Friday, January 23, 2015

The Death of Number 2

An excerpt from Just Another Number. 
Number 2

I didn’t cry when Number 2 died.  
 I sat in my car alone and summoned tears the way a phony medium invokes ghosts. I didn’t understand my pathetic attempts to dry heave devastation. At twenty-eight years old, I’d softened with womanhood. It only took a photo of a puppy with paralyzed hind legs to moisten my eyes, yet my heart seemed immune to the image of my first boyfriend’s cold, pale corpse lying stiffly in a cheap motel bed. I’d been anticipating the day a prior lover perished like the death of a first grandparent, aunt, uncle, or childhood companion. As I crept into my mid twenties, every Facebook login displayed the union of a couple, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one. However, the passing of a peer instills a diluted dose of the dread Granddaddy felt during Korean War combat when he was the only soldier to stumble out of a foxhole alive. All I can think is, “It could have been me.”
            However, that wasn’t the case with Number 2. Although I never found out his official cause of death, word was it was a cocktail of Methadone, Methamphetamine, Klonopin, and whiskey. To an outsider, the combination reads like suicide. But to those who knew him, it was his typical Friday night.
            An eerie aspect of social media is the way the dead’s account lingers in digital space as a floating memorial. Friends post emotional farewells as if the deceased will read them. But we all know that those words are for the rest of the world as if to flaunt their bond with the deceased like a new car or engagement ring. Just like any material possession that ceases production, a person’s value amplifies when they are dead. They have no future. They have no present. Their past becomes a limited resource that everyone is desperate to snag a piece of. I had a big one with Number 2. Even more than taking his virginity, I was the only one who truly understood what killed him. It wasn’t his drug problem. It was his burning desire to have a drug problem. Number 2 didn’t fall into addiction. He pursued it. He desperately wanted it.
            I found out about Number 2’s death from one after another Facebook wall post about the tragedy of his overdose, how adored he was, how kind he was, his love for music, his talent for the guitar, and his endless potential. They raved about their shock at his fate, their final conversations with him, and the great things he proclaimed were coming his way. They highlighted his kind heart and adventurous spirit. They said he was robbed of life. They said he was trying to do better, but would sadly never get that chance.
            I was also a hypocrite. I prattled on with bullshit about the beauty of our adolescent courtship before the drugs and complications of life. The truth was I thought he was a complete loser. The truth was I dodged his invitations for grabbing a beer every time I visited Chattanooga. The truth was, for years I had been Google image searching his mug shots, screen capturing his statuses on arrests, drug charges, probation violations, and court dates, texting them to friends, rolling my eyes and sarcastically snickering about how he was “the one that got away.”

            I sent flowers to his grandparents. I searched myself for every drop of compassion I could muster and forced it to the tip of my tongue. I called them and voiced my condolences, while doing my best to suffocate my wrath for raising an ultimately pointless life. If I ever loved Number 2, that emotion has been gone for thirteen years. If I ever mourned his death, I recovered a decade prior to it. But I still sleep with the white, fluffy teddy bear he gave me. It remains as the only romantic gesture I’ve received. I find myself, again and again, clutching its feather-soft fur in the midst of the aftermath of a slew of one-night stands, fuck buddies, or the abandonment of a charade of intimacy as if I am a child waking up from the nightmare of my eternal status as a living sex toy. I suppose looking at that bear ironically ignites the same feeling of sifting through photographs of the dead. I know I will never be that girl again. My brief role as the woman men find worthy of pure, wholesome affection died far too young. But, just as out of gratitude for the dead’s existence, I take comfort in knowing it was once there.  

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