In a season’s shift your wheels had turned
And you came to me in the afternoon
Your beauty always took me by surprise
In a spell of days I pulled it through
The thread of hope I clung onto

Always knew the body would win
~”The Way Sound Leaves A Room”
by Sarah Jaffe, from “The Body Wins”

Dustin had been gone only a week or so before I realized there was a very real possibility that my mind would crack under the strain, and perhaps already had.

The initial threats to my sanity were obvious: our future vaporizing before my eyes with nothing to replace it, the knowledge of how much it would hurt and how that pain would be something I’d carry always, the realization that I was now profoundly alone in this world. Other things ebbed and flowed as the weeks rolled on: the soul-consuming anger and rage, the loneliness and the fear, the anxieties and the panic attacks, the sheer relentlessness of the grief.

But a week into Dustin’s loss, staring at my phone, I couldn’t bring myself to delete his phone number. How would I know he was calling me if I deleted it?

He wasn’t dead, you see. He couldn’t be. It was an elaborate plot, a desperate ploy to get himself out of whatever trouble he’d gotten himself in this time.

I couldn’t delete his text messages, his emails. I couldn’t delete his numbers or those of his mother and his local contacts.

I wasn’t alone now. Of course not. I just had to get back to the places he had been, talk to enough people that he had known, and I would conjure him back to my side. He was coming, he’d never leave me. It was all just a mistake. That’s all. Just a tragic misunderstanding. I just had to wait, and hang in there, as I always had. He’d be so hurt when he came back if he thought I had lost faith and had begun erasing him from my life…

I knew he was dead. I had felt him die, felt his spirit bid me good-bye. I knew he was never coming back. But at the same time, I believed just as firmly that he was out there, working his way back to me.

I believed two utterly contradictory things at the same time, with equal conviction. My mind had come undone, split in two.

split mind

I didn’t know how that was possible. I didn’t know how long I could maintain that dichotomy without losing what was left of my already fraying sanity.

I didn’t know if I’d become insane or not. Nothing I did seemed to sway the hopeful half, the half that had run off from reality and did a wide-eyed swan dive into magical thinking.

That half ruled my dreams, where he came back and took me in his arms, kissed my forehead. Said he was sorry for scaring me but it was all over now, we were together now, it was going to be okay.

Then the sun would rise and I’d wake from my fitful sleep, and in the burning of that drought-ridden summer, I’d be alone as I ever was. But I’d check my phone, just in case.

Every time my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. Every time the notification for an email would chime. Every time I left work, checking for him in the parking lot. Waiting for me in the driveway at home.

Every letter. Every voicemail. Every instant message and Facebook post. I’d look for him in the street. In the places we’d been. Haunting the corners of my eyes, sitting beside me in the car.

He was everywhere, and nowhere. All the while, I would watch and wait for the final straw that would push me over the edge into outright madness. A part of me hoped for it.


I now know that this dual-mind magical thinking is common among mourners; that grief itself is, in most respects, a kind of temporary madness. The only reason it isn’t classified as an illness outright is because most people eventually overcome it. Logic comes home to roost, fanciful dreaming is given up.

I stopped looking for Dustin behind every car in the parking lot. Stopped expecting his arms to be around me when I woke up each morning. Stopped feeling phantom kisses against my hair, the pressure of his arm at my waist. Stopped jumping every time the phone rang.

Behind my eyes, the magic died.

But I still have his number. His texts. His emails. I can’t give them up, not yet.

He’d be so hurt, you see….


Winter of Discontent

What in the hell is this stuff?

What in the hell is this stuff?

“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.”
~Willa Cather

I have come down with a nasty case of what I like to call the ‘awfuckits.’

I’m tired. I have a long list of things to do, and I’m bored, and a little overwhelmed. I just can’t be bothered to do the routine things, like take my makeup off at night and take my contacts out to soak overnight in the cleaning solution. I am eating poorly, even though I know even the small amounts sugar I ingest will kick off a vicious cycle of cravings and hypoglycemic sugar crashes that really make me feel terrible.

I just don’t care.

Not good. We all know where this leads; one day, I don’t wash off my makeup, then I stop taking care of myself as I should, and the next, I can’t get out of bed.

I have to get out of bed.

Jan. 14 I start going to school part time. The hospital system I work for is putting me through school, paying for my tuition and books, to become a radiology technician. It’s an amazing opportunity; it will come close to tripling my current pay and vastly improve my life situation. I can’t afford to screw that up because I’ve got the blahs. But if I don’t have the energy for my life now, how will I cope when I’m out of the house from 8:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night three days out of five?

I know a large part of the problem – outside of Dustin’s loss, which of course rules them all – is the sharply cold weather and the snow. I can’t stand the cold and never could; at least one of my ex-boyfriends referred to me as a human popsicle because my skin is cold to the touch more often than it’s not. So now that it’s cold and grey and icy and wet outside, everything seems like an awful lot of work. I dread going outside, I dread crawling into an icy cold car at the end of the night, I dread trying to shower in a cold bathroom. The cold reaches in deep, curls around the bone, makes my fingers and toes ache, and triggers violent shivers that aggravate a chronic back injury.

It doesn’t help that shortly after my birthday, my car died of a cracked engine block. So now I have the added stress of trying to save for a car (I can’t afford a car note right now, not even close) while relying on the eroding patience of my parents and brother to get back and forth to work via a 104-mile round trip commute.

I just need something to be easy for once, or at least not so excruciatingly painful, but somewhere along the line, that seems to have become an awful lot to ask for.

Confessions of the One Left Behind

“You are the anchor that holds me to the ground.”
~Dustin to me, November 2011

“I need you like I need air to breathe.”
~ Me to Dustin, April 2012

I miss him the way a plant misses the sun; the way stars miss the morning sky. Together, we could fly. Apart, I am a bird with only one wing. I was his North Star, he was my lodestone. But….

A part of me is relieved that Dustin has gone.

Don’t get me wrong; I would give any body part you cared to name, give up years of my life – anything – to have him back. I also recognize that desire is among the most selfish I’ve ever had.

Dustin was suffering, and not in a temporary, transient sort of way. He was being torn apart, inside and out, by the mistakes he’d made, his addictions, so many wrong turns. A good argument could be made that I was the last thing keeping him here, and that at the end, even I wasn’t enough.

The life we were destined to have together was not only not going to be easy, it was going to be hell on earth for him. He was facing three major challenges: learning how to live a straight, law-abiding life for the first time ever, dealing with a severe mental illness, and kicking one of the most insidious addictions known to man.

That was a steep, steep mountain to climb. I knew what I was signing up for, had pledged to be right beside him the whole way. I knew there would be setbacks, backsliding. It was going to be so much work, and so grueling, for us both. He had doubts whether he could do it at all.

His manic phases often made him paranoid; he would be awake for days, then crash for several more. He had trouble focusing, of being totally present even during the time he spent with me. He was at war with his own mind, all the time.

If that weren’t bad enough, the withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl and dilaudid would nearly drive him out of what was left of his mind. Chills, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, shivering, weakness, joint and back pain, rapid heartbeat…the agony in his voice could flay muscle from bone. His heart, mind, and body were already wracked by years of drug abuse and hard living; I was terrified he wouldn’t be able to survive the process as it was, and in the end, his heart gave out.

So if I had somehow been granted the power to roll back time, to undo what had been done, would I do it?


How could I do that? How could I put him through that deliberately, for no other reason than I don’t want to have to learn to live without him? How could I snatch away from him everything he had ever wanted? Peace, a sense of security and safety, of belonging, of eternal love? Freedom from pain and suffering, a release? What kind of monster would that make me, to sentence him to what was waiting for him here?

This is part of the price I pay for being the one strong enough to be left behind: I had to be willing to be left. To let him go. To put his needs, even at the end, above my own.

Of course, the impossibility of negotiating his return makes all of this a moot point, but I can’t help but believe that somewhere, somehow, it counts.

I love you. I’d do anything for you. Even let you go. 

Because I can bear it, I can carry it. Because I was the only one of us who could.

Be at peace, dear heart. You are with me always.

Fly Away, by Bernat Casero

Fly Away, by Bernat Casero


screaming demon

“You have an extreme intolerance for a lot of things, the chief of which being bullshit.”
~Dustin to me, April 2012

The hardest action to take is sometimes no action at all.

Tonight is one of the difficult nights. I am tired and sad and frustrated; recent life events piled atop this grief have sapped my emotional resilience. Above all, I am angry.

Angry that I am sitting here alone when I should be curled against his side.

Angry that he died in fear and in despair.

Angry that I am struggling, and have always been struggling, on some level, in some way.

Angry that he and I were cheated out of our happily-ever-after, or at least a halfway decent shot at it.

Angry that I’ve regained all the weight I’ve lost.

Angry that among all the people I see in my daily life, there isn’t a single person I feel I can turn to.


I don’t feel attractive, sexy, or lovable. I know I can be a difficult person, and that I am an acquired taste, as it were. I am blunt and brutally honest and that’s often mistaken for cruelty; as he put it, I never sugarcoat anything. He knew all of this, and loved me for it, not in spite of it.

So tonight, when I want to send all the plates in the house spinning towards the walls, I am sitting here, trying to feel the anger and allow it to flow through me and around me, without acting on it. Observing it, letting it pass. Breathing.

But I still want to call bullshit on the Universe.

What did I ever do to deserve this? What did he? Why, when the two of us finally managed to find something beautiful and pure and noble and true, did it get ripped away?

Loving him was as easy as breathing. In his arms, moving together, was the most profound sense of belonging and joy and divinity I’ve ever known. And now my bed is stone cold, and what’s left of my heart has gone up in flames.




Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
~Maya Angelou

I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be dark and twisted. So I will be angry, and I will burn, and in the end, I will be clean. Maybe not whole, maybe not better, but clean.

Clean, but still bereft, and still alone. Bullshit, Universe. Bullshit.