When Tom found me, I was broken. Nearly five years before, I’d been hurt by the last man I’d loved. And then I’d stopped loving. I held on to that hurt for years and it poisoned everything. When Tom found me, I didn’t believe I could love anymore. I thought I was through with all of that.
But I was lonely and he was sweet, so I gave him a shot. I enjoyed his company and I enjoyed him.
The first time he said he loved me, it was through a txt. It was good because I wasn’t really ready yet. I sent him a heart and thought about it. We’d been dating for over three months. I’d insisted that we weren’t serious and I’d not introduced him to my world and he hadn’t introduced me to his.
But I wanted to try.
I invited him over to my apartment for the first time and cooked him something special. He came over and we watched tv on my couch that was significantly less comfortable than his and I let him see who I am.
We made plans for Thanksgiving and when he said he loved me, I was ready to say it back.
I went back to my hometown to see my folks. Something came up that would usually have reminded me of the guy who’d broken my heart. Something I would have usually chosen just for a moment of remembering him. But I didn’t want it. Mom asked if a gentleman named Tom had something to do with that.
I said yes.
I’d been dating Tom for almost 4 months at Thanksgiving. We’d been planning for a Thanksgiving party at his place for me to meet his friends and family. We’d been discussing a time and place for him to meet my friends and family. We’d talked about someday kids and forever. We had big, fun, scary expectations for our lives together.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I finally met his mother. She’d been away in Korea for the entire time we’d been dating. But she was ill and had to stay in bed. She only came out for a moment to meet me. I think she was curious about me or maybe it was a test.
He was wearing a red Star Trek t-shirt. It had the word Expendable across the front of it in the Star Trek font. I don’t think he knew that would be the last shirt I’d see him in. I think he’d be glad that it was.
Tom still wasn’t feeling too well, so we just went and had some dinner and then curled up together in front of the Television. I told him to take care of himself. I wanted him to stick around for a while.
He started feeling worse after a while, so I kissed him goodnight and he walked me out to my car.
The day before Thanksgiving, I got a facebook message at some ungodly hour in the morning. I ignored it and went back to bed. When I woke up, I checked the message. It was his sister, informing me that Tom (My Tom) had passed away at 2am that morning.
And I didn’t believe it. I texted his phone. I was angry and thought it was just the worst way to break up with me. I’d only ever heard of anyone doing this on a sitcom (wherein a man is still grieving the only woman he’s ever loved and his friend actually has been going to a fitness class with the deceased for months). I went and made my breakfast, cursing his stupid face.
And his mom called me back and left a message on my phone. I could hear the truth in her voice. I was crying before I even called her back. She told me what the facebook message had. I couldn’t really understand her accent and it was even worse while she was crying. And I just kept saying “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” And I heard what I thought was a goodbye and I said goodbye and hung up.
I called my mom and I cried at her. No, I was not okay. He was important to me. I loved him. And he was gone. It still felt like it couldn’t be true. Mom said she was on her way. I told her no, I’ve got to go to work. I had a project due by Thanksgiving. I had to get it done before I left that day. Was it okay if I came home after?
Of course it was.
I cried into my blanket for a little while longer before I got up and went into the bathroom. I washed my face off and told myself to buck up. I couldn’t fall apart. I had to get through the day and get things done. I could feel myself coming apart at the seams. I didn’t know how long I could keep it together, so I put on my clothes and went to work early.
I got everything done well before noon. I let a few people in on my situation. I got some hugs and some sympathy. I leaked a little of my feelings onto facebook just to relieve the pressure. When I was done, I packed up and left for the thanksgiving break.
I stopped at a gas station and filled up my car. I checked for some comfort foods and grabbed a soda. It felt weird to be getting a soda when the doctor had claimed he’d died from diabetes complications. I didn’t believe that was the reason, but it still felt strange to me. I drove the rest of the way home with an unopened soda.
When I got home, I was taken back into town and given food and shopped a bit to make myself feel better. I got a necklace to be pretty for Tom. I realized as I was purchasing it that he would never see it. And I’d been needing an apron, so I got one. I realized a little late that the reason I needed it was so I would look cute next time I cooked for Tom.
We got home and I rested a little. When Dad got home, I got hugs but I didn’t cry. I just felt relieved. I was able to run away for a while. Here, I was just a daughter, not a girlfriend who had lost her love.
I downloaded a new book and started reading. It took me far away from my life. I had been reading Anna Karenina. I’d been trying to finish it before it came out in theatres. Tom had been saying he’d watch it with me.
We’d had plans. And they were gone now.
So I read some Paper Towns, instead.
And I played some angry birds and I read some more and my parents put on a movie and it was one I’d wanted to see. But I wasn’t ready for a movie. I couldn’t afford to sit and think like I do with movies. So I went to bed and read some more.
I woke up the next morning and felt somewhat better. I felt sore and tired but better, emotionally. I ate some things. And then I ate some more things. I could tell this was going to be a binge eating kind of day. It was Thanksgiving, so everyone would understand.
I could tell my Dad wasn’t in a great mood. I figured it was because I was sad on Thanksgiving. I tried to buck up. I got ice cream and I got some more sodas. Sugar fueled my fake happiness. I still wasn’t up for making pies.
On Black Friday, I decided it was time to go home. I felt like I’d ruined thanksgiving and I didn’t want to bring the family down anymore with my problems. I took Talon with me so I wouldn’t be alone.
I read more and played video games. I distracted myself beautifully. I went and shopped for christmas gifts and baked the pies I’d been planning to bake for the Thanksgiving at Tom’s.
The pies turned out soupy anyway.
And my brother and I ate them. Almost completely by ourselves.
Monday, I was back at work. I could tell the word had gotten out. Everyone was avoiding me. I was quiet and stayed at my desk. For the first time since I’d left for the holiday, I had to be myself. I couldn’t hide in a video game or a movie. I couldn’t post to Facebook constantly to let it out. And the world was calloused to my pain. People were still laughing and working and things were still happening. Christmas music was still playing as if the world hadn’t come to an end.
I didn’t get a whole lot done the first few days. I let my coworkers know that I’d be out on Friday for the memorial. I thought I could get through every day but that one. So I worked until I got home and I could escape again.
Thursday, 8 days after Tom’s death, the office had the birthday party for the month. I decided I couldn’t stay and bring the office down for that. I finished my work and left for a long and sad weekend.
I decided I couldn’t go home to my Mom and Dad’s. I grabbed some really bad food and a case of soda and went back to my apartment. We ate and I escaped until I had to put on something black and go face the music.
I got to the funeral home and was surrounded by people I’d never met. I followed the announcement board and found the chapel. I walked down the aisle and Tom’s face came into view.
I don’t know what I’d been expecting. He didn’t look like himself anymore. His glasses were gone and his face was covered in makeup. I wasn’t sure at first that it was him. There must be some mistake. This is a dead guy. This isn’t the smart, funny, warm guy I love. His hair is all wrong and where are his glasses? I turned around and walked back up to the hallway.
I was holding it together. Feeling lost, but in one piece. It still wasn’t real.
His mother saw me and I went to her. The second her arms wrapped around me, I felt myself fall apart again. I sobbed into her arms and she sobbed into mine. Family members surrounded us and someone handed me a box of tissues. They asked if I was Tom’s young lady.
They took me back to the other room and gave me to Tom’s friends. People I’d never met but had, apparently, heard all about me. They took me in. We discussed who was going to talk. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. And we discussed the music. I was glad they’d put a video game tune in there. He would have approved. We knew we couldn’t play Thriller.
We decided to go into the chapel and say goodbye. His ex girlfriend held my hand and we walked down there. She said that, despite his flaws, he was a beautiful man. I said he had no flaws, only quirks, and that yes, he was. I started crying again when I got to the casket. His friends took his Magic cards and put them on his chest one by one. I stood to the side and felt odd that I had nothing to give him.
They sat in the first two rows and talked. I kept the tissue close and leaned against the wall while the generic funeral music washed over me. it was weird that it was in a church, because he hadn’t been a christian. His mother was, tho, and he would want her to be comforted in any way she could. So maybe it wasn’t so odd.
His friends took me out to dinner and we talked about Tom and all the good things we remembered. It was a wake of sorts. We drank a bit and I got to know everyone. I felt honored that they would take a near stranger in like they had. I found myself exhausted, so I went home after.
The next morning was the funeral.
A friend of his asked me to sit with her and her husband. I did. I was handed some kleenex and was through them in the first song. The preacher got up and started talking. He said the only way to heaven was through Jesus. I remembered that Tom was not a Christian and felt a twinge of annoyance.
I had stopped crying and was getting angrier and angrier.
After the funeral, we went through the precession. We just drove a giant circle around the cemetery and ended up where we could have walked to the site. They put him on the mechanism to lower him into the ground and his family took the chairs by the casket. I stood with his friends to the side.
The preacher read from a book Tom didn’t believe in and roses were handed out. Everyone took turns greeting the family and then placing their roses. I placed my rose, kissed my fingers and put them on his coffin. I told him one last time I loved him.
And then everyone left.
We had a lunch at a friend’s restaurant that he frequented. We talked about him and about life moving forward. His friends were truly wonderful and accepted me with open arms. I accepted their warmth but grew tired with grief shortly.
I said goodbye to them and went home.
My brother ordered pizza and we went to the mall for some Christmas shopping. We didn’t find anything, but we got some ideas. We went to the bookstore and I got print copies of a couple books I’d been reading on my ipod that I wanted on my bookshelf for lending purposes. I was feeling kinda bad so we went back to the apartment.
I still hurt deep in my soul. We watched videos and I was settled on the couch until late in the night. I went and took my pills and got ready for bed. I realized that my chest had started hurting. So had my arm. My heart was racing and I was slightly dizzy. My stomach was turning as well. I got up and went in and my brother talked me down until I was able to go to sleep. It was probably just anxiety.
The next morning, I woke up feeling the same way.
I got up and got dressed. I worried that maybe I was having a heart attack. I tried to wake my brother but he wouldn’t wake up. I shook his leg and talked to him. He didn’t get up. I closed his door and went to the nearby hospital.
My heart was healthy, but I was freaking out on a level that could be dangerous. They gave me xanex and hooked me up to a monitor. I called my Mom. I was alone at the hospital and I was scared. She got out of bed and came up to get me.
The doctor released me with some prescriptions and I went home. My brother was still not up when I got there, so I called and told my mom I was home. My arm still hurt from the IV connection and I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and the fear of dying.
I woke up my brother and made him be awake while I waited for Mom. She picked us both up and took us home. I spent the day hiding with my family, being taken care of and still feeling like shit. Mom took me back to my apartment on Monday and I got ready for work to begin again.
The next couple of weeks were both slow and fast. I can hardly remember them. I was slow the first while back at work but I tried hard. I occasionally had to go out and get myself back together. I sat in a dark office and didn’t get off work till after nightfall and I fought the depression of that hard. I cried in the bathroom stall a lot.
But at some point, the crying stopped. I thought about Tom and didn’t feel sad. It’s only been 25 days but I don’t feel sad anymore. I miss him, but I’m not sad.
In fact, I feel better than I felt before I met him.
I feel like I’m a solid, complete person. I feel like I’m both capable and deserving of love. I feel hopeful because he put me back together again. I think he put a lot of people back together again.
He and I may not have lasted in the end. But the way it happened, he never broke my heart and I never broke his. When he died, he had amazing friends and a woman who loved him. And we should all be so lucky.
And I’m better off for having known him. I’m not sad anymore. I’m hopeful. And inspired.