The Black Tide

She stands about an inch or two taller than me. I can tell she’s a bit older as well, not by much. In your thirties these things are irrelevant. The music from the band is loud and we’re shouting over the crowd and the music. I’m sipping a local IPA: she’s pounding the whiskey at the bar. Her feet are point towards me and she leans over in my direction. Judging by her dress and confidence I can tell she’s used to getting her way. The bags under her eyes expertly hide by foundation tell me that she’s a fighter. I, on the other hand, am not in the mood for games.

“All I see is darkness.” She says staring down into my soul. “The guitarist in my band and I were basically husband and wife. He’s the songwriter and I’m the ‘talent.’ We worked beautifully together for years but time just seemed to break us down. I cheated on him. Now he won’t talk to me at all unless we’re at band practice. Our friends hate my guts. I don’t stop and think anymore. Nothing leaves an impression on me. I’m just getting through it. It’s all black. And that’s the way it needs to be right now.”

I’ve interviewed probably over a hundred strangers at this point in my story and none of them knew immediately what to say when I asked them my question. A first for me, her candid honesty disarms me. Knowing that she had just given me something of value I open up about my divorce while careful to not do divulge too much. Just enough to sympathize with her, but not enough to engage. We both know all too well what she is talking about. She casually invites me over to her place after the show. I take a few steps back and her demeanor immediately changes.

Both polite adults we meander to opposite sides of the stage room. My general feeling of malaise is drowning in the meretricious white noise of the music. A terrible feeling like I’ve seen this ad too many times propels me to the exit. Walking alone silently the mile to the Westville Pub, the sights and sounds are only now beginning to die down. I pull up a stool at the bar. Order my shrimp and grits. Hungry I take the first bite, sigh, put my spoon down. I just sit there staring at my food. The bartender is shooting me a concerning glance. It must be my expression.

I get lost in how I keep driving up to these mountains just to feel close to the kids. My lawyer has me under strict counsel to have no contact with their mom until the emergency custody hearing. She has the kids call to bait me into picking up the phone. They ask me every time where I went and if I still love them. They’re always in tears. Even though I know it’s for their ultimate good, I am falling apart. I keep finding myself in this city; wandering, writing, and praying. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Grief is one of those things that is kind of like the tide. If you’re on the beach and you stay there long enough, eventually the tide comes in. Not wanting to believe it will is irrelevant to whether it does. You can deal with it, or not, but the tide is coming in regardless. Grief forces us to either grow or die. We often think that it is by merely pushing on we progress, and sometimes that is all we really can do, but it is a half existence. We become like sharks, never sleeping but never fully conscious; driven only by our appetites and will to survive.

Staring into my bowl I envision the cross. I see a Middle Eastern man, naked, bleeding while people laugh at him as he’s hanging on a tree. I see him experience what looks like doubt for the first time. To everyone’s shock, he screams. Then he’s dead. Women are crying as men still mock him walking away triumphant. The soldiers, trained killers, look reluctant. The clouds all black. There is this feeling of abandonment at the scene. For good reason.

I’m feeling a cosmic sense of abandonment in this moment, as I’m sure my children are as well. Neither of us are in reality but there is no escaping this. I feel the death of my sense of control, my sense of makeshift good. I have to trust beyond my abilities. Saying goodbye to the man I used to be. To the man who was shaped by codependent impulses. By abuse and shame. There is no more running from this. I just have sit here in silence, close my eyes, and let the darkness engulf me.

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