Friday, September 6, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: How Jay Processes Grief



Spend one minute on the phone with her widower, learning the news and asking the questions everyone does, in Jay's case, because he thinks that's what you're supposed to do.

Spend twelve minutes on the phone with her widower, the widower trying to console Jay when all the widower wants is to hang up and grieve with his family. Jay will spend eleven of these minutes feeling worse about being consoled by the widower than about the death, which doesn't seem real, and socially stumbling and failing to let the widower go do what he obviously wants to.

Spend thirty-two minutes staring at the clouds through his window, drapes halfway pulled. They are snagged in a way he's never understood.

Spend two minutes fixing the cord on the drapes.

Spend all night watching clips of her favorite shows on Youtube, and searching for related things, and forgetting her entirely and laugh at Youtube videos until his alarm clock goes off and he realizes he forgot to go to bed and he remembers why.

Spend eight minutes in the shower wondering if rain on your face could ever really be mistaken for tears.

Spend three minutes toweling off and wondering if he's ever cried in his adult life, and if it's bad that he's not crying.

Spend lunch break spreading the news around the office and finding all the social crannies are already filled with the grief-news. Pause awkwardly whenever someone seems shaken up by her death; despite desiring to share the news, he is utterly unprepared to talk to someone affected by it.

Spend two hours of work time wondering why.

Go to the wake.

Go to the funeral.

Go to the after-work drinks thing on Friday that is not about her death but is absolutely and totally about her death.

Get drunk enough to spend thirteen minutes in a red-faced argument over what her religion was. Get thrown out. Relentlessly kick a dumpster for no good reason.

Spend drive home thinking she'd be on his side for that argument and they're all full of shit and never liked her as much as he did and remember some more Youtube videos to hunt down.

Spend fifty-two years occasionally remembering her because of a funny video, or when bumper repair is mentioned, or whenever someone actually looks happy in a Christmas sweater, sometimes eliciting a pang, sometimes a tranquil smile, and very occasionally eliciting the feeling that "over it" and "not over it" are nonsense terms.

Go senile. Forget her.

32 comments:

  1. Damn. What a punch.

    Love this, John. Very much.

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    1. Thank you, Celeste. Yours is a particularly kind first endorsement to get.

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  2. Now I very dare you to use this verbatim as a funeral oration.

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  3. Digging deep with this one, John. Good work.

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    1. Sometimes it feels like I'm up to my elbows in very few words. I'm glad it clicked for you, Tony. I'm also sorry.

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  4. Wow, quite a powerful story! That last line was quite a kick in the gut.

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    1. That closer is a sentiment I've been mulling over for a few years now after losing my grandfather to the slow decay of dementia. It's something I definitely have to spend more time with.

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    2. Tail end of the fifth paragraph. I think it's because that's when you use both pronouns in the same paragraph/sentence.

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  5. As usual, there are some poingant details in here that grab hold and shake you- hard. You have a truly staggering talent for that.

    But the overall tone confused me. It seemed like an imperative which implies second person but then it says "Jay" and "he" and "his". Is this a style of writing that I know nothing about? I kind-of assume so, since there's a decent number and variety of styles of writing I know nothing about...

    But like I said- the devil in the details, the stumbling feeling of it all, the emotions without actually naming any emotions- all brilliant.

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    1. It wasn't a style I was deliberately aping from anyone, and even if it were an established style, if it didn't work for you then I'd cop to shortcomings. I wanted to ride a border between obvious imperative and second person and the distance we sometimes use to avoid that we're obviously talking about a specific person - sometimes ourselves. Putting Jay just off-center while it being the chronicle of how some of what he went through, and the stumbling is intentional, but if the approach didn't work for you, then I screwed up.

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  6. Easily one of my favorites, John!
    Having lost someone dear to me, I can fully appreciate the writing style - there is a distance when dealing with such things and trying to move on though all the while one is still so close to it all.

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  7. I found myself wondering about Jay's relationship with the deceased. Co-worker, likely. Someone he was slightly attracted to, maybe. Someone he knew from a long time before, possibly. It's a wonderful sketch about the awkward ways that death hits harder than you think.

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    1. All valid inferences. It's hardly my place to say all the reasons he misses her.

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  8. The last line really stands out.

    I am with Larry - I was also wondering what the realtionship. Co-worker/friend, and someone he was a little bit attracted.

    The pronouns (i.e. her favorite shows on Youtube) confused me until I realized the main character was a guy and a woman had died.

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    1. Can you isolate at which point the pronouns clicked for you?

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  9. I, too, wondered how he was related to the deceased. Closer than you would think at first glance, I think. An affair, maybe?

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  10. John, I found this so damn sad in so many ways then the last line just about finished me off.

    Very powerful writing!

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    1. That's largely how it felt to write. Thank you.

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  11. Ouch. I have recognised this too often. And some of it (which I hope I have eradicated) in myself.
    Another thought provoking stunner. Thank you.

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  12. Your writing blows me away. Seriously.

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    1. Thank you, Melanie. That's very kind of you to say.

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  13. Really loved this. Though it was also hard to read. Partially because I tend to grieve privately, and never know what to say to anyone who is in a tough spot, and so his awkwardly trying to wrap his head around the loss of this person (however close they actually were) was something I could definitely relate to.

    But also that last line... wow. This one brought me to tears.

    My own grandpa died three years ago, after spiraling downwards with dementia for nearly a decade. He was often confused about what was going on in present day, and very rarely recognized anybody at the end. And yet... and yet, the one person he never forgot was my grandma. He could sit and tell you stories about the day they met, why he fell for her, and various other memories from their past. He didn't know I was his granddaughter, and rarely recognized his kids... but he never forgot her. I know it's not always like that, but I know it was a blessing (and often the only blessing) for my grandma (who is now the only grandparent I have left).

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  14. This is great, John. As usual. I can totally identify with much of Jay's grief process. Hopefully not that last line, though. That was unexpected, and so sad, sadder than the death and all the awkward grieving thereafter. A punch in the gut.

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  15. I hate the realism pouring through this piece. It gives me shivers, and that is how I know it's good.

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  16. You've definitely captured grief in this short piece. I loved the part about the snag in the curtains--little mundane details like that are so the kinds of things that interrupt grief thoughts. I also loved the last line. Awesome!

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  17. "I'm quite concerned about looking concerned" -- The Teardrop Explodes, "The Great Dominion"

    I liked how the actual relationship wasn't entirely clear at first. Then once it was, I wondered what the intended relationship was.

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  18. Another top story John. Like those above, I thought the last line really packed a punch.

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  19. The last line didn't have the same punch for me as it apparently did for most everyone else. Given the depth of his grief, I think the feeling that "over it" and "not over it" are nonsense terms is a poignant summation.

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