September 21, 2016

The First 72 Hours After Your Friend Dies

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 David Cohen
David Cohen

Get the text. Check the time — it’s 3:15 p.m. on a Friday and you’re at work. Feel the punch in your stomach. Stare at the text. Rhetorically reply, “What?” Stare at the text. Hear life continue behind your desk but refuse to turn around. Feel the punch spread to your throat. Watch your hands start shaking. Fire off a series of “How? When? Why?” texts. Become genuinely irritated when they don’t have all of the answers. Stare at the text that started it all.

Ignore the life happening behind your desk and lock yourself in a conference room. Call your best friend. Realize you’re doing it just to say the words out loud. Don’t react to them. Giggle. Sound like a sociopath. Hang up. Call your mom. Ask what she’s doing in case this isn’t a good time. Tell her anyway. Burst into tears.

Regret leaving her with this burden of sadness. Check the time – 3:40. You must leave for a work happy hour at 3:45. Wipe your nose with the inside of your shirt. Breathe, in and out. Return to your desk and avoid eye contact with coworkers. Make a few witty comments to serve as your decoy. Leave the office and get in the car.

Sob the entire 10 minute drive to the bowling alley. Don’t think twice about your makeup running. Text your parents the exact location of a photo album in your childhood room. Ask them to send a picture of the two of you together. Regret living 600 miles away.

Park. Pull down the mirror and wipe away your makeup. Pretend you don’t see a coworker walking toward you. When he realizes what’s happening, he’ll pretend he doesn’t see you, either. Take a few minutes. Breathe, in and out. Debate going home. Realize he wouldn’t want you to. Commit to doing this for him.

Bowl, horribly. The worst you’ve ever done. Participate in small talk but retain nothing. Ask the same question twice. See the coworker who knows you best slightly tilt his head and look at you. Avoid him.

Follow everyone across the street for the 6pm after party. Three hours in. Pretend to care what people are saying.  Feel your heart breaking. Believe they are all good people and they would help you if you asked. Make a comment about adult onesies.

Leave as everyone is just getting started. Feel the tighter-than-usual hug from the coworker who knows you best. Check your phone – 13 texts from mom. Save the picture she sent you. Sob the entire 15 minute drive home.

Get home. Check Facebook. Read the influx of goodbye posts. Sob as you post your own. You had talked just days before. Put “Hear You Me” on repeat. Cry until you physically can’t. Toss and turn, knowing you’ll wonder if this was a dream.

The next day will be harder than the first.

Wonder why you can’t open your eyes – realize they’re puffed shut. Cry some more. Go through the motions – bathroom, feed the dog. Check your phone – more texts than you know what to do with. Respond to the easy ones. Don’t open the hard ones. Walk the dog. Call back people you haven’t spoken to in years. Appreciate their sentiment. Cry on the phone. Realize you’ve been walking the dog for 3 hours.

Sob in an empty stairwell. Only relocate when someone looks at you.

Force yourself to meet your friend. Get pedicures. Watch her eyes tear up as she asks you questions. Hear how robotic and lifeless you sound. Notice your hands are still shaking.

Realize you haven’t eaten in 24 hours. Get ice cream. Eat three bites, hope she doesn’t notice.

Feel guilty for laughing.

Go home. Put your phone on silent and do chores. Debate going to your first home, 600 miles away. Check for flights – $600. Cry.

Take a shower and force yourself to go out. He would want you to. Forget, for one hour. Check your phone in the bathroom. Cause of death: blood clot. Feel that punch in your stomach and heat in your cheeks. He was 28 years old. It was so innocent.

Understand you will never see them again.

Go home. Respond to the harder text messages. Realize you haven’t eaten in 36 hours. Take a bite of rice. Immediately get nauseous.

10:30 p.m. – you’re exhausted. Maybe you’ll sleep tonight. Be thankful the dog wants to cuddle.

Suddenly wake up from a deep sleep. Check the time – 3 a.m. Wide awake. Toss and turn as the memories come back. Try to shove them out.

Check the time – 3:29 a.m. Accept that sleep will not be a part of today’s story. Get up. Write a log of the first 72 hours after your friend dies. Notice the dog got out of bed and sat next to you on the couch.

Fall asleep on the dog at 4:32 a.m. Find the biggest coffee possible when you wake up. Realize you haven’t eaten in 46 hours. Eat something.

Your hands have stopped shaking.

Write a note to the family. Write a note to him to leave on his grave when you make it back up there. Wonder if angels are real and be thankful he’s one of yours.  TC mark

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