14 September 2011

And the house of cards comes tumbling down...Pt. I

After a rather late night out Saturday, I awoke Sunday morning around 7am to Ma Liason frenetically pulling on clothes.
“There's missed calls and messages from my brother that they've taken my grandfather to the hospital.”
He calls his brother to get details and I hear his brother through the iPhone speaker tell him that their grandfather didn't make it.

His wail is heartwrenching. “What do you mean he didn't make it?” I hug him tightly as he cries, rubbing his back in circles, disjointedly remembering that my mom would do the same when I was a child.

He abruptly continues getting dressed, “I have to go there.” I attempt to cajole him into slowing down, beg even. Just give yourself 15 minutes, I say. I'll make you coffee, you just woke up, you shouldn't be driving on the motorcycle right this immediate instant when you've had such a huge shock.

He acquiesces to the coffee, abruptly sits down on my couch like his legs gave out and begins to sob. Huge body racking, air gulping sobs ripped from his soul. I bend over him and hug him and rub his back again.

When he stops, he grabs his helmet, refuses to wait for me to make him some coffee. I trail him to the door, where I grab his chin and look at him. His eyes bright blue and bloodshoot, all puffy and slitty from too little sleep and too much shock; he refuses to meet mine. “Text me when you get there.”

He doesn't. I gnaw at a ragged cuticle, try to distract myself with reading a book, of which I read a sentence and immediately go back to the beginning of it, like a record skipping, because I've totally forgotten what I just read.

Eventually I fall back asleep, dreaming that Ma Liason is some type of Dexter-like serial killer who pronounces “Ti amo” with blood dripping down his arms like a surgeon who's just scrubbed in an abattoir and I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I ask him “Why did you have to tell me this now?”. And then we are on our knees tearfully scrubbing textured linoleum with toothbrushes under two inches of water. And then I wake up, discombobulated and uneasy and wondering where the hell the toothbrushes came from. And Dexter, considering I've seen maybe two episodes years ago. What the fuck, subconscious?

I flail around for my phone to see if he messaged. Still nothing. I wonder if I should call him or if I should just wait, not wanting to be intrusive in a moment of grief. (Moment?!)

Eventually he calls, his voice raw and subdued. The funeral is Monday, and it's up to me to decide if I want to come.
"No, that is your decision. Do you want me there?"
"Yes, I'd like it if you were, but it's up to you."
"Then it's settled. I'm coming."
He calls even later, saying that he'd sleep at his parents' house that night, and go home early in the morning to change for the funeral and pick me up. Again he tells me that he understands if I don't come, and I respond with something along the lines of smetti di fare schimenze.

I go to bed, but not before trying on every black dress I own in the search to find something acceptable to wear. In spite my penchant for black clothes and having attended my uncle's funeral in 2009, I really don't have a wide range of options available, especially with the waning summer heat. I try on a sleeveless sheath; it was hanging off of me when my uncle died, my anorexiclly skinny frame testament to the horrid breakup a few months prior. Now it is snug, just this side of too tight. Like Holly Golightly meets Sophia Vergara. Probably too tight for a church service. I settle on a 3/4 sleeve A-line shift, better suited for winter, black tights, and the uncomfortable chunky black heels. It occurs to me that I have only stilettos and tennis shoes, no flats.

My alarm goes off at 5.30 and I am ready in half an hour. He calls to say he's arrived and I go downstairs, sunglasses already strategically in place. I don't see his car and am about to call him when I see him turn the corner on foot, his steps slow and tired and painful to watch. I just say "Ciao" and hug him, not saying anything else.

I never know what to say in these situations. I used to earnestly spout the trite cliche platitudes one finds so readily at one's lips in those situations, well intentioned and with my heart on my sleeve. Then the Year O' Hell happened, and I lost my appetite for earnestness and platitudes, no matter how universally true or well intentioned.

So on the car ride to his parent's place outside Rome, I say very little, just listen and prompt a little when he occasionally fills in details of the previous day, his voice horse and low and the sun rising onto an obscenely bright and beautiful day as I sightlessly stare from behind my sunglasses at the passing landscape outside the window.

It's going to be hot.

To be continued...

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