It's the damndest thing.
I mean, you can make of it what you will, decide for yourself if it's just a coincidence or not; I'm just going tell you what happened.
Last Monday, when I had already been in England for several days, I found myself sick with the shivers, a sore throat, and sinuses that were alternately cemented shut or running free like London rain.
It didn't surprise me, really. After two months of hell, I suddenly broke from routine with a trans-Atlantic flight, not enough sleep, and far too many martinis for my own good. My body was bound to strike. I was having such a good time that I'd even had a good run of days that were free of a breakdown of tears every couple of hours.
Granted, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a little sob here and there in London, but I wasn't really alone enough to indulge in a lot of tears. It was a relief, really. One morning before I was to meet the Amazon on Oxford Street, one night when the tears didn't come but the pain did. Otherwise... like I said, it was a relief. Except... except...
I was home by Wednesday night, and still, the tears held off. I thought to myself that London had done wonders, and by Friday, though still jetlagged and sick, I was ready to conclude that I was on the road to proper healing. It felt good not to lose control to bouts of sobs. As well, I was still carrying around some of that leftover fantasy that my brain had created for itself, in that I wasn't really getting the full force of 'Frankie is dead' anymore. My mind was refusing to believe it, and even though I knew it was true, I wasn't too pressed to argue the point.
Yesterday, Saturday, was a day I traditionally dread all year long. This, being the holidays, is my father's busiest time at the restaurant. He's forever going into work at four in the morning, getting ready to cater Christmas parties, seasonal shindigs, Festivus festas, the whole lot. The biggest of these always happens on the Saturday two weeks before Christmas - a 300-guest staff party for a chain of auto body shops. A banquet hall is arranged, and we do everything from setting up the dining room to preparing the food, and then donning the black-and-white to serve it to people who feel the need to ask the difference between chicken and veal. And at the end of it all, the place has to be cleaned. It's an exhausting day, and my father and uncle recruit the entire family to help - both sets of kids along with boyfriends and girlfriends, my mother, all of our cousins, people from my uncle's Kingdom Hall congregation, everybody. It's a giant family affair, which is the only thing that makes it tolerable, and why we all get suckered into doing it year after year. It's a lot of hours, starting before nine in the morning, and ending after one the next morning. I'm usually trapped in the kitchen until it's time to change for the dining room, a feat which, at that point in the day, usually involves a lot of magic and a couple episodes of Extreme Makeover.
This year, along with the agony of not having Frankie there, I was also bringing along a multi-pack of jetlag fatigue and a miserable cold. I was starting to worry, actually, because the damn illness wasn't going away. My sinuses were causing me great pain, and it didn't matter how much my nose ran, how often I blew it, or how much cold medication I was shovelling into my body, I just couldn't shake it. But my services were needed, so I sucked it up with only the regulation amount of whinging, and soldiered on.
Frankie was always the first one there to help my father, and this party has been happening for so many years that he, along with the rest of us had his own routine and list of tasks. So it was a quieter than usual kind of day, and we all stayed tactfully clear of my quietly sobbing father as he started in on peeling the potatoes, a job that had traditionally belonged to my brother. When my mother sat down for a break, and looked around at a family thing that didn't include Frankie, I handed her a Kleenex and we just kept working. And I was ok. Seeing it didn't break me, and I was able to push through.
Then... then... it must have been around ten or 10:30. Jetlag made it the middle of the night for me; the cold made my defences weak, and we were heading into the homestretch of the day. I was just so tired, you know? And everywhere I looked, my brother wasn't there. And that's when it started. Thankfully, I wasn't in the dining room, and for the most part it came in fits and starts that I was more or less able to control. I had no choice, really. Christmas party guests do not need to see waitresses with red-rimmed eyes handing them their dessert. It doesn't really go with the feel of the fete.
Three and a half hours later, when I was on my way home, I let loose for the first time in 10 days, and I sobbed and I howled, and I made the kind of whimpering heaves that I've learned to avoid in the last few months, because they leave you sore and achy the next day. When I got home, I cried some more, wailing now, as the pain let loose inside of me, like one of those bullets that shatter inside you upon impact, ripping up your insides and leaving nothing left to recover.
The fantasy that my brain had created was gone, and now, there was nothing around me but the loss of my brother. It had all become real again, and the gut-wrenching pain had come back with a vengeance. I cried because my brother was gone; I cried because of the life he would never have; I cried because my sister and my mother and my father are in the same kind of agony and I am helpless in the face of it. I cried because it hurt. And at the end of it all, sobbing and sniffling and without any emotional control, I went to bed.
This morning, my cold was gone. Gone completely, totally and without trace. No runny nose, no more sinus pain. I sneezed once, and that was it. Excuse me?
Is it possible that it's simply too soon for me to stop crying? That I had inadvertently trapped in my pain, and developed the cold? Am I losing my mind here? Does that sound as insane as I think it does?
Either way, the cold is gone, but the pain is back. I miss my brother, and it hurts like hell.
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