Aftermath

No light, no light
In your bright blue eyes
I never knew daylight could be so violent
A revelation in the light of day
You can’t choose what stays and what fades away
And I’d do anything to make you stay
No light, no light (no light, no light)
Tell me what you want me to say
“No Light, No Light”
Florence + the Machine
“Ceremonials”

I sat on my bed, staring at my phone, knowing a bomb was about to go off inside my chest. I could hear its incoming whistle, held my breath. I wasn’t going to die. No, this would be worse. I was going to have to live through this.

When it hit, my chest seized up like the worst cramp I’d ever had. My heart wrenched out of place, compacting in a space much too small, twisting and thrashing. I couldn’t breathe around it, gulped for air. Tears were pouring down my face, but that’s a given. The shock went beyond bone-deep, blasting everything before it, remaking me into a ruin of what I had been.

How do you describe watching your entire future vaporize in front of your eyes? How do you take in, all at once, that you’ve not only lost the love of your life, the only person you’ve ever felt truly had your back, but the knowledge, soul deep, of exactly how much this was going to hurt? How do you even begin to comprehend how profoundly alone you now are?

I ran away to a friend’s house. I couldn’t be alone with it. I cried, off and on, most of the night. If I wasn’t crying, I was staring blankly into space, so numb with pain and grief I didn’t have a single thought in my head. My chest alternated between the grasping, twisting pain and the blasted landscape of a bomb site.

I was terrified to go to sleep. I still am. The twilight time between going to bed and actually going to sleep has always been fraught for me when I’m upset; the rat wheel of destructive thoughts gets going, I can’t shut it off, and I become an anxious, sleepless mess. I knew I’d start to obsess: the last things he’d said to me, what happened, did it hurt? was it quick? Did he have a seizure? Did he know what was happening, did he just slip away? Each question, each thought, each fear, was like being waterboarded with battery acid.

I took four or five Benedryl to go to sleep. Every night after that became a flat-out footrace to get to sleep before my thoughts could take over. For the next three weeks, I took some combination of Tylenol PM and Benedryl, up to five or six pills a night, until my doctor caught up to me.

I closed my eyes and fell into a pit. I haven’t climbed out yet.

May 26, 2012

Thought you should know this….. We don’t have any details yet but Dustin died this morning, he never woke up.
~text message sent to me by Dustin’s mother at
5:52 pm, Saturday, May 26, 2012

I knew something was wrong the minute I woke up that morning.

I had to be at work early, and I was so sick and nauseated I thought I had a stomach bug. I dragged my sorry self into work anyway, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was already worried, and as I dropped a new specimen tube on the floor and crawled under the cabinet to retrieve it, I could feel him watching me. Instead of making me smile, I was scared. I’d never ‘felt’ him that way before. It would be hours until I knew why.

His mother didn’t tell me how he died. I already knew.

Dustin was addicted to intravenous painkillers, fentanyl and dilaudid in particular. He used them as mood regulators, to keep his manic phases in check. But he knew-without my having to say so-that he couldn’t be a part of my life as an active addict, and he was trying to detox on his own. With methadone. For me, for him, for us.

And he died doing it. He died for me, for him, for us. I haven’t found a way to live with that.