Too many people are dying, another person every time I come back, it seems. An overdose, a relapse gone wrong, a bloated body found in a hotel on Lincoln Avenue. Usually these days (I’ve been gone so long) it’s someone I don’t know so well, but well enough that I can put a face to the name without searching for it on Facebook. It’s also usually someone young, under 25, sometimes under 20, but sometimes one of those old guys who comes around forever until his legs just can’t bring him through the doors anymore.
And then there’s the news of old friends, the people I got sober with but who didn’t stay sober. The one who I thought was so handsome and worldly he’d never talk to someone like me; I’ve got eight years, two months, some change, and he’s relapsed one hundred times, maybe more. He’s got six days now, and when I look at him I still see that handsome fellow I thought was out of my league. But I also see that he’s a broken person on the inside, more broken than I could see from a distance, a dear friend I love deeply because he’s so amazing and wonderful, and I’m saddened he can’t see these things about himself. He’ll keep running around the world, to jungles and Antarctica and anywhere in between where he can get lost either literally or in his own delusions. So far he’s always made his way home. But I suspect that one day I’ll make a trip back to Chicago and find out that his luck ran out, and I’ll think back to the time when I first saw his impossibly handsome face and thought there was so way someone like him would ever want to be seen with someone like me. I was so wrong, about that, but also about so many other things in sobriety: about who would stay sober, who would stay married, who would stay alive. If I’d placed my bets eight years ago, most all of them would have been losing ones.
I’m so sad I can’t sleep. Not for anyone in particular. Not for Jack, which is a first, given the circumstances. I’m just overcome with a sense of sorrow, tears coming and going, a sort of existential coming to terms with the idea that it’s all so random. On Facebook today a friend posted that one of his friends took out a life insurance policy, then killed himself but managed to make it look like an accident so his wife and kid would get the money. Another friend posted photos of her grandmother in hospice, hoping she’d last through the birth of her first great-grandchild. My son still isn’t talking to me, and he’s rumored to be changing his name to eradicate all traces of a connection to me (or his biological father’s family). That isn’t a death, but it feels like one. I’m oddly more hurt for his father and his grandmother that I am for myself. He’s their only grandchild, only child. At least I have another.
And, at least at the moment, I feel terribly alone in my sorrows. Yes, I can call Uncle Eddie (I always can call him, even at 3am) and he would listen to me crying, despite my not knowing the reasons for my tears. He would tell me all the right things (he always does), and by the time the call ended I’d be spent and able to sleep. But I resist, both because I’m stubborn and because I still think I’m too smart to be waylaid by life like this. My sorrows are fleeting. They come with the territory in Chicago, one reason among many I so dislike being here. My loneliness is what I make of it, and it will disappear as (if) I sleep; I’ve cultivated an entire life out of depending on no one but myself, and there’s no reason to stop now, even if I feel tempted by fate to try it, for a change.