I don't know where to start. I have a crater of words, but somehow a lifetime of explaining myself and feelings in notebooks and on computer screens has failed; nothing has weight. There seem to be no ways in which I can capture the pain or the shock that I have lived with now for two months and a week.
On March 18th at about 10:10 pm my father, Jim Horan, was killed in a car accident. Nothing bigger or smaller than that. Simple and quiet it almost seems. Simple and quiet I think of it now.
About three hours later, a group of police officers, a coroner and a priest approached our home and woke my mother up with the news that her husband was dead. One sentence after asking to all be let in. She told them it couldn't be true, but they quietly handed her his cell phone and his wallet.
He drove right off the road. He had a pulse, but only for a moment. Do you have children? Anyone you can call?
She told them she did, but that her children were children.
How old are they she was asked. She told them our ages. They aren't children, they are adults. Call them.
My phone erupted me out of sleep at 1:30 am. I saw my mother's face on my iPhone screen and answered the phone screaming, "Mom?!" Knowing it was too late to call about anything other than death. I answered the phone and lived my last seconds in my old life.
It's dad. He's dead. He was killed in a car accident. You need to get your brother and come home.
And then the world exploded. Lights were on, screaming and screaming. I screamed so much my cat ran out of the room and had diarrhea in his litter box. Ben stared at the walls, at me. I stare at my clothes, at my face. I see myself sitting up in the bed, I see myself from across the room. But it doesn't feel like a dream at all. In fact it feels almost familiar; like I knew it would happen. As if the phone call was too shocking to actually shock me. It was not a nightmare, it was my waking life and I knew everything instantly.
We stand around for a few minutes and then my brother calls. His voice is deep and calm. I cannot imagine mine, but we are only on the phone for seconds. I tell him Ben and I will walk over, somehow plans are made that Ben will drive. Ben cleans off the cat and I put on socks and a bra. My hands are vibrating and my skin is hot. We look frantically around our apartment what do we bring, what do we do? There is nothing. We learn a first small lesson that nothing is needed.
We have to go, I tell him and we run out of the house. It's a quiet Saturday night. My mind replays my mother's words over and over and Ben and I dig our fingers into each other's palms. I probably murmur some sort of no's or ask him if this is real life, but nothing was really said. The streets are empty and glowing with golden lamp posts as we quietly turn corners. I feel bigger than the world, like I had been shot full with electric bolts. I think to myself that I could walk anywhere I wanted to right then. I could walk forever and ever and never tire.
That thought does not live long though because a final turn brings us to my younger brother's street and down two blocks I see him standing, pacing in circles. And then it hits like the wave everyone says comes for you, but grief is a wave and it came and it push me down to the cement, down through the world, through the core and I was melted and then reformed and then pulled through an ocean, through land, through the sky and then back to the spot where I had started with every part of me broken and rebuilt, not a version of myself was the same. I had been swallowed, I was over.
We start running and then we are all together and the two of them hug me into them so hard I actually think that my nose might break, but I say nothing and we all stand together in the night without one word. Three friends who the night before had smoked cigarettes and seen our favorite band play on St. Patrick's Day. Who had drank until the sun rose and slept until noon the next day. We had a life before. We had things that we did and loved. My brother hands my husband his keys and we get into the car. Everyone breathes. We turn off the radio and the heat and hit every red light.
My mind becomes something I can no longer control. It begins to move without my consent, it starts to ask questions, to remember things. I am a child in a swimming pool, I can taste the chlorine. I am asking my dad questions and he is sparkling at me. I am older and playing catch in the sandy sun. My dad throws very hard, he wants me to be the best. He always wants me to be the best. I remember emailing him my poems in college and him leaving me a voicemail telling me it was the best writing he'd read all year and I had never received a bigger compliment. I think maybe it won't be so bad. I think I'll do a grief group. We'll all do grief groups. But my heart sinks and sinks like heavy rocks that I cannot hold.
As we turn off the highway and begin the descent to our hometown I begin to scream, does anyone know where this happened? Is it here?? Will we see it?
I bury my head between my legs, not able to look around me. There are trees and poles and somehow I know that he has hit a pole. I don't know how I could have known; it might have been said to me during one of the phone calls though no one can remember for sure. Or maybe I did just know. Things that lay between my life before and my life now are weightless and uncertain. There is nothing I can trust. My mind thinks so many things- it goes everywhere in the world in those last few minutes, picking up speed as my body begins to recognize the curves of the road. It reaches every memory, it opens drawers and flips over tables. I think of everything, I think of my life, I squeeze my eyes as tightly as I can and I wish so deeply that this is not true, could I just turn back the clock a few hours, could I just go back in time and then we are in front of our home and there are police cars. I throw open the door of the car and the boys begin to shout, but I am off across the lawn running as fast as I can and then I am at the front door and I open it to a room full of men and then it happens. Then it is real.
I bring the wave.