Holley Hyler

A r t i s t

What is Grief?

May 23, 2018
Holley

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The Atlanta airport is sprawling and busy. It is full of people, and some of them get out of your way if they see you running. For once, I do not have to run to make my connection. I stand at the window of my gate, staring at the black storm clouds that bring the night before its time. Off in the distance, I see a sheet of rain, a lightning storm. Everything is so disconnected. It is raining there, but not here. I can see the lightning, but I cannot hear thunder. Black clouds loom everywhere.

This is grief.

I wear my mother’s sapphire bracelet. It has been over a month, and it feels that way, too. I sleep while wearing the bracelet, and I dream that I am outside her house, peering into her kitchen window. She is sitting up, head lolled to her right side. She is gone. It is the scene that the policeman described in real life. I am seeing it for myself, but I cannot get into the house to get to her. People stand in the driveway, asking me for things. They are coworkers, friends, people I don’t even know. I bang my head against the pink brick beside the window until I bleed, screaming at them, “She is gone, can’t you see? Go away. Leave me alone.” But they won’t. I weep openly. I bleed from my head. They still do not leave, and they do not look at my pain.

This is grief, begging to be expressed. This is grief when you are giving too much of yourself away to people who do not deserve you.

I am brushing the tangles from my fine hair, hair that is like hers. It is knotted and damp after my shower. I flash back to the first time I tried to dye my hair at home. I could not get the color all the way through to my ends, which were halfway down my back. My hair became a tangled mess, more so than usual because of the hair dye. I grew frustrated, and hot tears poured down my cheeks. Then my mom was behind me, a comb in her hands. “Don’t cry, honey,” she said. In the present, I breathe as I do when a sob is imminent. I stop myself. I don’t cry, but the sadness bleeds into the rest of the day.

This is grief, when you have no time to feel it. This is grief when it feels too intimate to show anyone else.

I go out with family and drink too much beer. I decide to go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico at night. I purposely taste the salt water when I go underneath the gentle waves, baptizing myself. I can become new, I tell myself. I do not remember leaving the beach. I do not remember how I ended up in a bed.

This is grief, when it starts to drown you, inside and out. This is grief when you let go of your inhibitions and follow your impulses.

“Sometimes you look mad when you come in the door, and I don’t know what to say,” a coworker from my dream tells me in real life. I pause for a while, and then I say, “I’m not mad. I’m just unhappy.” I do not understand why I have to tell anyone this or why I have to comfort anyone when I am the one who needs comfort.

This is grief, when people see but do not understand. This is grief when people lean too much on you to be a light, to reassure, to love – things you are normally a natural at. But now, you just can’t. Everything hurts. Everything.

I scream in my dream. Dots of my blood line the pink brick next to the kitchen window. I cry in my sleep. And people – the fucking people – God, they won’t leave me alone.

She is gone. The fucking people bitch about their cars, their families, other people they want to fuck and play house with, the look on my face, and everything else under the sun that doesn’t matter now that she is gone.

And they won’t go away. They won’t go away, like she did, and I want them to.

I want them to go away.

This is grief.

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