A Reflection on Thirteen Reasons Why
I run errands in the morning. Dry cleaning. The post office. I give Waldo more treats because I know he doesn’t have long to go, the congestive heart stuff is catching up with my old man doggie. He is more active today, but still lethargic.
I haven’t heard from Leo. No call last night. That pleases me because it means he is feeling more independent. It has been a dangerous time with panic attacks, shrinks, mood swings: Dangerous, but now there seems to be a difference. For the past few days, he has been confident. Energized. Finally, maybe, these meds are the right ones. His new job at Screen Actors Guild Foundation, the organization that had granted him scholarship money a few years before, pleases him. He feels worthwhile. “They really like me over there.” He was only three days into it, but he was upbeat. He seemed to be comfortable being away from me, renting a room and living temporarily with a social worker and her husband further out in the valley. He was glad to not be working as a chauffeur anymore.
I try his cell phone a couple of times. No answer. I try the home of the social worker. No answer. I leave a message. This is the first time in his thirty-three years he is not living with me. I have an audition on the other side of the hill. “I’ll just spin by SAG and see if his car is in the parking lot.”
I search for the shape of the 1985 Cadillac Seville which he has pampered since his grandfather reluctantly gave it to him, when my father could no longer drive.
“I don’t want to give that car to someone that young. I want to give it to you.”
“But dad, I don’t really want a car like that. It’s not practical.”
“Don’t know why not. Best damned car I ever had.”
“I just don’t want it. I just don’t want it,” I said. “If you give it to me, I’ll give it to Leo.”
“Well, alright then. Fine,” he turned away from me.
“Fine,” I said back.
But the boat of a car is not in the parking lot. I need to drive home. Now, I thought. I call the Foundation. “We were wondering,” said the director who had hired him. “He didn’t call or come in today.”
I drive over the Hollywood Hills on Laurel Canyon. I drive steadily, not speeding, not passing. I drive steadily. I hold on to the steering wheel as if I have never felt one before. I turn KPCC off. I watch the digital clock change once. Twice. Not at work. Not at his place. Not back at home. No, that’s it. He’s at home. There is no place else he can be. There is no place. There. Is. No. Place. And I know it. But I do not drive fast. I try to think of something to think. But I can think of nothing to think. So, I focus on thinking nothing.
I turn into my block. The Cadillac is not parked at the curb. I pull into my driveway. I open the back door to the kitchen. Old dog Waldo comes to meet me. I don’t want to go further into the house. I don’t have to. I will drive to where Leo lives now. But it already seems pointless. I really don’t have to. But, it’s me. I have to keep moving. Looking. I just need to stay in motion but I can’t say why. It’s only that something might happen if I don’t. Might.
I get into the car and back out of the driveway. I remember he asked me last night on the phone about a notebook he had left at home. I will go back and get it. I pull back into the driveway under the camellia bushes which have dropped their thick blossoms along the drive. They lay like pink fists browning at the edges. I get the notebook. My neighbor, Kevin, directly across the street is in his front yard with his wife, Jan. There is a man in a suit and a woman in a skirt and blouse with them. Kevin beckons me over. I cross the street holding the notebook.
Kevin comes to me and says, “I need to hold you for just a moment.” Over his shoulder the man and woman stand watching. The man steps forward.
“Do you know where you son is? Have you seen him today?” He shows me a badge. It looks larger than they do on TV. “Have you heard anything on the radio?” he says.
I say to him, “My son is dead.”
“We found a burned Cadillac with a body. We are trying to make a positive identification. We will need the …”
“Dental records,” I finish. It’s Friday, and close to closing at the dentist’s office. If I don’t get to them then I won’t find out until Monday. “You’ll excuse me,” I say to the man. “I have to go call the dental office. You see, I want to know right away. Though I already know, you see. I know my son so I don’t need to find out. I just want to make sure that you have the information you need. I want to clear it up for you. You see, that’s him. In the car. That’s my son. He’s dead.”
They follow me across the street. My car is still running. I turn it off. Why do they want to come into my house? Why are these people following me? Why aren’t they letting me do what I need to do? Why are they still talking to me? Leo is dead and I have things to do now. I need to get to them. I need to call his brother, his father. His brother. I have to call Joyce, to call Mitch, to call Leland, to call mother, (no, mother is dead, Daddy is dead) I have to call Brendan my son, my son, my son. I have to say………I have to say to him….“Your brother is dead.” I have to say it in words on the phone where I can’t see or be seen. The dentist’s office will be closed soon, for fuck’s sake. For fucking fuck’s sake. Stop talking to me. Stop wondering if he is mine. He is. They are in my kitchen. You have to leave now. They walk out of my back door. “Do you want someone with you?” I want you to go away. But I don’t say it.
I call his brother, my son, Brendan. I say, “Leo burned himself to death in Paw Paw’s car.” I can think of nothing to think. I want to push myself through the phone receiver. I want to envelop my son Brendan. My boy, my oldest son, my boy. I want to wrap myself around him like an animal and I want to put him back where he came from. Push him back into my womb before he was born before such things could happen. I didn’t know I would have to do things like this.
But instead, I hang up the phone. Waldo wags his tail, circles my feet and lays down on the tile floor.
I go into Leo’s room. I open his drawers, his closet, his file cabinets. I pull the covers off his bed in a big tangle. I wail. I run through his room to the back yard where the bins are. I flip open the tops. I wail. I carry papers, shirts, shoes. I wail. Notebooks, pennants, photographs, pictures on the wall, pillows, his phone, his jackets, a ceramic fish. I throw them in the bin. I wail. I wail. I wail, “No, no, no, no.” I wail, “Fucking no. No, no no. Fuck. No.” I pound the top of the blue recycling bin, and it is just me and the bin. Then, I just pound. “No. Fucking no.”
I go back into the kitchen and call the dental office before they close. I won’t wait all weekend. I don’t have to.