When someone I love dies, it feels like falling asleep. The volume gets turned down on almost everything, but my keys in the door are deafening because I know that, when I go inside, I’ll have to pretend I’m not asleep or else Boyfriend will worry, and I can’t handle babysitting his emotions and mine at the same time. When he is gone, I swim through the apartment, hovering, hardly breathing. Nothing moves, nothing reacts, but the chair seems almost offended when I sit down, so I stand, not knowing what to do, not caring because in a dream, these things don’t matter.
A friend sends me a link to an online comic with a skeleton. My eyebrows jump up and I exhale quickly through my nose in a spontaneous imitation of the beginnings of laughter, and then the heavy, slow-moving pall settles again; the dream returns, wraps itself around me, neutral and insulating, and the skeletons are just lines on a page.
That night I am a boulder with open eyes chiseled into its side, under a thin blanket in the dark, a long stone on an uneven mattress, and suddenly it occurs to me that I have been nudged toward awakening. My eyes crunch like gravel as I blink. Do stones move? No, I decide. I shift. Oh. Then, I decide, I am not a stone after all.
At the moment it means almost nothing. Months later, a friend will kick a magnolia seed pod into the street, and I will realize I did not move myself that evening. A set of poorly-assembled bones brushed against me, and the first sounds of my awakening whispered in the dark: fine-grit sandpaper finding a nail, a match that won’t light, a bony finger drifting across a human-shaped stone. I’ll watch the seeds scatter and bounce across the blacktop and wonder, was there a moment when I started waking up? Yes, I decide. That was it.
[for the record, this is my memory of dealing with grief. I haven’t experienced this in a few years]