The first few days after Danny died, Dora seemed ok. She was coherent, sober, collected . . . she just missed him. They were together for 2 full years prior to his suicide. He was her first adult relationship; the kind where you talk about raising a family together and wedding plans without worrying about divorce or paternity suits.
She decided Thursday would be the day to have his candlelight vigil at our home.
I was picking up all her shifts at Doggie Daycare. I was still in a bit of a daze, but totally focused on her. I knew if I were her, I would lose my shit. I also knew she was still in shock.
I asked my parents if I could stay in their home in Washington. They were on their third week touring Italy . . . again, but I just needed a destination to collect myself. One of our neighbors left town the night Danny hung himself, and another moved out completely.
My parents emailed me back there was no spare key and I would have to wait two more weeks before coming home. Then, they would be there for me.
Thursday morning, I called Alan. I was walking the dogs and started weeping into his voicemail.
I said, “Things are really bad here. I think about the last time things were ok and it was with you. Can you let me stay at your place . . . for a couple nights . . . please? I really need someone.”
Around this time, the nightmares started. Dreams of rats eating through my walls, gun shots, blood, images and emotions that barely pieced together a narrative. I just woke up with my heart racing throughout the night. It was hell.
After work that night, I came home. Frank was there, loyal as always with a fresh baggie of cocaine for me. I may have asked for it, maybe not. I don’t remember now.
The sun set and I saw that Alan emailed me. I opened it:
“This is probably the last time you’ll hear from me for awhile. I feel
like every time I respond it just prolongs the pain.
I am so sorry. I am so terrible for ignoring you now, but I know that
there’s just nothing I can do but make things worse. You can get
through this. And you don’t need me like you think you do.
I can’t be there for you. I really can’t. I am barely holding my
life together and trying to hold yours together too will break me.
It’s selfish but it’s the truth. Hate me and be disappointed if you
want. I deserve it. But it isn’t going to change things at all.
Some day we will both be able to hold our own, and then we can try to
be friends again. But right now we’re two helpless people and it’s
just dangerous for us to try to be together.
You’ll be ok.”
Frank was sitting on a folding chair by my computer. I was standing up as I breezed through those words, and I collapsed crying for the first time.
Frank held me, like I was a doll with a heavy glass head and only cloth arms to break my fall.
I cried, hard.
I remember saying, “I want my mom.”
He tried to comfort me and I heard Dora through my door say, “Don’t cry, then I will cry.”
When I pulled myself together, one of Danny’s friends, who had smoked all his living brain cells away, showed up to make dull comments like, “I remember the last time I saw him was at that party. He said, ‘See ya next time, man.’ Next time . . . he was a good guy.”
The manager who lives at Doggie Daycare and the very dry, sarcastic Filipino woman who handles Human Resources both showed up together with a candle each.
Dora was inside, setting up food or on her phone.
The Manager asked, “Did you notice they were fighting a lot? I mean, was it that bad?”
I said, “They are 22, how bad could it be? What, the assets? The house payment? The kids? I mean . . . they are too young to have real problems.”
They nodded, processing. We were all processing.
They only stayed for a bit. When they left, Dora fell apart.
I heard her crying inside, and I walked into her dark, now bare bedroom. I sat next to her while she kicked and screamed and punched her pillows, “WHY!? WHY!? WHY DID I HAVE TO FIND HIM? TELL ME!!”
I put my hand on her back and let her scream it out.
I said, “That is the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Now its over. Now you know you can survive it.”
She kept throwing her body around like a rag doll. I held my phone in my hand.
I thought about being there, alone with Dora. The men left us, and now we had to deal with it on our own.
As Dora crushed her face into the linen, I texted Alan:
“Can’t be there for me. Well now I have to take care of 9 animals instead of my 4 and a grieving fucking girl who has no one. And take all her shifts. But I want to be the type of person that is there when it matters. I don’t ever want to be you.”
People will ask me what happened to him, and I will explain he couldn’t be there for me. Sometimes, someone will say, “Sometimes we can’t be there for other people.”
I would then say, “He said he loved me. He was a liar.”
I remember this moment really well, sitting there in the dark, with my hand on Dora’s back, keeping a straight face. It was a moment when I realized that I am who I want to be. It was a defining moment.
There was bullshit all year with friends and men and drugs and financial hardship … just bullshit.
This moment I was ok being alone. Just the fact that I had to stand alone proved something to myself, that I was strong and decent.
This part of the evening would be my high point, since I sipped off of Frank’s bottle of whiskey for the rest of the night.
I would fetch Dora cigarettes and mumble something a few times. Frank kept asking, “What?”
I then snapped, “SHE NEEDS HER CIGARETTES!”
Frank, all things considered, was very patient. He was there for us, no matter the motives.
He always used to say he had some relationship with death, often he is invited to or present for grievances, mourning, ceremonies surrounding death.
When Dora stopped crying, I allowed myself to get sloppy.
I drunk texted Abe, my ex ex boyfriend, “I wish you were my boyfriend tonight.”
Abe texted back, “Ill come by if you’d like. I do have to work in the morning though.”
I wrote back, “Its far.” and then gave the address.
He wrote back, “Wow, if I leave now I could be there at 9.”
I went outside and asked that idiot friend of Danny’s to watch one of Dora’s elderly pugs, Otis. When I came back outside after comforting Dora and setting her up with a fresh cigarette, Otis was gone.
I freaked out a little, there are coyotes and bobcats very nearby. I complained loudly about how useless the kid was and eventually we found Otis sitting on a wood staircase at the end of the street. He was shaken up. He was the dog closest to Danny.
The moron didn’t even help us find him.
I went to cool down with my own cigarette on another staircase parallel to our apartment. I was saying, “I have to do fucking everything! Fucking useless!”
I texted Abe, “I can’t take this”
Him, “U can do it. Wish I could help tonight.”
Me, “Not coming? I was counting on you again.”
Yes, I am aware of the hypocrisy with my epiphany at Dora’s bedside and my disappointment of Abe not following through. Just because you find yourself, doesn’t mean you still want to be alone.
Him, “Its already evening. Id have to leave after hour. I have to go into down town early Friday.”
Me, “Forget it. Thanks for not being there again. Fuck, why did I ever call you?”
Him, “Jeez. U live like 70 miles into hills. Don’t find extra things to madden you please. I told U id like to see U on Saturday.”
Me, “Forget it! FORGET IT!!! I am stuck here taking care of this girl while everyone bails on her because I am the only one with balls to do the right thing.”
Him, “Ok. Chill. U r her roommate, coworker and friend, be nice and U shall feel better.”
Me, “Yeah thanks for the advice. I will take care of everything alone as usual.”
One after another, my co-workers from Doggie Daycare showed up. They brought candles, food and wine.
They brought me back to the doorstep where all our candles burned bright around Danny’s picture. When ever I think of his face, I think of this slightly overweight Hispanic kid with a lazy eye. He was so nice. I mean . . . even tempered, kind, just . .. so nice. What the fuck?
The picture of him in a beanie hugging a bunch of dogs showcased in the center of all our candles.
I took my time lighting them as I explained to a few people the Dr. Drew show I just worked audience on. This woman said she was attracted to hard criminals, corresponded with them and invited them back to her home where she was raising two teenage daughters.
I said, “Then Dr. Drew asked her if she was attracted to Charles Manson, and she said, ‘Yes. I would probably date him.” I gave my dry head roll to those quietly listening to me.
Ocean stepped up the stairs and was suddenly standing over me, she looked down and smiled. She is so beautiful. I stopped talking, grabbed her pant leg and started crying into it. Her smile didn’t fade, she bent down and held me as I cried into her.
It was a relief. I don’t know why her, it just was her.
She walked inside, and Mississippi (the Southern kid we torture at Doggie Daycare) stepped in her place and wiped my face clean with the corner of his t-shirt.
I said, “I will never forget that you did that.”
The vigil went on, you know, what do people do? I don’t remember. I floated from room to room.
We took 20 minutes to sit around and share memories about Danny.
Dora’s mom started.
My memory was, “I remember I couldn’t get my internet working the first few days I was here. I bought a device I needed installed and it was really early in the morning, like 8am. I came up in my pajamas and asked Danny to fix it right away. He said, ‘Can it wait til after work?’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry, I really can’t live with out internet, can you do it now?’ And he did. He laughed, he came down in his slippers and he fixed my internet. He was nice.”
Others had obscure stories too, about how he helped with a car, or how nice he was. He was so fucking kind, I didn’t see the darkness on him.
After we shared memories, I was faded.
I stumbled outside looking for Frank, and he was holding the bottle of whiskey and laughing heartily with the neighbor. His laugh echoed in the hills.
I crawled into Dora’s bedroom and cried on the knees of a girl who no longer works at Doggie Daycare, but did at one time. I cried. She put her hand on the back of my head and said, “I know. Its a bad thing what happened.”
Dora walked in the room and I sloppily wiped my nose. I could tell my withering emotional state was disappointing her.
People left. Towards the end, I remember screaming at Mississippi that he was good looking.
I remember taking my plate of new coke up to the dining room and snorting it with Trent.
Then I remember throwing up into a trash can and all over Taylor.
Taylor kept saying, “We’re even, right? We’re even.” He was so embarrassed by his birthday party, and here I was, barely able to walk.
I somehow ended up outside the front door step, Trent and Taylor sitting with me as I cried.
Trent said, “You can’t do this alone. You already have too much going on with yourself you need to take care of. This is going to tear you apart. You have to take care of yourself!”
I felt my head and body start vibrating. My teeth were chattering like I was a child fresh out of a bubble bath. I could feel my whole body start convulsing.
Taylor was saying, “Calm down. You aren’t alone.”
And I said, “I am alone. I have to take care of her. I have to!”
Trent tried to calm me down, “No!”
He was getting emotional. My twin flame. Shit. No matter what happens, I will always remember Trent in that moment, being there the best way a human being can be there.
Sasha came out, “We have to get her to bed. WHERE IS FRANK?”
Trent said, “He is on her bed.”
Sasha stomped down into my apartment and flung open the door. Taylor and Trent escorted me into my room. Frank was passed out on my bed, pot belly hanging out with an empty whiskey bottle nearby.
Sasha said, “Come on! Time to go! (My name) needs her bed! UP! LET’S GO!”
Frank opened his eyes, “Whaaaa?”
He was high on Xanax.
He got up and I laid down on my bed, rolled up in some kind of fetal position. I mean, I am a tall, grown woman . . . but I felt like I was disappearing.
My light was on and I saw Sasha and Trent standing at my door telling Frank to leave. Frank was resisting.
Trent said, “You just keep feeding her drugs so you can fuck her. That’s the only reason you’re here. Just go home!”
I was high, and my resentment towards Frank hadn’t quite taken root yet, but I remember feeling so happy someone stood up for me, even though I should have stood up for myself a long time ago.
What I was told later remain two different stories:
Frank claims that he woke up in a daze, that he was accused of trying to feed me drugs, he calmly exited my residence and offered a handshake out by their cars. Sasha barked, “Don’t shake his hand!” And everyone walked away leaving poor Frank to drive home drunk.
Sasha and Trent claim that Frank was belligerent and resisted leaving the residence, spitting as he spoke. Sasha asked him not to spit on her. Frank then took a finger full of coke and snorted it- this was the last I ever saw of that coke (which I am eternally grateful for). There was no handshake. There was just a chubby, rude drunk bitter that he was pushed off a bed and thrown into the cold night to fend for himself.
The next morning, I woke up to Dora screaming.
I walked outside and saw her pop her head out of the hallway window and yell down to me, “STOP! STOP FIGHTING WITH MY MOM! It took me years to get things back to where we were, don’t you understand??”
I said, “What? What are you talking about?” Good Morning.
Dora said, “You are down there in the canyon fighting with my mother, stop!”
I thought, “Did I fight with her mom at all? Fuck, what did I say last night?”
I said, “Last night?”
Dora said, “No, this morning.”
I said, “Hey babe, I just woke up. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
She said, “Where is Frank?”
I said, “Frank!? He went home last night.”
She said, “He isn’t on top of that mountain, screaming at me.”
I looked up at the mountain across from our apartment. No. No one was there.
I said, “Hold on!”
I put on a sweatshirt and walked into her unit.
I said, “What is going on?”
She said, “I swear I just ran all the way up from the canyon where you were fighting with my mom.”
I widened my eyes. My hair wasn’t brushed.
I said, “What canyon?”
She said, “Kagel canyon. WHAT is going on?”
Dora ran out of her apartment and stood in front of the mountain.
She said, “Frank was just there. There he is! He is in your car with my Mom, see!!”
I looked in my car. It was empty.
I said, “Dora, no one is in my car. What the fuck? You need to sleep. You are hallucinating.”
Dora threw her hands up and down then huffed. She said, “You swear you didn’t fight with my mom?”
I said, “Dora, I woke up to you yelling at me. I have no idea what is going on. Why don’t I call your mom?”
She walked away back into her unit.
Now this was new and fun, a psychotic break. GRAND!
I didn’t know what to do, so I texted Frank.
I checked my phone and saw he texted me:
“I am home safe now. It should go without saying that I touched nothing that belonged to you, nothing. I crawled into the bed in which you’ve made me feel so at home many nights. And the funny truth is, with whatever just happened, more even than holding u on a night where I think u needed it, I’ll miss most of all waking up tomorrow morning and taking Maggie (my dog) and the gang for a walk in the park, and talking and laughing with you in the quiet morning hours in the countryside. Its important to have your friends watch your back, but they were way off base tonight. I was fast asleep and have truly no idea why they decided I should go. But I know you love them. I will not interfere with that. There are good hearts in this world, (My Name). They’re closer than u think. I promise. Many hugs and kisses-”
YADA YADA YADA:
I texted back, “Frank, Dora is hallucinating and I don’t know what to do.”
I think I called him and he showed up, only after Dora’s mother came over. As her mother climbed the steps, I said, “She needs to see a therapist immediately.”
Her mother said, “I can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to do. (beat) Its not healthy to have people around encouraging her to dwell on this.”
DWELL ON IT!? He killed himself 2 days ago. And why am I the last person she sees before going to bed and the first person she sees in the morning? Family should either be spending the night or taking her home with them.
I was sure once she spoke to Dora, she would change her mind.
Dora stayed there and argued with her mother.
I think Frank showed up anyway, and wanted to push the martyr routine about the night before. He could have died drunk driving, blah blah blah.
I responded and will always respond, “Its hard to feel sorry for anyone but Dora right now.”
Frank was there though. His presence was a weird comfort, though it served no functional purpose.
I confided in him, “I had a dream last night Abe killed himself.”
Frank said, “Ugh, that’s awful.”
I said, “Yeah, why couldn’t it have been Alan- it wouldn’t have been a nightmare.”
Frank said, “People were acting like it was a party last night, when they should have recognized it was a wake.”
Frank was the one acting like it was a party, laughing heartily, chugging whiskey and making himself at home. It was those friends at Doggie Daycare that were there by our side, holding our hands and letting us collapse on their shoulders. He was asleep on my bed, waiting for the mourners to leave, and waiting for me to be alone again.
He helped me grab cigarettes and made some comment that Dora remembered, “I don’t want to buy you cigarettes. I want to help you, not kill you.” Ironic, seeing as he was feeding me cocaine and xanax in the hopes of fucking me. He knew it, I knew it and Dora knew it.
There was a distance there now, he still feels I need to apologize for siding with my Doggie Daycare friends and I think he needs to shove it up his ass.
I was hoping to reconnect with someone I already had an intimate relationship with. Someone who knew me. Frank was an easy choice because he is unemployed and readily available to be there- but he wasn’t the right choice spiritually or emotionally.
I texted Abe, “I dreamt all night that you killed yourself. I feel like I have been crying for days. You are alive. Thank God.”
Then I texted, “Abe, can you come to me tonight?”
He wrote back, “Don’t dream about me dead! Come on.”
I wrote, “Now she is hallucinating. I love you Abe, I always loved you.”
Him: “R u trying to play with my emotions? Being emotional inhibits rational thought.”
Me: “You always were romantic. I don’t play with emotions. I am here when someone I lived with died. It makes your mind spin.”
I went to work, and for three days, came home to Dora hallucinating. I was convinced her sleeplessness was causing hallucination.
She would ask me what was real and what wasn’t, and I would tell her. I also told her she needed help and that all of this was beyond my ability.
Dora would say, “Its ok! You don’t have to deal with it. I am fine!”
You don’t rationalize with an irrational person. So I stayed there. I listened to her footsteps over head when I laid in bed. I would go to the bathroom and always check to see if her bedroom door was open, if I could hear sheets rustling, if she was eating . . . if she was still alive.
The neighbor asked if I knew if she was “partying”. I said, “I don’t think so.” He said, “When you aren’t here, she is roaming the streets, talking to people who aren’t there.”
On the third day, I woke up to fire engine lights outside my window.
Already, between the coke, the birth control, the smoking and the stress, I was having chest pains over my left breast and in my left arm.
When I woke up from my nap to red lights and that constant, loud hum of the fire engine- my heart stopped. I choked. I got up and ran out to her, I was sure she killed herself.
I asked the police officer standing at her door if she is alright. He said, “Yeah, she just needs some help.”
I said, “Who called?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “They don’t tell us.”
I asked to speak with her, he nodded and I snuck in. I saw her sitting at the kitchen table, tapping her foot on the floor. She refused to look at me.
I got on my knees, put my hand on her leg and said, “Are you ok?”
She pulled away and said, “I hope you are happy.”
I said, “I didn’t call them, but I am glad someone did.”
She turned her whole body away from me and said, “You didn’t call them, so who did? Whatever, just leave me alone.”
So I did. I smoked more cigarettes. I couldn’t catch my breathe, I just kept smoking and breathing and trying to slow down my heart rate.
I am well aware smoking cigarettes doesn’t slow down your heart rate, but it controlled my breathing and I didn’t know what to do.
I eventually made it to work again. Everyone was so understanding there. I was an hour and a half late, but no one cared. They all worked by my side in silence.
Dora texted: “I am not even getting admitted just getting prescription meds.”
I wrote: “Ok good. And someone is talking to you about counseling?”
She wrote, “You’re amazing. I am so sorry you had to go through everything u went through. I seriously love you.”
I wrote back: “I am trying to do everything right.”
When I came home that night, a handwritten sign was on Dora’s door that said, “I am sleeping.”
That made me happy.
I went to the bathroom, went back downstairs, and cuddled with my dogs alone. My family wasn’t there and there really was no one else I am so close to they could help bring my head back.
Except for Abe.
Abe texted me: “Ok. Saturday.”