I don’t want to drink. If I do, I will lose myself in the loss of him, but I feel that I need to lose it. I need to go in the basement where we played music and scream and sob and write, I need to write pages and pages until I get it right. I need to get right where it went wrong. This loss. He was just here. I keep seeing his son’s eyes. They were red. I see him gently pounding and pushing on the window of your truck, like he was pleading with him, as if he was still in the seat, Please, dad, no. I see his son’s eyes almost more than I see his. I see how bloodshot they were that weekend he was at our house, sitting at the kitchen table asking me about depression. You could try to switch your medication to Celexa, I had said. You just have to force yourself to get out of bed, that’s what I had to do. Or make a list, and check off even the smallest things, like doing the dishes, or making it to the couch, I told him. But I didn’t know my advice at that moment needed to be stronger. I was blind to his cry for help if that’s what it was.
When he sleeps over during the weekends, he smokes cigarettes on our back porch. I don’t usually smoke but I join him because it’s a nice night and I want to talk with him. No one else in the house uses tobacco and there aren’t any ashtrays, so we use an empty can of Coco-Cola. He talks about politics and racism and how insane the world is now. How crazy our president is, how he doesn’t support him. This surprises me because he’s one of those people who seem like they’d support Donald Trump; He hunts deer every season from a cabin in northern Michigan, drives a pickup truck, is in his 50’s, drinks beer, grew up in the Midwest in a family of conservatives. When we make our way inside, he cracks open a beer while my mother makes popcorn and we set up to watch a movie. He says he doesn’t want to watch anything scary. I don’t like scary shows, but whatever you want to put on, honey, he says. I should have listened to him; we shouldn’t have watched the series I put on. It showed a girl hanging herself and then coming back to haunt her family. I regret that.
When I wake up, I hear her crying from the other room. It’s like this every morning and every night. She says waking up is the worst part because she has to remember that he’s gone. I relate to this but only in the way that when I used to wake up after my hardest breakup, I’d cry. Daylight wakes you from your soft dreams and forces the harshness of reality into your heart, and it hurts and is overwhelming, and so you start your day off crying.
Once, after our grandpa died, my younger sister said she saw him standing in her closet at night. I remember that when I’m alone in my apartment at night and quickly close the two closet doors that sit at the opposite end of my bed. I don’t want that to happen to me, with him, but a part of me does. I’ve been waiting for a sign from him, for a vision, for a visit, for something. Something to let me know he’s still here. About a month ago, I visited Seattle and stayed at a hotel there, and I was vomiting from crying too much, and as I cried out for him, all of the lights in the hotel room turned on. Every light. I told myself it was him reaching out to me. But now I’m not sure. Sometimes you’re so desperate for an answer, your mind creates one for you.
On one of the last weekends he was alive, he stayed at my parents’ house. I took shots of ***** and he drank beers with my dad. We decided to go into the basement and play music together—something my mother said he hadn’t done in years. My dad and him were in a band together when they were younger. They both played guitar, or maybe he played bass and my dad played guitar. I can’t remember. I just know there were curly mullets, mustaches, florescent silk shirts and lots of coked-up all-nighters. We went into the basement and played music and I sang some of the songs that I had been wanting to finish. He sat on the amp next to me and we repeated the same chorus over and over until it sounded better. You’re writing is good, he says. Will you help me write something? About how I feel? I told him I would, and I never did.
At work I feel my watch buzzing. It’s my brother calling me. He never calls, so I know something is wrong right away. I go into the closet where my phone is tucked inside my bag, and I open it, seeing five missed calls from my brother, a voicemail, and a text from my dad. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, it says, but uncle Kevin tried to **** himself again. I sigh in relief because he’s tried before and ended up in the hospital, so this is just another failed attempt. I call my brother back and ask if everything is okay. He says they’re coming to pick me up because Uncle Kevin is gone.
When we get to my cousin’s house, our uncle’s truck is parked outside. There’s one police SUV with officers inside. They climb out and talk to my parents. Our aunt is sitting in a lawn chair smoking a cigarette. We hug her and stand in silence, crying. After a while, our cousin shows up. He’s sobbing when he hugs my mom. She holds him so tight and I can see all of the love she has for him, all the years he lived with us when our uncle was in rehab or out in the world, all the years my cousin was temporarily her second son. No one walks near the truck for a long time, but eventually, some go and open up the passenger’s side door and pick up my uncle’s things and bring them inside. There’s a notebook, tools in a case, a blanket, some other things. They hide them in the back room because they don’t want people to see. When everyone goes outside, I walk to the back room and lift up the blanket and look. I feel like I’m doing something wrong, violating my cousin in some way, but I want to see, I need to see. The notebook is leaking dark blood and it makes me jump. I cover the pile back up and walk back into the kitchen.
When I was a kid he would come over to our house. He was real skinny then, maybe because of the drug use, but I can’t remember it clearly. I do remember him being my favorite uncle out of the three I had on my mother’s side. He always made time for us. He’d read us books and make us laugh and watch movies with us on the living room floor. If you scratch my back, I’ll watch Beauty and The Beast with you again, he’d say. So I would. We’d lay there, my small hands scratching his back or playing with his hair, Beauty and The Beast songs annoying the **** out of him.
The week he died I took my mom to the mall to get our hair done and shop. Something nice to get her out of the house. While we stood outside in the cold, on our way to the car, a song from Beauty and The Beast began playing on the speakers above us. I told myself it was uncle Kevin, telling us he was still there, and that everything would be okay.