October 23, 2016

I haven’t slept in a bed in my childhood home for four years. Last night was no different. As I reclined in a chair and pulled a blanket around my neck, my sister tossed me a pillow. I grabbed my phone to set an alarm and saw an email from an online memorial site that read “Joan Lorraine Justice- Brown died four years ago today”. Yeah, I know.

It’s a quiet morning in my chair. I woke up to total silence, after a ridiculous night of drinking, Taco Bell, and shenanigans. The chill of the morning and the warmth of my blanket and the surrounding silence is familiar — too familiar. In the days and weeks after my mom’s death, my sisters and I would drink until we passed out around the living room, on the couch, in the chair, or sprawled on the floor, unable to pull ourselves to our rooms upstairs because it was too dark. Too silent. Too lonely. Too normal. I’d wake up to total silence, much like I did today. The mornings were the only time there wasn’t commotion. It was the only time people weren’t coming over, where food wasn’t being cooked or consumed, where people weren’t bursting into tears at a moment’s notice, where a funeral wasn’t being planned, or where shots weren’t being downed.

I heard whispering coming from two friends that slept over. And this was all too familiar, too. In the aftermath of my mom’s death, some of our closest friends would spend the night: partially because they were unable to leave us to the loneliness of the night, and partially because we asked them to stay. On this morning, four years later, my friends and I were awake, but I stayed silent. I wanted these moments to myself. I grabbed my phone. There was another email from the online memorial — a friend had written a tribute. I read it and began to cry, softly, as to not let on that I was awake, as I stared blankly into the folds of my blanket. I thought about going back to sleep. It was no use. I thought about getting up, but why? The heaviness of my body and the emptiness of will was a reminder of those days in 2012.

On this day, it’s as if two movies of my life are playing. One is the movie of the two weeks after my mom died and one is of the present. The sheer veil of the first movie hangs over my days, constantly playing on repeat. And on days like today, October 23, 2016, those movies line up in scary synchronicity, to the point where I am forced to ask myself, what year is this?

There isn’t much more to say. There’s no nice neat bow to tie this up and make sense of it. It’s just a glimpse into a reality that I live with. It’s confusing and disorienting. Tomorrow, I will wake up just like I’ve awoken every day for the past four years, but in a year’s time, that first movie will line up again with the present. It’s a feeling of moving forward, but also never fully being able to escape the past.

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