The Robin

Content warning: Death and alcoholism

It’s 1:00 a.m. on a Friday night and a Robin is singing outside my window.  She startled me out of what I had hoped would be a good night’s rest. The many sounds of night have sidled up to me like a close talker–far away sirens, cars going too fast a half mile away, my neighbor’s wind chime playing a pentatonic melody. It will be a long time before I fall back to sleep, if at all. No bird is responding to the Robin, but she is undeterred.

I tucked myself in at 10 p.m. and I remember thinking how calm I tend to be this time of night; how the darkness mutes my worries and what a gift it is to someone who lives with anxiety. My eight-year-old son, spread out like a starfish, is sleeping next to me. His breathing reminds me to breathe and so I do, but then I am distracted by the next thought: I wonder which part of his body is growing right now? Feet? Arms? Heart? I want him to grow up but I also don’t. The paradox of a mother’s love…

I try to dismiss the reality of what tomorrow brings–72 hours of day and night noise, spiritual chaos, as I drive five hours to North Carolina where I’ll have to face the people responsible for my best friend’s 20 year battle with depression. A depression that caused him to drink so much he damaged his heart, deadened his nerve endings, clotted his blood. It almost killed him last year. Almost. He was going to stop drinking then, he said. Scared straight, he said. I think it was the first time I had ever heard hope in his throat.

I don’t like to say the word dead. I don’t want it in my mouth. The thought that someone I love was spiraling into depression’s black hole, convinced that no one (including me) could possibly understand what he was going through makes me mad, then sad, then furious, then confused, then sad again. Knowing he died alone, face down, surrounded by empty bottles of what killed him is just… My mind can neither accept or deny the reality that my 54 year old friend – the one that reached into the abyss of my deepest, darkest depression to pull me up, up, up – is gone and there is nothing I could have done to stop it, to fix it, to backspace over this entire story and write a new one where we go on some sunny vacation to sit by the pool and talk. “Do you remember that time when we had that naked party and the pizza guy came and he got naked too? Oh lawd, yes. Good times. Good times, indeed.”

I don’t like funeral music, or heartfelt homilies given by some man who thinks “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a compromise that ensures his ticket to a cozy afterlife. I imagine the many ways I could get out of going, the fake reasons as long as a CVS receipt scroll out in my mind–food poisoning, car won’t start, sick child, shingles, minor aneurism, stung by 27 hornets and 13 bees while walking in the woods, anything, anything to get me out of having to face his abusive family who are grieving a son, a brother they never really knew.

I cannot stand the thought of crying quietly into a balled up Kleenex while sitting in the third pew when I really want to scream from the pulpit: THIS IS YOUR FAULT. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT as mascara streams down my cheeks like Alice Fucking Cooper.

Silence.

I get up, look out the window. The stars blink a tribute to the hidden moon. Did the Robin fly away? Go to sleep? Or maybe, like me, she’s still perched on the edge of her nest searching the darkness for answers.

 

photo credit: mother nature network

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