Trying to Cope – a message to the Universe & My Love

broken_heart_by_lovingstarlights-d62lbipA love story that started when I was thirteen has officially ended. My mother assures me that it’s not over because the resurrection is near and I will see my love again but I haven’t found any comfort in that. We were two ships passing in the night; the moon chasing the sun and now the ship drifts alone and the moon ceases to glow. I feel weak. I feel like my world is shattered and for the past eighteen hours, I’ve only wanted to join him. I want to die but it’s not what I need and it’s not what he wants.
Shortly after I learned of his death, I fell to my knees and cried out. I kicked over desks and tossed my office. I laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling. I kicked and flailed my arms as I screamed to the heavens. This can’t be true. There must be some sort of mistake. He wouldn’t leave me behind. All selfish thinking, I suppose.
I am trying to discern what I am supposed to feel. What am I supposed to think? How do I process his death? I’ve prayed, I even spoke to him. I could hear him reply, “It’s okay, Stank. I’m okay.” His large brown eyes blinking and his nose nestling my cheek. I turned my music off so that I could hear him clearer. And I did. His raspy voice kept repeating his soothing words, “I know, Stank. I’m okay. It’s okay.” There was a coolness on my belly and right arm as I heard his words.
So I said, “Do you know I love you? I was mad at you but I’m sorry. Do you know? Will you remember?” The coolness increased and I could hear music playing. My music was cut back on and coming through my headphones.
“There’s somethin’ bout ya love that makes me weak and knocks me off my feet. There’s somethin’ bout ya love that makes me weak and knocks me off my feet. I don’t wanna bore you with it oh but I love you, I love you, I love you. I don’t wanna bore you with it oh but I love you, I love you, I love you.”
I cried but this time with peace and replied, “I love you too.”
I thought that I’d found my answer for what to do. He came to me and he told me that he knew how much I loved him despite the fact that my last words to him were a sarcastic “Really….?”
I laid down on the floor and tried to rest. My head was pounding and even after feeling like I had one last conversation with the first man I have ever loved, my heart was still broken. I had a restless sleep. I could feel his rough hands on my back and his lips on my skin. I dreamed of his visits to me after he got off work. Seeing him in his motorcycle armor and his blackened hands. In my dream, I playfully complained about his dirty clothes as he threw his arms around my shoulders to give me a hug. I tossed around in my sleep and the dream started to feel real.
We hopped in my car and went for a drive. He had to drive because I was too sleepy. We stopped at Wendy’s and I ordered a crispy chicken and a double stack and proceeded to pile one on top of the other. I smiled at him and said “Bigger sandwich for like $3.”
For the first time in this dream he said, “I will be getting that from now on,” and we laughed. The rest of this dream was flashes of us on my friend’s front porch, us at Eagle Rock Reservation, at my job, and then back on the porch. That’s where it ended. When I work up it was about four hours since I’ve heard the troubling news that my love is lost forever. I opened the message he sent to me on Friday and saw all of the messages from our argument about 4 months before. I could have done better. His visit during his postmortem rounds did not give me the peace that I had hoped for.
Why is this so hard? We spent our entire adult lives in an on and off relationship. There would be months of no speaking and then we’d be speaking everyday. I guess this is because I know he’s not coming back. This time it’s different. There has never been a death in my life that I was not prepared for. My uncle and even my grandmother were on their death beds for quite some time but this, this is different. I was ready for their passing because I know that you sometimes get sick and then, you’ll pass away as a result. This is life. But that’s not what happened to my love so when I think about how he’s gone, I feel like it’s not possible because dying from an accident is not a part of life. Especially not for my love. He was supposed to grow old, watch his kids grow up, watch my kids grow up, we were even going to have another baby. We had a plan that I wasn’t sure I could stick to because there were too many lives involved and now I wish that I did. This is the worst possible way to learn that life is too short for “What if.” I want to tell him that he was right but I can’t. I can only put it out in the universe with hopes that my message is delivered.
How could someone so wonderful in every aspect be taken away from the people that love him so soon? He was out, presumably having a good time and then there was some sort of accident. I was baffled because he told me that he would no longer be using his motorcycle because he was getting a truck. We agreed this was safest so why was he on a motorcycle again? I would know this if I spoke to him sooner. All of these thoughts are killing me slowly but then when I get into a quiet space and I see him. I feel him. A coolness on my arm, my hair moving like it’s being blown softly. That’s when I ask him, “Do you know I love you?” and the sensation on my arms gets colder.
Twenty hours, that’s how long it’s been since I learned of his untimely passing. I got in my car and drove home from work yesterday and I passed my house to go to Eagle Rock and I waited. I waited and I cried. I knew he was never going to show up and I’m going crazy because why would I be looking for a man that has passed away? I left. My hands were shaky on the steering wheel but I’m strong. I’m still alive and so I have to operate as such. But how could I? I drove to the liquor store and bought wine and whiskey.
I spoke to his mother in the parking lot and she said “I’m sorry for your loss.” That’s the kind of person he was raised by. The kind of person we were raised by. Here she was, grieving her son and saying sorry to his friends because they had lost someone too. That made me realize that I need to pull it together. His parents were being pillars of strength so that his friends didn’t need to be. That was my answer. I need to be strong and remember that even when a life is lost, I have other lives to be concerned with. My children need me. My mother, my job, I still have books to write and stories to tell. I can’t crumble.
So I went home. I thought I would drink myself to sleep but I was already tired and my kids were already in bed. So I tried to sleep too. I dreamed about him again. I saw flashes of our old photos from our late teens and early twenties. I recalled our never ending conversations. Smoking sessions with friends, drinking sessions, and cook outs. I don’t even remember the bad times. When I woke up this morning, it felt like any other day in the weeks that we aren’t speaking. Then it hit me that he wasn’t coming back. That’s what made this day different than the others. All morning I’ve been finding split seconds of peace until I realize that the moon will no longer chase the sun and that my ship would no longer pass another in the dead of night. Our story has ended.
Sixteen years we spent being lovers, best friends, distant lovers, and finally forbidden friends. He was my care taker, my inspiration, my guardian, my balance, my support team, and so forth. Before I was diagnosed with acute bipolar disorder and right after I was diagnosed with clinical depression, he was there and never left. He never left when everyone else did. He didn’t need to understand what was wrong in order for him to stay around; to stay near. I know I am not alone. I know that I now have people who support me and who cope with my ailments but he was the original and longstanding cheerleader in my life. I would not have survived without him. And now I have to survive without him.
I don’t know what that entails. I don’t know what surviving means. Do I live in sorrow, because I never want to forget him or do I forge ahead because he and I lived in enough sorrow already? Maybe I can pretend he’s still out there somewhere thriving. Maybe our ships do not have to stop passing as long as I believe it’s still possible to cross paths. That would be delusional. He’s gone but still in my heart. He watched over me while he was alive, so why would it be any different in death?
Two lovers that will never be together until their death. Only in death will we get a do over and I am eagerly awaiting that time. Why lie? How can I lie? I love you and you love me and even if it takes the afterlife to get it right, then that’s when we’ll get it right. As friends, I was able to share everything with you. You saw my growth and not a stone has been upturned. I must be grateful for that.
You read my first published book, saw my new car, saw my first apartment, and even met my beautiful little girls. I grew up right before your eyes. As you journey into the afterlife, I am realizing that we had closure. I’ve done everything you said I can do and by stopping now, I would be doing you a disservice. So the afterlife it is…whenever my time comes, I know you will be waiting for me like you always have.
Stephen Francis Riley Sr., I love you so much. I don’t expect anyone who didn’t know us to understand what this all means. Furthermore, I don’t expect everyone to be receptive of what they can’t understand. I will carry you in my heart forever. Rest in peace, light, and strength. Until we meet again.

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