven’t written to you since the year you died.
Writing. That thing you gave me.
I was the last one to see you alive. Did you know that? Chris and I tried to revive you. We were supposed to go out that day with a friend. But we stayed. Gut instinct. Fear. We stayed. And thankfully we took the brunt of the blow instead of the Kid. He would have found you after school and carried that with him for the rest of his life. I couldn’t save him from the family. From her or her brother or your daughter or his blood. But I managed to save him from witnessing your death. For that much I’m thankful.
You died badly. Like a fish out of water. Your black heart reached in and strangled the shit out of you. And I saw it. I was the one by your bedside. Before I screamed for Chris. I saw it. Nothing has ever killed the memory of that day for me.
Yet still, sometimes I have to remind myself you’re dead. Out here in LA, with Chris, alone. It’s easy to forget there was ever another life for either of us. We’re untethered, the way you always wanted to be. And occasionally it’s easy enough to imagine packing up this bastard cat and just drifting away.
Oh yeah, the cat. The one she used to chase with a broom. We kept him when she lost her mind. The other day I realized he’s the last remnant of you. My only real tie to you now that you’re gone.
Some realizations cut like a motherfucker.
We’re okay. In case you were wondering. A little apartment and a full fridge and we make art for money. It’s the life I wanted as a kid. You told me it would happen if I didn’t end up crazy like her and my grandmother. If I avoided the roads my sisters took. I got here. In the summer time I find myself sometimes wishing you could see it. Come down to Hollywood and hear our stories. Ya know? Maybe take the bike down here and grab a cup of coffee on Sunset. And talk.
Oh. And we tied the knot finally. No one walked me down the aisle. There was no aisle. But a very nice man named Steve married us. You would have liked Steve. And we had friends there. A nice lady named Janice sang a song for us. A folk song. And it was perfect. Really. The Yellow Ones came too. They threw toilet paper at me in the bathroom but they were there. And really they did behave. Okay okay, there was bull riding. But all things considered, I got off light in that regard.
If you’d told me at 15 that my life would all but mirror the fantasy I’d had in my head all those years, I’d have scoffed and fallen over laughing. But it does.
I dealt with what you did to me. To so many of us. And I still don’t know if I got out of the room that night because you loved me or because you were afraid of me. You always called me the Mouthy Brat. I think what you meant was Goddamn Whistle Blower. A minor correction.
You were a mean sonufabitch, Nick. By the end I think we were friends. But I still believe some part of you hated me even more than she did. I’m okay with that. Because I think maybe you loved me too. After the movies and the conversations and the debates and the lectures. I think some part of you had a fondness for me because of the art, and my drive. That shouldn’t mean anything to me. Because you were such a hedonistic monster at heart. Yet it did. It does.
You were literally all I had.
In a family of sexual abuse survivors and perpetrators the most common phrase was: “Get over it”. Which meant: “Don’t fucking squeal.” In the end I didn’t wind up being very good at that. Which is why I have a little peace in my mind, body and soul now. I won that by myself. No thanks to you. Or them.
I’ve even let a few of them back in. Not the abusers, just the kids, and the Yellow Ones. Not too far. But close enough that I can see that they’re mostly ok and still breathing at least. It matters to me. Yes, I know. Weakness you would say. To me the love I have for the Hill People makes me stronger than you. Better even. So sue me. You were kind of a dick. And I’m allowed to love them from afar.
I’ve been sitting in this bathroom talking to your ghost for an hour now. I’m not afraid of you anymore. And I don’t cry on your birthday. Or on the anniversary of your death. The nightmares still come, but not as often. I know it’s because there was no closure after you died with such force. Because she chose you over me when I was too small to defend myself. Because your very presence in my life was proof of how much my own mother hated me. I know it, and I deal with it, and I go on. Ignoring the smoke of a fire long put out.
Because it doesn’t matter anymore.
As your ghost fades I realize Lightfoot’s in my ears singing Cotton Jenny. I remove the ear buds. Stand up. Stretch.
I’ve reclaimed another little piece of the kid you didn’t give a shit about.
I miss our conversations.
But I sure am glad you’re gone.