(No longer) For the taking-Part IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

It was a week or so before his cousin responded to my email. And when she did, I couldn't breath. I remember standing in my kitchen, and becoming conscious of this tightness in my chest and knowing I needed to breathe, just breathe for damn sake.

He spent all day cleaning his place. He was off for the day.
He waited until almost midnight to eat.
He went to McDonalds, got 2 double cheeseburgers and a drink.
His roommate found him the next morning in his bedroom. There was one double cheeseburger in the bag.
He had waited too long to eat. He had waited too long to take notice of his blood sugar. 

As I type these words, I feel my face grow hot with anger and grief, even now. Damn it Kevin, why the hell weren't you paying attention to yourself?? How could you let yourself go so long that you DIED?? It seems so unnecessary.

He was cremated. His ashes were thrown off the California coast, scattered into the Pacific. There is no grave to visit. 

Images of him flash in my head, flipping faster and faster through memories, so young, so full of life. And this picture, the most recent of him that I have: 

The week I found out about Kevin's death is the same week my now ex-husband told me he no longer wanted to be married to me. To say the least, my emotions about these two things are all twisted and knotted and forever tangled. I tried to push out my thoughts of Kevin's death...I had to focus on my all-of-a-sudden crumbling life. Yet....

I stopped to grab a smoothie and a water on my way to one of my grad classes. I shoved the receipt into my bag without a thought. Sitting in class, I pulled my notepad out of my bag, and the receipt fell into my lap. The total was $5.38.
Between my 2nd & 3rd classes, I ran over to Wendy's for a quick lunch. The total? $5.38.
That evening, after my last class, I met with 2 friends at a local bar. I was sick to my stomach about all the shit going on in my life, and needed my friends. I ordered some foo-foo martini as we all talked. Our server's shift was over, so we had to close our tabs out before getting a new server. My total? $5.38.
It was barely a blip on my radar the first 2 times. But that time? I burst into tears, realizing the impact of 3 damn numbers in a certain order.
The significance? Back in the days of pagers, when my friends would page, they would add their name at the end of phone number so I would know who it was. 538 was Kev, for Kevin.
I sat in that bar and sobbed. I explained to my friends the numbers, the connection between Kevin and I, my grief at losing someone I had already lost, years ago. And someone played this song on the jukebox:

And now I can't hear that damn song without being filled with that overwhelming ache no one can explain but everyone can conjur up in their soul if they just think about it for a second or two.
And the number, 538? I see it all the time. I get it as a total somewhere. I wake up out of a dead sleep and it is 5:38am when I glance over at my alarm clock. I sit in traffic on the way home, and I happen to glance at the clock several times a week when it says 5:38. I don't do it on purpose. And each time, I just sorta laugh, because it's ridiculous.

When I knew there was no saving my marriage, I went to that park, in the hopes that I could find some strength in one of my old 'spots'. I sat in the parking lot of the park, but I couldn't move. I sat there, willing my hands to open the door, my legs to propel me down that path towards that 3rd curve, where I was so hoping I could find some answers, maybe a little bit of peace. But, no. I sat frozen in my car, staring at the walking path, fearful of everything.
I sat there until dusk. I felt very empty, but overwhelmingly full of so much. I closed my eyes for awhile, with my head on the steering wheel, arms cradled, exhausted from the crying, from the thinking, from the reasoning with myself, with God, with no one. I had felt alone for so long, but this was one of the worst moments.
I don't know how long I was asleep. I heard, in my head, someone say my name. I woke with a start, and for a brief moment didn't know where I was, how long I had been there, why I was there. I glanced out the windshield, seeing the path, remembering. I looked at the clock, 5:38. I shook my head, beginning to feel a little crazy about these numbers.

But suddenly? I did not feel so alone. I'm sure I sound as crazy as I felt, but I had the strongest feeling that he was there. My body was covered in goosebumps, and I felt a calmness I hadn't felt in a long time. I sat frozen, willing the feeling--him--to stay.

Of course, it passed.

Now: I still see that number on receipts, on the alarm clock. I still hear songs sometimes, and I think of him. And these things pop up at the most appropriate times, and I just smile and shake my head.

And I still grieve for him. I googled his name, and found a video someone posted of him, the year he passed away. And I sat in awe, to hear his laugh and his voice and to see his smile and see him move and be alive.... I cried and cried. I was hoping to find a video of him playing his guitar. I wish so badly that I still had the tapes of the songs he played and sent me. I wish so badly that he was alive....he had such a strong spirit and such a talent for music. It kills me to think that there is music out there, that none of us will ever experience, because it was in his head, his heart, and it was never transposed into a melody we all could hear. 
There's a teeny part of me that knows it's ridiculous to grieve for someone I had lost so long ago. But that part of me is also the same part of me that thinks *I* am to blame for my ex-husband no longer loving me. It's irrational. So I push that part of me back down into the darkness, and push forward. 

I miss him. I can't believe that after all he went through with drugs, the near-death experience in high school....that he would still ignore his blood sugar. 

I walk through my days, carrying his tune within my soul, jumbled up and mixed with the tunes of so many other memories.  


Re-post: For the taking-Part III

Twelve years.
For me: Heartache. Love. Commitment. Marriage. Graduation. Houses. Childbirth. Grad School.
For him: Heartache. Drugs. A child. Sobriety.

While pregnant, I walked the trail by the creek. Kevin came to mind at that 3rd curve, but I shoved him out of my mind, back to his little cave in the center of my heart. I would hear certain songs and my chest would clench.
I did a search for him on Myspace a couple of times, wondering if he was still alive. I know that sounds morbid, but I had an idea that things had not gone well back then.

In 2009, twelve years after that letter, after my life took another path, I received a message from him via Myspace.
He was alive.
And sober.
And healthy.

He apologized; I barely acknowledged it. We emailed back and forth a bit, about life:
He had a son, but rarely saw him, against his will. He was sober. He went to church, played for the band there, was involved in the youth program.
I told him about my path, my marriage, my child, my job.
I expressed relief at knowing he was okay after all these years.
He expressed relief at the fact that I even responded to his email.

A month later, I had a series of dreams about him, struggling, fighting, crying out. I sent him a message, asking if he is okay: Is he struggling with his sobriety? Is he taking care of his diabetes?
He responds that he is doing well, that his diabetes is fine, but we could all use a bit more strength and prayer. He reassures me that he will never go to that place again.

That was 10 months ago.

The night I wrote this post, I heard one of the two songs in the post. That's what prompted the post in the first place. I sat right where I'm sitting now, and felt a hollow pain in my gut. After hitting publish, I went to Myspace to send him a message.
I'm not sure what I would have said in the email. How I was sorry our paths had diverged? How I missed him? How I felt guilty even thinking about the 'us' of 12 years prior, since I adore my hubby? What??
I clicked on his profile, only to see several people's comments saying they would miss him and they loved him. Like an idiot, I left a comment: "Where are you Kevin? Are you okay??"
I then did a google search, feeling the bile rise into my mouth.
He died.

He died a few weeks after our last brief email conversation. I sat in this chair, where I sit now, and sobbed. I emailed his cousin via Myspace, asking her what had happened. I searched my county's medical examiner website, hoping there was an autopsy with his name on it, and dreading it at the same time. There was none.

I found his obit online. It mentions his son's name. I sobbed even more.
I spent a fair amount of time online, searching all over, trying to find out what happened.
I barely slept that night.
I waited for almost 3 weeks for his cousin's response.