Since moving back to Ireland this year, I’ve read nearly 25 different books, and I am absolutely loving it. New series, recommendations from friends, family, and the internet, and re-reading of some old favorites. I haven’t read any of these books specifically thinking about 3, and since the two purportedly relevant ones I read over the holidays were decidedly un-relevant, I wasn’t expecting anything overly personal.
Then, this past week, I started reading the 13th novel in a fantasy-ish series that a couple of friends recommended months ago. The always-wonderful KP sent me the whole series for my Kindle (easily my favorite new toy from Christmas this year), and I’ve been devouring the story since then. It’s gotten progressively darker, as most serialized stories are wont to do, but it wasn’t until the 13th book that I was really thrown.
Guys, this book fucked with my soul. As I was reading it, I desperately wanted to e-mail Not-Father Pete or KP, both of whom recommended the series to me, to tell them as much. In the book, the reader gets a few detailed flashbacks, illustrating how much the protagonist went through before the series started, how damaged he is. Because I’ve read 12 books about this guy over the past 3 months, I’ve become quite fond of the character and felt myself empathizing with the broad strokes of the situation. Huh. We’re all fucked up, and we can never truly escape the horrors of our past, no matter how amazing the people around us are.
Then, during one such expository conversation, a friend of the protagonist uses the phrase “That’s the difference between dead and gone.” I. Mean. Really. I am not so arrogant to think that I’m the first person in the world ever to think of or write down that phrase, but still. To have it come in the middle of a book that was already pummeling me with a storm of introspection that I wasn’t prepared for seemed a bit much.
And then I finished the book on Friday and got over it and moved on. Maybe, having let myself get so wrapped up in the series, I resonated with the idea of not being able to escape from a painful past even if I didn’t have a dead brother, duplicate phrasing notwithstanding. But I do have a dead brother, and I’ll always have a dead brother, so that’s where things end up now.
And that brings us to Story #2: I was on a job interview a few weeks ago, out to lunch with one of the search committee members. She struck me as a straightforward, no-time-for-sugarcoating kind of person – just the kind I like. While we were chatting, veering further and further away from actual job-related topics, she mentioned that her son committed suicide 4 and a half years ago.
Three years ago, if someone had said that to me on a job interview, I probably would have been more than a bit thrown off. I mean, who says that kind of thing to a complete stranger? Suicide is such an uncomfortable topic! Well, yes, it is, and it always will be. But now, I understand. I’ve felt the compulsion to talk about it, even in situations where it doesn’t come close to being socially acceptable. So I get it. And, in turn, I told her about 3. And we spent the rest of lunch discussing the details of our stories, the quirks of grief, and the variety of ways other people respond, from potentially insulting to utterly perfect.
I’ve shared 3’s suicide with strangers before, but, at the moment, I can’t remember ever sharing it in a random situation with someone who knows how it feels. I was also a bit stunned to hear Interviewer describe how, over four years later, she is just now feeling like she’s moving forward from the fog of grief. Four and a half years?!? Is that what my mom is going to have to go through?
That, to me, was the most stunning part. I’ve lived over two years without my baby brother. I think I’ve learned a lot, and I know I’ve had a much easier time than Mom and RJ, but it’s still very much a part of me, even if it’s very rarely on the surface. I know it’s always going to be a part of me, two, four, ten years down the road, for the rest of my life. Hearing it out loud, from someone who’s been there, was just a bit jarring. Enough for me to write it down, anyway.