It’s been a very long week. The days sometimes go by slowly. It started out simple and easy enough. Then it became complicated and difficult. I took a commitment to pick up some people on my way to a 7:00 AM meeting. I did that so I’d be sure to go. Seven O’Clock comes early, but I don’t have to get up until Six. Plenty of time for a shower, a cup of coffee, a cigarette and watch the sun come up.
Sunrise is often quite spectacular at the beach. I’ll put up some photos in another post sometime. It kinda makes my day; coffee, sunrise and a little meditation and company to start it off. But the best laid plans often go awry. Tell god your plans, usually he will laugh at you.
It started Wednesday afternoon and carried on into Friday. Very slowly, like a slow motion video of a rose bud opening. I’ve always known that tomorrow might never come. I can trip off a curb and go under a bus. Bam; Gone. But when it happens, it’s always a shock. My brain spins, my heart is heavy and I have a little empty hole right in the middle of my gut. Even when it’s expected, it is still a shock. When my mom died of lung cancer, we had plenty of warning. She was sick for a year, a long, slow year, and we knew the end was coming. We prepared, she had hospice care, and in the end we were pushing the button on the PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) pump delivering her morphine for her. When she (finally) died, we were relieved, and yet there was more.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The stages of grief. Some never get to that final stage, some get there rather quickly. Emotions. Yes, those things I used to keep buried. I would ignore and suppress them. We weren’t allowed to have those things when I was a kid, and the end result is usually anxiety and/or depression. Those maladaptive feelings are the result of the steady drip of hormones from the adrenal glands That drip is due to the internal struggle, the fight, to keep the emotions suppressed. They call it cortisol these days, but it’s an adrenaline drip, not unlike the aforementioned morphine drip. It wreaks havoc.
Even though I know about the stages, those horrible feeling things, the mind can’t control them. It shouldn’t try to control them, (first of all it can’t) because that is the cause of the depression and anxiety I talked about in the previous paragraph. So I just have to learn to hang on to my ass and ride them out. Know them for what they are and let them pass. They will pass.
On Thursday morning my fellow housemate Luke died. He died of a drug overdose. Just like that; he was gone. Bam. We suspected he was using. His drug test said opioids and meth. Oh, and weed too. We found that out Wednesday afternoon. He capitulated, said he was sorry, and I drove him the forty minutes to a rehab facility up the hill where he’d get a ‘higher level of care’. Except he’d been cancelled by his insurance. I drove half way back and got the call that he couldn’t stay at the facility, I’d have to come pick him up. WTF, over? Really? This kid’s using, wants to go to rehab, but his insurance got cancelled so they couldn’t take him.
OK, I went back to pick him up and figure out just what the hell to do. I called everyone, we came up with a plan to put him in a hotel for the night and figure out what to do the next day. I talked to his very sweet, caring and understanding girlfriend who agreed to help out. Luke told me he’d stay with her for the night and it would all get figured out. Except as it turned out, he couldn’t stay with his girlfriend. He was high. So she took him to a nice place in Thousand Oaks for the night. Then he disappeared. He found just what he was looking for to ease the pain. He called someone who got him a bag, he was found in a hotel in Culver City the next day. Nothing left but the stages of grief for those around him.
I didn’t know him long, but I did somehow know that really he was a good man. A soldier who fought for his country and had a number of bullet holes in his body. Horrible, unbearable trauma. I’m sure that was part of what did him in, but there were a lot of other things bothering that man. Doesn’t matter, I don’t care what it was that gave him his pain, I only know that he was there, in pain, tortured, sad, frightened and knew a way to make that all go away. Unfortunately his solution was permanent.
I happened to think of a couple of sad songs while watching the waves Thursday afternoon. I let the shock roll over me and sat feeling the waves pound breathing in and out. Mysteriously the mood swings passed as I watched the smoke curl from the end of a cigarette. I thought about how quickly things can change. They can change for better or worse. In a New York minute. There’s a sad tune by Don Henley, of course a lot of his songs are sad, about how quickly the sky goes from blue to gray. Shit happens. In my mind I heard the sirens coming for my friend Luke. Somebody is going to an emergency room or somebody’s going to jail when the sirens howl. Luke went somewhere else.
But men get lost sometimes
As years unfurl
One day he crossed some line
And he was too much in this world
But I guess it doesn’t matter anymoreLying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody’s going to jail
If you find somebody to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the doorIn a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
Things can get pretty strange
In a New York Minute, SOMEBODY can be headed to the emergency room or jail or the morgue. When it was over and I got confirmation that yes, it was not a rumor. He was indeed at the morgue. I didn’t believe it at first; it’s the denial part. Then I was angry, at myself, for not doing more. I tried to make a bargain with God, but I knew that wouldn’t work. So I sat sadly staring out at the waves for an hour or so. Then I sent Luke a text. Yes, I know what good would that do? He bypassed the emergency room and went straight out. I had to text him, it was my little tiny piece of acceptance.
“…Luke, go with god my friend…” And he did, in a New York Minute.