The Shift

I was living with these fine folks after a caregiving stint in Wenatchee, WA. I still owe them money for all the alcohol I drank at their house. I left their house to stay with a friend the day before my brother died. I miss them.

I was going through my writings, examining the words that came from a very dark place and some that screamed, almost maniacally. I get those times and I’m glad that I was able to move through them. I have been through a lot these past few years. With my brother’s death, though utterly devastating, I have reached a time of abundance.

I think of what it would mean if I were still in the same place and had abundance. I would have wasted it, squandered it all. I am not the same person I was two years ago. I’m not even the same person I was last year. Now that I have gone through a period of solitude and grief, I’m ready to explore the chasms of my soul a little more, inch by inch.

I do not delight in the death of my brother however, I have found a spiritual release in it all. I do feel as if my brother was a part of me, tied to my very soul, and that when he passed, so did the intense weight of all the pain that made us who we were together. He took that part away for me, I feel.

I recall my brother looking at me with a deep sadness and saying, “I hate seeing you like this; it’s like you’re not even here.” I looked at him, barely coherent, with a crushing weight in my chest, and started crying. My voice caught in my throat and I wanted to tell him, “I’m dying” but I knew that he wouldn’t understand.

I thought it was me; I was sure of it. I felt ill, my blood had been rejected by a blood bank, and I had had a strange call from the CDC, asking me questions about my health as well as my lifestyle. It struck fear into me, the dread of mortality. I was in Wisconsin when this all moved me. I had to go home; it was time.

I brought paperwork to our bar, an advanced directory, and I told my favorite bartender to “give it to my asshole brother” the next time he saw him. I asked my brother about it later and he told me that he threw it away because it was “weird” and that he didn’t want to think about it. I felt an urgency to do more but he was adamant about not preparing for our demise before the age of 40.

I spent my days as drunk as I could be, not only because it was the only way that I could spend the most time with him. It was also because that was the only place where I felt I could operate. I knew a change was coming and I was deeply afraid of its consequences. I knew that the life that I knew would end very soon, and it did.

I spent the last year of my brother’s life trying to spend it with him as if I were dying, not really knowing why until the day I saw him walk into the bar that I found myself at first. He told me about his chest before, but this time there was a sincerity that rested on the verge of real, existential fear. I had seen that fear a few times right there in the expression in his eyes, when he had his coughing fits. My brother thought he had a mass. That mass was his heart.

He told me that he felt a pressure but he always said it was on the right side. Sometimes I wonder if he only said it was that side because he knew we’d freak out about his heart. We had a real conversation about it that day. I looked him in his eyes and asked him why he would not go to the Doctor and see if it was something that could be fixed. He looked me square in the eye and said, “If it’s something that can’t be fixed, I’ll just go harder and then everyone will be mad at me for not trying.” I nodded my head in resignation, that this was his choice and told him that I understood.

I kept feeling like things were going to be the last. The last Thanksgiving, the last time he saw my daughter, the last time we drank together. I had quit drinking again for the hundredth time and I couldn’t stand it. I told him, “I want this to be the last, last time we drink together.” We had a great night together but that wasn’t the last time I saw him.

I had come to the house he was living at. He was laying on the couch and wouldn’t look at me. I asked him if he was going to go trim with me up the hill and he declined. He wouldn’t get up to even hug me. I remember crying my eyes out to his friend as she was giving me a ride. I said, “He doesn’t even know. That could be the last time we ever see each other.” It was. I knew. I knew it in my bones and it hurt me more than our mother ever could.

I’ve only known that feeling with my brother, the knowing, the premonition of where things will go. There were times where I knew where he was. I texted him five days before his death, asking him when he was going to come up to Seattle to live with me. I texted him a month earlier saying that I felt nervous and thought that it might be about someone. I told him I loved him in the next text.

Four days before he died I was living with friends. Three of those nights I got absurdly drunk and sat there with tears rolling down my face, looking like a weirdo. One of those days I looked at my co-worker and said, “If I don’t show up to work just know that it’s not in my character to do so.” He looked at me and said, “So I should assume that something bad has happened?” I looked at him somberly, pursed my lips, and nodded, as if in resignation.

The last night with my roommates I told my long-time friend that I wanted to die. I felt it; I really could not handle how much I hurt inside. My friend showed me where the gun was in his couch, as if to dare me. That night I called another friend and asked if I could go to his house to stay. I told him that I didn’t feel safe. He picked me up with all of my things the next evening and I slept on a blow-up mattress in his living-room.

The next day at work I felt increasingly nervous, as if I was going to lose something important to me. I kept trying to read into things. My co-worker took over work that I normally do, they’re going to fire me. I told my other co-worker that I felt extremely insecure that day. During my second break I was alone in the warehouse and I saw someone in the chair next to me. Problem is that no one was physically there when I turned to understand what I saw.

I got the call when I got home. The sound in my sister-in-law’s voice was urgent, “Jessica…Jessica…” Trepidation in my voice, “What is it?” I could feel my heart sinking. Before I knew it I was walking down the sidewalk, hyperventilating and balling, walking to the store to get cigarettes. I cried all night long, and I’ve cried nearly every day since. I miss him so much. I felt him in every part of my being. It doesn’t feel fair that things are going so right right now. I want to share it with him…in some way I’m sure I am.

Author: jessicaambateman

I am a survivor of childhood abuse on the verge of speaking out. I have waited my whole life to have the luxury of spilling my guts and blogging is going to become part of that journey.

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