It’s been two years since that horrible day. The day when everything seemed to fall to pieces. I can still remember as if it were yesterday. The feelings that creeped deep into my veins, moving and crawling through the bloodstream, making its way to and from my heart.
I was standing outside the hostel I’ve been calling my home for quite some time. I had a massive headache and parched mouth due to the heavy drinking from the night before. I was trying to get myself ready to go visit my grandfather who had just had a heart attack and was in the hospital in downtown Vancouver. But then, my phone vibrated, receiving a message from Jill; plain and simple text message. In just a few short words, I had found out you were gone forever.
———November 3, 2013————
-Jilly Gladue – 11/3, 12:41pm
Emmy passed away.
And that was it. That was how my world ended. How everything just spun out of control for the past 2 years and lead to where I am now. I couldn’t breathe for the longest time. I didn’t reply back to anyone for the longest time. Everything just seemed to stop. Slow motion, blurring all around me. I can’t begin to describe how surreal everything passed by me just like that. It’s like I was there, but somehow on the other side of the spectrum. I was disassociated with the universe, with the people all around me. It was like watching a movie, a movie without a plot or context. It was just me watching the craziness that this world brings. I wasn’t a part of anything. Just the simple fact that I was there.
I could feel it though, the magnificent part of my soul that was ripped away from me and left with you. I don’t know how to exactly describe it. There is this massive emptiness that swells inside my chest, where I could feel all that is human in me drain into the nothingness. But, at the same time, I could feel it all, all that this world brings. The noise, the colours, the rush of sound and movement. It becomes too much for me and not enough at the same time. I lose the ability to speak, to feel. I’ve watched the horrendous things in life, the beauty and amazingness, and I would feel numb. I can see it, I can see myself feeling it. Except, something was blocking it from reaching me. Something that left me less than human.
I didn’t want to think about it. I couldn’t speak the words I needed to shout out to the world. I was suffocating in my own despair. I was afraid what would happen if I showed what I was truly going through. I spent a whole week drunk off my ass in a city that couldn’t understand the nightmare I was living. I made an ass of myself, woke up to nothing but a terrible headache and an everlasting shame. I didn’t know the next step. I knew the right thing was to go back home and pay my respect. To go back and see the people that knew the wondrous things about you. People that could understand the pain I was going through. I wanted to. Believe me when I say this, I wanted to go back so badly. Although, there was something that stopped me from going back – fear, fear of what would happen if I did, of how the world would continue on without you. The fate of accepting the fact that you were never coming back.
So, with that in mind, I fled to a town that knew nothing about you. A place where I could pretend I was happy. Leaving all my shame and sorrow behind in Vancouver, I moved to Whistler so I could pretend everything was all right and not have to deal with the consequences of life. I ignored you, the ethereal presence of everything that you were and I let it haunt me for six whole months. I put you into the back of my head and tried to go forth and live like the normal people. I partied, I drank until I couldn’t stand anymore, I did drugs that I told myself I would never do. I let everything I ever wanted to be coming crashing to the ground. Months of destroying my body, my mind, my soul. It all came to an abrupt stop. Everything fell apart. My body fell apart. At the end of the winter season, I was too weary and torn to get up. My body told me enough was enough. For a whole week I laid in bed with unimaginable pain coursing through my very being.
You would think that this was my rock bottom. You would think that I would’ve learned my lesson and sought help and have the courage to build myself back up again. To accept help, to admit that I was wrong and needed to be fixed. Something that you knew was that I am of a stubborn mind. I told myself that I was all right. That I was just going through a phase and I could just leave it all behind again. Selfish ways took hold of me. I left Whistler quietly and swiftly, thinking I could go back to Vancouver, a city that I loved, and try to find peace again. Do it right this time. Thinking moving on was that easy.
I didn’t realize how depressed I really was. I kept drinking to keep the good times rolling, I laughed and cheered to the night. I thought I was okay. I got numerous jobs, I tried to keep up with my bills, ignoring tax collectors that wanted the money I spent on partying. Suddenly, slowly, people were watching me with careful, weary eyes. They took notice to me. Of how I was always with a beer in hand. Of how nobody ever really saw me unless I was drunk and stumbling. I found myself trapped in the world of the underground, a place where late night creatures came to play. More alcohol, more drugs. I was constantly waking up in strange places without a clue how I got there. Friends of mine thought I was just a big party guy. Someone that always had fun. I thought I was someone that liked to have fun. The truth being, I just didn’t know how to be sober anymore. I didn’t want to have to deal with the sound of my own thoughts plaguing my own head. Soft whispers into the night that tormented me.
Time after time, I kept screwing up, because I was always drinking, always out and stuck with the people I shouldn’t have ever met. I stopped caring about responsibilities and my obligations to society. Piece by piece, I was still falling apart. I burned bridges, I made people hate me, and they look at me with disgust and pitying eyes that wouldn’t waver. After a while, I had no excuses. The summertime fun and adventure of a young 22 year old was over and they all saw with their own eyes what I truly was. People stopped speaking to me, they walked the other way when I come walking down the street. I was a mess and without a coherent thought in the world. My mind was numb and strangled.
It wasn’t until your one year anniversary of your death when I realized what I was doing. Of how I eradicated everything of my past life. I found myself looking in the mirror and realizing I was a person I didn’t recognize anymore. I told myself I would get better. I wrote to you and promised I would be better.
But, I lied. Again.
People questioned me. Telling me where I was going wrong in life and how I need to be normal if I ever wanted to be successful. They asked me why I didn’t want to be successful. I couldn’t give them an answer. The way it all felt, it was like I knew if I did, I would find some way to fuck it all up. Just like I always do. I stopped taking photographs, I couldn’t write the way I used to. I was just drunk, again. Accept this time, I took it to new levels. This time, I found myself in the hospital. I had drank so much and paid little attention to the pleadings of my body, that it all shut down. My immune system was weak, I couldn’t eat or drink or even move. For days, I was trapped on my shitty air mattress bed in that tiny corner of my apartment, high up above the city lights. Once more, I told myself to get up, that I wasn’t allowed to be weak. I tried to jump quickly to another job, another life. And with another kick in the teeth from the universe, I came crashing down. My heart was in distress. My body had been through too much and was too confused to be human. My heart was in trouble and the doctors didn’t know why. They thought I had TB or HIV. No young, healthy 22 year old should get this sick so fast. It wasn’t until they looked at my liver when they put the pieces together. They saw the cigarette burns on my arm. They knew something was going on with me. But, I told them all I was fine. I just had a bad year. It’s amazing and concerning of how easy that was. How they just let me walk out the hospital just like that. I guess that medical care for you.
This time, I was going to do it right. I forced myself to deal with what I was going through. I let myself feel the suffering I was trying to numb for so long. I wasn’t exactly sober, but I wasn’t the sloppy mess I was before. Slowly, I was putting pieces together. And with that, I saw the world around me and what I’ve become. I realized that my friends weren’t really my friends. I saw that I created an image of myself that just didn’t fit. I didn’t fit that life anymore and I was on the outside looking in.
But, with a few good people that I trusted, I was able to confide the horribleness of my life. With ache in every part of my body, I was trying to move forward. Step by step, sacrificing pieces of my old life, I was making the move to escape again and start all over. Without a thought or clue, I was watching sunsets again. I was desperate to be a part of nature and all that is beautiful in this world. I found myself taking photographs again. I was slowly coming back to life.
This year hasn’t been easy for me. I made a lot of mistakes and blunders. The habit of making myself out to be a fool is just too easy. But, I’ve been painstakingly pulling it all together. I still drink, because I find the habit too hard to break with the stress of real life. The effort is still there though. The pull to move forward and be better. I’ve come to realize how far I’ve really made it in just the past two years without you. I’m slowly coming to terms with what happened and the restlessness in my soul is coming at ease. I moved to a place that I hoped to escape it all and try to not fall apart. But, I did. And I realized that is what I needed. I needed to fall apart and let it crumble away. Not the existential part of the world, but what was within me. I realized I need to let myself be human and fall to the ground and let despair course through myself. I needed time to grieve your death. And I’ve felt it. I’ve felt it all.
I can still remember your laugh. I remember how big, bright and shiny your teeth were. Of how your nose crinkled when you smiled. I remember your beautiful, long brown hair and the way you used to put it in a ponytail. I think about how you looked in my navy blue sweater and how it was too big for you. I still smile at the memory of the way you used to skip down the hall of our old school and call out my name.
I want you to know, with my soft spoken words being thrown late into the night, that I had loved you from the very first moment I met you. You had met me at a horrible time in my life. A quiet, shy, 14 year old that didn’t have the words to speak. You knew I was going through something awful, what with life on the reservation. The way it always goes, you understood. You saw what I was going through. You kept quiet about them and let me be me. You befriend a sad, little weirdo that didn’t know how to be normal. I want to thank you for that. I want to convey in a way that will let you know just how meaningful you were to me, of how you still are. And to tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t go back to your funeral. I’m sorry that we lost contact in those last few years of your life. Of how I was off traipsing around the country, going this way and that, leaving you and who we were behind. I want you to know that I wish we could’ve been together and seen the world the way we used to dream about in that tiny, inconsequential town where bad things keep happening.
I’m getting better now. I’ve been kicked into the ground so many times that it doesn’t hurt anymore. I can pick myself up and shake off the dust. I think, and I hope it’s not too soon to say, that I’ve actually grown up in the past couple years. I’ve made myself into a man. I still go through blunders and make mistakes. But, I’m no longer afraid of them. I have the courage again to move forward with my life and chase my dreams and the temptress that is the unknown. I found myself some beautiful sunsets where I can call your name and feel close to you.
I want you to know that I’m okay. That you are still making me a better person. But, that I have to move on. I have to let you go and all that could’ve been blow away with the wind. I can accept the fact that you are not here and that I found a way where I can still live with the memory of you.
I’m so sorry that I let it get this bad. A part of me wishes I could take it all back. But then, if so, I would’ve never been through all that I have, seen all that I did see.
And that is something I can never regret.
And I know I don’t believe in God or a heaven, but I just want to say one last thing:
Please, take care of yourself.
Wherever you are.