I’m floating like a ghost through an underground tunnel between the A & B terminals in the Detroit Airport. Five minutes ago I was the first person to step off the plane, from a first class seat, and walk with a purpose in my step, on to the next destination…wherever that might be. Watching from the outside, today would look like a thousand other scenes from my life.
But it’s not the same this afternoon. I don’t see you. I don’t see anyone. I’m not even walking on my own…something is pushing me.
Inside my head is Jackie Wilson – ‘Higher and Higher.’ I’m remembering his memorial and choking back tears, telling myself to hold my head up and walk with confidence, but wanting to fall to the floor. Without question I am the only one that knows pieces of me are breaking off and slamming to the ground in my wake, leaving an invisible trail of wreckage, assuring that whenever I arrive wherever I am going…there will be nothing left.
The pain has been telegraphing itself for weeks. I’ll hear a song on the radio from the memorial or knock a picture of him off the desk and jump to grab it before it hits the ground. A paralysis has begun to creep into my limbs, coupled with my usual anxiety; I’m sitting in a chair, my breathing accelerates, I need to do something but I don’t know what to do. I can’t resolve what I’m feeling because I don’t know what it is. A damp web descends over my head and falls to the floor, closing in and squeezing. Incapacitating. I start to swell inside. I can’t get out. I’m not going to get out. My jaw clenches. I set in motion purposeful movements that yield nothing; tapping my foot, pacing… I want to scream, but can’t because I am suffocating.
By nightfall, all protective layers have eroded and I’m raw. Even hours before the sun goes down I know there isn’t any way I’ll ever sleep unless I cause a deliberate intervention between biology and psychology. So I numb my brain, allowing it to send signals to the rest of me that it’s ok to shut down for the day, it’s ok to rest. It’s good, actually. Then I wake up in the morning with a heavy weight in my stomach. I hate myself for hours, feeling weak.
His birthday is Wednesday. The anniversary of his death is just three weeks later… December 21st.
What I think is most accurate, is saying that I’m beginning to disintegrate.