By Erin Khar
Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Objects may include anger, confusion, love, envy, longing, loneliness, lust, fear, apathy, delusion. And, then, grief.
Sometimes, you are moving along in your life, and everything is great, and then you trip over something unavoidable.
Grief is a slippery thing. And then it’s not.
It wears many masks. It shows up, knocking loudly, then sulking in the corner. It disguises itself as anxiety and anger and energy and apathy.
You train yourself to run fast, to run faster than it can, and you do, and you congratulate yourself.
Then grief waits, patiently, for more just like it to come along, and like magnets, they cling to each other, beneath the surface.
One day, you notice them there, sticking up out of the ground, blazing, like an electric iceberg. And you slip, and touch them, and they suck you under.
Your brain reasons with you, as you’re drowning, that you have so many good things in your life, your life is full and bright and possible.
You don’t have time. You want to skip it. You’ve perfected the art of minimizing pains, big and small, in your life. But, you know, that if you wait, it will grow larger and deeper and you don’t know when you will slip again and be pulled under.
You think, be strong, suck it up, don’t indulge.
Somewhere in the back of your reason and logic, you know the braver thing is to grieve, the braver thing is to be okay with feeling whatever the loss is, the braver thing is to acknowledge that your heart is broken, the braver thing is to admit you are sad, no, devastated.
Fasten seat belt. Fasten- adhere, flash, attach, flash, affix, flash, bolt, ding, glue, ding, screw, ding, solder, ding ding ding, tighten, ding ding ding, truss, ding ding ding ding, weld, ding ding ding ding, anchor, ding—————————————.
You do all those things. You do all the things you’re supposed to do and yet you lose the baby, you may be losing the marriage, you may be losing your mind, you lose another baby, and another, and yet another, you lose, you lose. You are lost.
Lost grows like a cancer inside you, echoing all the times you’ve been lost before. Lost and grieving are on either side of the see-saw, moving you in two directions, until your grief has been vacuumed up, sealed, put on a shelf.
And suddenly, you are far away and you like it there.
Disconnected from your body, disconnected from the room around you, you drift. You drift away from him, from them, from the walls, and the floor. You could spend an eternity like this, just drifting. Nobody can touch you because you remain in motion.
You have motion sickness. You drop out of the air and back down to the ground. You are sure that the best thing to do is lie down and wait, to immobilize, to stop eating, drinking, talking, sleeping, and eventually breathing.
It’s not until every last thing is scraped out from the inside that you can sit up, stand, walk, and want. Steadfast, you want.
Frost Warning. You may replace the grief and want with blight, dip, drop, freeze, ice, rime.
You may turn the old paralysis into a new paralysis, a paralysis that can sit up, stand, walk, but no longer wants. You will appear completely normal to the outside world, but instead you have replaced being steadfast in want to being steadfast in not wanting. You may eat and fuck and spend money and drink too much or the opposite- you may refuse food and sex and things and drink. But you will be in control, or you will think you are, but you are too cold to know the difference. And still, your grief remains on a shelf.
Service Required. You need to align, balance, bring into line, calibrate, connect, correct, fine-tune, fix, focus, improve, mend, overhaul, polish, put in working order, readjust, rectify, troubleshoot, square.
If you are lucky, very lucky, your other child, the living one, the one who gave you a reason to live, will look at you one morning, with light freckles across his nose, with sleepy eyes, with bedhead, and for no reason at all, your twelve-year-old son, no longer a boy but not quite a man, will tell you he loves you for no reason at all. And that love, as it has done so many times before, will shake the frost and snap you in to present time and make you remember how to want and grieve and still be standing.
Door open. The other side of the door is accessible, free, clear, uncluttered, unburdened, agape, expanded, peeled, removed, unbarred, revealed.
You are no longer hindered. You are no longer limited. There’s a way out, out of the grief and loneliness and frost and paralysis of the last year. You can cry, you can talk about it, you can laugh about it (I promise). And you realize that everything you need to know was written, right in front of you, all along.
Erin Khar lives, loves, and writes in New York City and sometimes other cities too. She was the recipient of a 2012 Eric Hoffer Editor’s Choice Prize for her story, “Last House at the End of the Street,” which was published in the Best New Writing 2012 anthology. Her work has appeared many places, including Sliver of Stone, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, The Manifest-Station, The Good Men Project, Scary Mommy, The Fix, Mind Body Green, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and as a regular contributor to Ravishly. She is currently working on her first book, a memoir. She can be found online at erinkhar.com. She is also on Twitter @RarelyWrongErin .