Part of what I’ve done since Kyle died is a lot of reliving the past.
Because he is my sibling, I have been pouring endlessly over remnants of our shared history. Photos, obviously, but also old journal entries, letters we wrote to each other, text messages and Facebook messages. I have become recently obsessed with the idea of printing out the digital parts and placing it chronologically in some sort of book. Ordering it, as if that might help me make some sense of it. Answer the questions I already ask myself endlessly, even still:
When did it start?
How could it have ended?
And of course, the eternally torturous: What could I have done differently?
The first question is one which I have been particularly struggling with lately. There are no clear time markers for mental illness. His illness was so tied up in his Kyle-ness that it feels impossible to imagine that there is a beginning. It certainly started before he started using heroin, maybe before he started using drugs at all.
In digging through the endless pages of childhood memorabilia, I came across this short story that I wrote when I was fifteen, a sophomore in high school.Kyle was a senior in high school who held wild parties and took stupid risks on the ski mountain or on his skateboard. He goofed off in school, but aced his SATs anyways. He got arrested for pulling pot out in front of the school superintendent, and laughed it off. He was seventeen. It would be seven years after I wrote this story before Kyle would try heroin for the first time.
Too Far Gone
The last time I saw my mother was 13 years ago. I was 22 years old and I had just gotten out of rehab. She came over one night, said she wanted to surprise me- but I think she was coming to check up on me.
Maybe she didn’t believe I could ever really be straight. Maybe she knew what she would find if she came over.
I don’t know.
I don’t know what she was expecting to find, but I’ll tell you what she did find. She opened the door without knocking, took one look at the needle I held in my hand, now filled mostly with remnants of blood, and started to cry.
She said, “Why, David? Why?” She fell to her knees, sobbing.
I didn’t know what to do. I put the needed down and walked over to her. I just stood there. I had forgotten how to touch someone, how to just hug someone. I stood stiffly, right in front of her kneeling body.
She hugged my legs to her chest. Maybe she was trying to hang on to any part of me she could, since so much of the person she once knew was gone. Unsure of what movements to make, I settled for awkwardly patted her hair.
It was silent for a long time.
She spoke first. “I will never stop loving you, David.” I felt a rush of warm blood, but she went on. “Sometimes, I think that’s a curse.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I mean, this was my own mother wishing she could stop loving me.
I looked around my apartment. The ceiling wallpaper was peeling. There was stuffing popping out of the couch. The whole apartment, even the kitchen, was carpeted with a puke-brown carpeting. It might have been white once. There was mold growing on the corner wall.
My needle was still sitting patiently on the coffee table alongside my little Baggie. I hated myself for how much I wanted to pry my mother off of me and go to it. All day at work, I had thought of that Baggie, that needle, imagining every dish I washed was bringing me closer. Never mind that I got paid by the hour, not by the dish, and got out at 7 regardless.
“What about Patrick?” My mother’s voice cracked as she spoke. I could practically feel her despairing as she clutched me tighter.
Patrick. I had thought briefly about calling him to tell him I was feeling weak, to ask if I could drive over there, or to see if we could go out to dinner or something. But this would have only been a formality, postponing the inevitable.
“I tried, Mom.” She was silent for a second.
“Your sister’s in the car. She was home from college for the weekend and I thought…” She paused. “I don’t know what I thought.”
I really looked at my mom for the first time that night, and realized she had dressed up. She had curled her hair, put in big, silver hoops. I wondered if she remembered that I’d bought her the scarf she was wearing for Christmas one year. Her make-up was running down her face.
I wanted to lift my thumb to her check and rub away her tears. I turned away from her instead.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered so quietly I wasn’t sure she’d heard me.
She took a deep, shaky breath.
“I can’t be here anymore, David.” She stood there until I turned around, and caught my eye. “I love you. Love yourself,” she said. And then she was gone.
I blinked at the door she had just walked out of, and everything was still for a moment. Then I walked back over to the coffee table and picked up the needle again.
…YOU GUYS! How freaky is it that I depicted in a short story I wrote while Kyle was still in HIGH SCHOOL a life that so closely paralleled the life Kyle would be leading almost a decade later when he died.
Seriously, the most major difference between Kyle’s eventual life and David’s (Kyle’s middle name, duh) life in the story is that in real life, my mom was even more of a badass warrior hero mom than the mom in this story.
She never gave up on my brother. She fought for him in a million different ways, she came back to the apartment even when she found him with the needle in his arm, or she kept space when that was what they both needed.
The person in this story who rings eerily true is Kyle/David. I previewed a desperation, a total self-sabotage in him; I was aware of such a level of self-hatred. I didn’t realize my fifteen-year-old self could have predicted years such an unfolding before it happened.
This is making theorize several things. Was there some freaky The Secret shit going on, where I was actually attracting this terrible addiction energy towards Kyle? Or… did I know his soul so deeply that I understood where this is where he would eventually wind up? Is there such a thing as destiny?
All of which sends me circling back to my original question: When did it start?
So I’ve generated more questions than answers in this exercise. Let me know if you find any more clarity than me.