I wrote this essay in 2016. It was my first attempt at writing since the death of my son, two years earlier.
The house is silent. CNN has been muted. The kitchen radio and my phone are off. It’s just me and the computer. The cursor flashes expectantly.
Don’t await greatness today, computer. We’re in hostile territory here. Because, now, the thoughts I have so carefully muffled behind a wall of noise are free and they want to be heard.
I was a freelance writer until January 27, 2014. That’s the day my 27-year-old son, David, died.
And here I am, two years later, in my office, at my desk, attempting to trick my mind into thinking I’m working on a piece for publication.
It was my therapist’s idea. She thought doing something that I once found satisfying might give my fractured life some structure. So I look upon this as a homework assignment which I will hand in to my teacher next week. I’m prepared to spend an hour here, even if it’s just to watch the impatient pulsing of the cursor.
My office is a mess. The desk and keyboard are covered in dust. Clutter is everywhere. A copy of Lao Tzu’s “The way Of Life” peeks out from beneath a stack of emails. They’re from physicians who say they will, when I’m ready, sit down and talk to me about my son’s final moments in the ER.
A hard-cover copy of “The Prophet” lies atop a plaque that a friend gave me. It reads,“The dog and its housekeeper live here.” Said dog lies just inside the room, her eyes questioning. She knows this is a space I rarely enter.
Everything is in disarray. A garbage bag full of clothes for donation partly blocks the doorway. Piles of paper teeter on side tables. More sheets are strewn on the floor. I don’t even know what most of it is.
Even the display on the desk phone is dead. Its screen, coated in grime and dust, is blank. The batteries gave out long ago.
I think about how someone in the hospital removed the boots and socks from his lifeless body. Maybe he was still warm. Maybe his energy hovered nearby and he was shouting, “Hey! Leave me alone! That’s not your stuff!”
There is a recycling bag lying on its side near the closet, the contents spilling onto the floor. But it’s what’s inside the closet that I avoid looking at: The boots David was wearing when he was killed. His black socks are balled up and pushed down inside. I think about how someone in the hospital removed the boots and socks from his lifeless body. Maybe he was still warm. Maybe his energy hovered nearby and he was shouting, “Hey! Leave me alone! That’s not your stuff!” But no one could hear. They are the only bits of apparel I have from the day David died. His electric guitar is in the closet, too. The tag on the case reads “Energetic Action,” the name of his band.
I see this chaos every time I walk by the room. But I also don’t see it. Because, really, all I see are images of my son, dying in the middle of the road, surrounded by strangers, the woman who hit him, refusing to get out of her car. Even the sounds of the television and radio don’t entirely block that out.
This was David’s bedroom. I converted it to my office when he moved out a decade ago. The yellow walls are a joke. I painted them in the summer of 2013. I spent a lot of time plastering and smoothing these walls. I left one spot untouched. David’s initials, “DPF.” He’d poked them into the wall under the window, presumably with a thumbtack, when he was a young teen.
When the room was finished he and his girlfriend came over and he pointed them out. He was smiling. “See,” he said, running his fingers over the bumpy letters. “My mom left these.”
The room irritates me now. The sunny yellow is way too cheerful. I would change it. But I am stuck. So stuck. I want my son. Only, he is dead and I am sinking slowly into soft clay that will soon swallow me whole.
I am filled with rage at the young woman who ran him down. Why does she get to live and my son does not? All his potential. His future. Snatched away.
This is where my mind goes when it is forced to listen to the sounds of silence.