The week after the funeral, I return to my creaky apartment in the city.
And I go crazy.
I do everything people say you will do, but it happens fast and moves like a flip book. I move through the stages of grief moment to moment: anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance. Bargaining, denial, anger, acceptance. He died, I should have known. It's ok, I'll get him back. Over and over. I change the channels on the TV, I put on a different perfume. I buy two candles at $40 each and I alternate the scents in my room. I want to feel good. I want anything to feel good. I think to myself that I will pay any amount of money to feel good again. Anything.
I become obsessed with religion, but I can't really bring myself to go anywhere with it. I think: I'll wear a burqa and hold e-meters, let you record my secrets. I'll dress in white robes and I'll go down to the river. I'll roll my eyes into the back of my head and speak in tongues as a crowd cheers me on. Hold my head under water. Give me a carpet, I'll pray five times a day. On my hands and knees until the skin rubs raw. I won't eat for a month, I'll give up pork, beef. I won't drink wine, I won't listen to loud music. I will travel to the dusty road in Alabama where the devil sits with his guitar and I'll trade him my soul. He'll draw it like a thread from my lungs. I think over and over how can I bring you back, how can I just bring you back. If you just showed me I could do it. I feel alone in every room I go into.
I think often that I am too young for this. That I am not ready. I want a different life. Give it back, I will do anything. I'll believe in anything.
I spend a lot of time googling celebrities who lost their parents in their twenties--not when they were kids, when they were in their twenties. That part matters. I keep a list on my phone: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tig Notaro, Casey Wilson. My mother makes me swear on the day that the Chicago Tribune posted pictures of the crash that I will never look. I promise her, so I look at Princess Diana's instead. I study them while I'm at work, I pull them up while I'm in the bathroom. Before I go to bed. I read that her heart moved from one side of her chest to the other. I don't know how my father actually died and I break down and cry about this hourly. The hours turn into days and then into weeks. I think on loop how did you die though? Why didn't I just ask someone the night of? How can I ever know? How can I find the bravery to just ask?
I have more anger than I think my body can handle (though I know now that your body can handle it all). Everything I thought I couldn't live through, I have lived. Somehow. You could too.
I feel sick with rage. I eat terrible food and my stomach hurts both sharp and dull. I take so many pills to sleep that my mom tells me it's not addiction she feared, but that I would fall and hurt myself. The next night I hit my head on a door knob. I wake up in the morning achy-necked and cold. I realize I cannot die in her lifetime. I feel anger that I have lost that too and think that I should be allowed to die whenever I please. But I cannot. I can never die, never grow old. I slow down with the pills.
A man asks me for change on the street as I leave my fancy building downtown. It is my third day back at work. As I shake my head and tuck my neck into my wool collar he yells after me and asks why I am ignoring him. I think of turning around and unleashing my burning rage on him like a storm out of my fingers. I want to tear the potted plants from the concrete planters that dot the scene around us. I want to smash the car windows. I want to cause chaos on this perfectly manicured street. I see myself screaming my father was killed two weeks ago! I am not ignoring you, I am fucking broken! I am a rocket hurtling towards the moon. I am a nuclear war. I am Hiroshima. I am the word shattered.
I tuck a strand of my nicely highlighted hair behind my ear and walk on. I think of the cliche I have heard time and time again: "Everyone is fighting their own hard battle". I look up and down Michigan Avenue and I think that mine must be the hardest, but I catch myself and pull away from that thought. No good has ever come from comparing one grief to another's unknown.
A boy who is dead is in the news and I read his story every chance I get. He drank too much at a frat party and fell down the stairs. His parents are suing 18 of his frat brothers for his death. For treating him as though he were drunk and not someone who had been critically injured in a fall. I think about the need to punish others; to sue. In lieu of your own pain. I can see how that would be a logical outlet: burn others and keep your heart at a simmer. Crush the world for crushing you. Take away other people's children because they were there for when yours was taken. I can feel it. I could look his parents in the eye.
I ask my mom if there were any amount of money in the world that would make her feel better and she gives me the answer I expected. I think of what it would be like to have millions, to never need to work again. But there is no fantasy to be had because all I really want is for my dad not to be dead. Money cannot buy life, it can't actually buy that much at all. Not the good stuff anyway. I wish I could call the boy's parents and tell them to just work on their hearts. I think that at the end of the day they will still need to look in the mirror. They'll think that their faces look different too, I bet.
I am broken and living in the same moments. I relive them on a loop. I watch it from my eyes, from my brother's, from the police's. My mother tells me that they had all sat quietly until she heard our car in the driveway. She actually thought to herself wait until you see my daughter. It will be like a movie now.
I see myself holding my mother protectively in the center of our living room, my eyes are dark and wild and they shoot like darts from man to man. I roar.
WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED
I am shaking and violent. I want to scare them. I want everyone in the room to be so scared of me that they undo this. That they turn to each other and give the signal to turn back the clock; we are not the family to mess with. I have never experienced such anger in my life. How dare they come to my home and look at me, look at my mother. I feel dangerous. I cradle my mother, our roles exchanging seamlessly.
The men bend their bald heads, their eyes unable to meet mine. The coroner steps forward. He is the smallest one of the bunch. I think that these must be the police who wrote the reports, who found my dad. The small one is the guy who gets woken up. He knows what to do with dead bodies. With dead dads.
"Well," he says quietly. "Your father was killed in a car accident around midnight. A single car accident. He drove off the road into a pole. When the paramedics arrived they felt a pulse, but it was very light and only for a moment."
I am tightening my face and I stare so hard at him he takes a step back. I can hear the boys coming in from outside. I have forgotten there are people in the world besides my mom and dad. My mom lets go of me and runs to my brother. And then I am no longer coiled and dangerous - I am just a girl standing in a room full of police. I am just someone in a home that is no longer her home. The priest comes up behind me and hands me a laminated card with a picture of Jesus in a glittery crown of thorns on it.
"It's non-denominational," he says.
I have nowhere to put my anger. It sits in my stomach like a tumor. Like something that should be cut from me by a team of doctors. I do not want anyone to feel good and I think that all the time. I write an Instagram post about it and I tell everyone to call their parents, but I admit it's just myself who I wish had called her parents and told them...him that I loved him. That I really, truly loved him. That I wasn't mad about the small things anymore. That I had never been mad at all. That all I feel is love.
I think that I want to write a blog series called "Feel Good Lost". I want to feel good and I want to be someone who wants others to feel it too. I think that if I ever wrote a book I'd call it "Cold Room Mountain Top". I guess it sort of sounds like three different Murakami books I didn't finish, but talk about like I did. I think of my life now as a path up a mountain and I thought that right away, the night of. In that living room with all the police and the priest and the card with Jesus. It all fell away and I just saw a mountain that reached high above the clouds. I told everyone about that image in my eulogy, while I pulled at my black tights and wiped my tears onto my palms.
"My dad would tell me there was nowhere to go but up," I told the crowd. "He'd say, 'Lisa, you just got to keep climbing.'"
So I do. I climb up a little every day. I go to work. I talk to my friends. I read here and there. But I think that what I'm climbing to is just a cold room. I don't think there's anything that great to be found. I'll climb to it though and when I get there I guess I'll climb down. Or climb somewhere else.
All these metaphors are dumb, they are just all I have.