A week ago my ex-boyfriend died. It was and wasn’t a surprise. Wasn’t because I knew he was sick. I touched the outline of his pacemaker on our first date. On our second, he told me he needed a a new heart. The doctors said he wasn’t a candidate for a transplant. “For muscular dystrophy patients?” said one with a strong French accent. “We do not do.”
His body wasn’t built to last. Still, it was shocking to discover his heart had really, truly failed once and for all, and that he was being kept alive by a a respirator, heart pump, drugs and God knows what else they have in the ICU. “His spirit was so invincible, I thought his body might be, too,” my mom said when I told her the news.
I’m trying to write about this, because I need to blog, and any other topic feels fake. But I am not ready. Everything I write feels dumb and wrong. It’s like after Hurricane Katrina. All these people came down here and made art out of the gutted houses and wreckage, and spun their observations into essays for the New York Times and stuff. While I sat in a sterile room in my sister’s Baton Rouge apartment, alone with my laptop. I was a writer granted a front-row seat to a national tragedy; it was my duty and privilege to write about it– but I couldn’t. I was completely blank, wiped clean, stripped bare.
That’s how I feel now. Also sad and angry. Grateful to have known him, pleased by the recognition he’s gotten for his activism and comedy. Rejected because I wanted to be closer to him in his death, more involved in his dying process, but I had also wished I could have been more involved in his life. His death felt weirdly like being dumped all over again.
I feel alone in my grief. I am not close to his family, though I once considered them part of my own. At work, nobody acknowledged my loss (except for my editor, who wrote the obituary). I wasn’t expecting a sympathy card or a day off. But I wish just one person had asked, “Hey, are you doing OK?”
And then I feel angry at myself for being so selfish. He’s dead at 28 and here I am feeling sorry for myself. I’m a real asshole.
He planned his funeral. He wanted to have a party at his family’s Uptown home, then to second line to a comedy club where he was a fixture. Everybody’s going to roast him. I don’t know what to say or even if i will say anything at all. I’m planning an outfit though. I bought new shoes for the occasion. I want to look good, even though it’s not like he’ll be there or anything.
I did visit him in the ICU. I am glad I did. I probably wouldn’t have if not for our mutual friend. I’ll end with the email she sent me.