I wanted to blog about my Hannukah. Laying under Rachel's Christmas tree at 2:30 in the morning. Our heads under the tree staring up at the lights and the green. It was pretty. She needed more lights - but still pretty. She'd spent the entire evening with me and my family. Her daughter learned how to play dreidel and even lit one of the candles on the menorah. "I want to come over for Hannukah every year," she said, twirling her dreidel.
When we got back to Rachel's house, her fiance and my brother prepared to watch 'The Ballad of Ricky Bobby' while Rachel and I exchanged gifts. I love to watch her open presents. She gets this wide-eyed look, all innocent and full of gratitude. She reminds me of childhood. Things like swing sets and snow forts and peanut butter and graham crackers. She truly enjoys things and its an aspect of her that I envy sometimes.
As we lay under the tree we made a few mentions of the crap that we'd dealt with the past week. "At least we have each other," I said.
"At least that." She agreed.
I wanted right there and then to find some sort of peace that would take me through the new year and on. A balance. I'd felt it before and I thought in the safety of her house it would come back.
Almost a year ago to the day, I was constantly passing out at Rachel's house. On her couch, on her love seat, sometimes even with my elbows on the counter.
Brandon had just died. A year ago, today in fact. I was spending the night at Kim's house. Staying up - sometimes all night - sometimes just a few hours of sleep was all I got. I'd go home, shower, go back to Kim's house and somehow make it through another day. It was Rachel I called when I finally broke down. Two days later, the night before the funeral, I snuck away to my car and dialed her number. She was Christmas shopping with Mart at Walmart. I couldn't stop sobbing. "Rachel said she's never heard you like that before," Mart would say later. "She was worried."
When I wasn't at Kim's, I'd run out to Rachel's. She & Mart would put on a movie, our friend Leslie would come hang out and after a couple of hours - I'd pass out on the couch and Rachel would let me sleep. I didn't feel safe anywhere else. In the afternoons, I'd fall asleep sitting up. I'd heard her whisper to people, "she's not sleeping...she's having a hard time."
She doesn't really get just how safe I felt. I never wanted to leave her house. The other night, when we sat up from the tree, I felt it again. I didn't want to leave. Last night, as I slipped into bed - draped in the new bedding she bought for me as a gift - I fell asleep completely exhausted. I had a vicious nightmare, death and terror were all around. I woke suddenly, a strain on my chest and unable to move. It's been a while since a full panic attack for me but there it was.
Today, I've been angry, annoyed and snappish. It's a year to the day and Brandon isn't coming back. I can still hear the tone in Kim's voice when she told me. The terror in her mother's scream. I can feel the brittle in her father's hug, the guilt that we didn't do enough...the disbelief. Worse, I can still feel his hug. So tight. Earnest. Also like childhood.
I'll spend the day with Kim. She needs to go shopping, wants to exchange gifts and will make dinner. We'll visit the cemetery. We'll wonder when we'll feel safe again.