Can we just talk about Supernatural some more? No? But it’s easier. Okay fine. But this is hard. Tonight I drove around for two hours. Just drove- smoking cigarettes, which I don’t generally do, listening to music I don’t really listen to anymore, crying, and missing my brother. Sober. Something I haven’t done for many, many years, but something that used to be a part of my weekly routine. Now it isn’t. I drink to forget, I sleep more than I should, I don’t cry. That’s the end of this story. Here is the beginning:
On April 11, 2001, my brother died. More accurately, he killed himself. Gunshot wound to the head. My life was ruined. I was 20 on that day- I am now 34. 14 years later my life is no less ruined, although it is ruined in a different way. Death and grief are things that I have always found interesting. Up until my brother died I had only ever observed it from the outside and in some ways I STILL see it that way. As if what I’m going through has no connection with what anyone else on this Earth has ever experienced. Because it can’t. Because my experience is different. HE was different. I’m getting off track again.
Whenever anyone dies, people line up to say how amazing and perfect they were. It’s actually irritating, because people never seem to be perfect until they goddamn die. My eyes roll back in my head when I see the Facebook posts, the blog posts, the tweets, stating that this poor dead human was “the best I’ve ever known”… because bullshit. No they weren’t. They’re dead now so you say that, to maximize your grief as well as your audience reaction. But they weren’t the best you’ve ever known- hardly anyone is. If I died tomorrow there are people who would say that about me, and let me tell you, that is definitively false. My point is this: My brother really was the best.
My brother was more than just a human. He was HUMAN. He went through more in his relatively short life (he was 26 when he died) than many people go through even if they live to 90. He was huge. Tall, dark, handsome, smart, protective, loud… he just WAS. More than most people are. He was 6 years older than me but we were so similar. We grew together- out of religion, into atheism, into objectivism, then out of it, always questioning, always searching. Both of us hopeless romantics. Cold brains, warm hearts. There was nothing we couldn’t talk about until the cordless phone ran out of battery. Yeah this was the nineties- go ask your Mom.
When my brother died I took to taking long car drives. I would drive his car, which I had inherited, for miles and miles and miles. I would listen to Tori Amos and Moby mostly, and cry my guts out. I would smoke sometimes, but mostly just drive and cry. To the trailer in the desert east of Cabazon he lived in, to his fiancé’s house- the house he died in- to the junior college we both attended, to the house we lived in when we first came to California. I drove all night. Somewhere along the line, I just stopped doing that. It wasn’t a decision I made, it wasn’t a step that I took, it just happened. The grief went from being the thing that defined my life (also ended a relationship and shattered my mental health) to being a thing that was a part of me. I never ok’d that transition and I still somehow resent it.
The more time passes, the more you are expected to be okay. I think that was my main objection to the passage of time. Because nothing changed. I was still broken. I was still a wreck and right afterwards people expected that, and were accommodating. If you tell your employer, your friend, or even a random acquaintance that your brother shot himself last week, their face will crumble. They will feel horrible for you. They will help you. They will support you. They will cry with you, hug you, and even make you casseroles. If you say that your brother died 13 years ago you will get an “Aw I’m sorry”. MAYBE. And that is understandable, because most people’s siblings do not shoot themselves. They can’t possibly know. They can’t possibly understand. It is the same nightmare, forever.
My siblings and I were closer than most, it is true. My brother was my hero. In my family, violence, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and neglect, were par for the course. It was all we knew, until the weekend my Mom left my Dad and moved us from South Carolina out to California where she had grown up (to avoid prosecution- not because she gave a shit, just for the record). After that there were a series of step-dads, and the abuse went from beatings and molestation to just verbal and emotional abuse- nothing we couldn’t handle after dealing with the monster that was my biological father.
Under those types of circumstances children tend to eventually either continue the cycle or at the very least pretend none of it happened to avoid unpleasant conversations. But my brother was present. He was willing to talk about, and hear about anything. He was my best friend, my protector, the man I measure all other men against, and the loss that makes my life crappy, just for having lost him. So here we are, back to tonight…
I left my sister’s house tonight with the news that I had gotten a new job. A well-paying, respectable job. I should have been happy, and I was. But the truth is, every time something happens, good or bad, it hurts. The fact that I cannot share my news with my brother, no matter the nature of the news, still hurts every time. It hits me like a steel pipe through my chest. Change hurts, but it hurts even more if you’ve lost the person you share such changes with. Good changes, bad changes, it doesn’t matter. If I change cereal brands or philosophies, the pain is the same. My experiences practically don’t exist if I can’t share them with him.
His name was Jonathan. It hurts to say, which is why it took me most of this post, but there it is. He was incredible. If you think I’m romanticizing him, understand that he is not the only person I’ve loved who has died (sadly there have been many) but he is the only person I have lost who changed my DNA, just by existing. I should have grown up feeling worthless because of my parents and the abuse I suffered, but along with my older sisters, he created my self-esteem. He built me up constantly, from the time I could form thoughts, and he never let me down. Never PUT me down. Not once. Not one single time. I remember hearing him tell his friends, my friends, my potential boyfriends, that they’d better not cross me- not because HE would do anything, but because I was not to be messed with. He used to flex his stomach and let me hit him as hard as I could to practice my punches. He used to show me how to throw knives into tree trunks. He told me I was a badass. No matter how I was mistreated by others I always had his voice in the back of my head telling me I was strong, I was tough. I was perfect.
We spent so many hours in the 90’s (pre-Peter Jackson) debating the casting of The Lord of the Rings movie that only existed in our imaginations (NO JONATHAN I’M SORRY BUT SEAN CONNERY CANNOT BE IN THIS MOVIE). I still haven’t watched the actual movies that exist now, because I couldn’t bear it. We discussed every book, movie, and game that came out, to the point that the conversation I would inevitably have with him was what I was most excited about whenever I saw something new. So many nerdy things. Yes, weddings are hard. Seeing babies born is hard. The fact that he won’t meet our nephews, or our new niece, that he wasn’t at my college graduation, these things are hard. But I saw John Wick the other day and you know what? That shit is hard too. He would have loved that terrible, wonderful, dog-fridging movie… I love him so much it hurts all of the cells in my body. I wish more than anything I could have introduced him to Doctor Who. I feel like Nine would have been *his* doctor, for reasons I’ve thought far too long and hard about. And Oh God, how he would have loved Supernatural. He was such a Boy.
I miss him every day. So if you’ve lost someone and you are wondering whether it will get better, let me go ahead and tell you. No, it won’t. But it changes. Instead of a constant, unbearable pain, it becomes a dull ache in the back of your brain interspersed with stabbing, terrible shocks of pain when you see, hear, or read anything that makes you think of the person that you miss, and still love more than life itself. If that sounds bleak, it’s because it is. I wish I had better news for you. If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to “Play” and wondering for the billionth time how I am still here and he is not.