“I need to run right now,” I said to GC as I passed through the kitchen. Not, “Do you mind if I go for a run now?” or “Is it okay with you if I run now?” But, “I need to run, right now.”
“Okay,” he replied.
I am already gasping for air as my feet cross the road and hit the trail, my stride jarring my body on the downhill. Music in my ears. My breath caught in my throat, tears burning behind my sunglasses. Do not cry. I will myself as the tears spilled out.
My feet stop and I bend over at the waist, my forearms pressing into my hip bones. I try in vain to contain the sob roaring up my windpipe. My grief and anger swirl inside my chest, my ribs cannot contain the enormity. I squeeze my eyes shut and wonder if there is anyone out on their deck to my right. I must look like I am going to vomit bent over this way. I want to vomit. I want to purge myself of the grief, hurl my shame as far as possible, crush my anger to dust beneath my shoe. The sob escapes, then another.
“How dare you cry!” a voice screams in my head. “What the f@!& do you have to complain about? Stop crying!” she hisses.
“Move your feet,” I tell myself, ignoring my own worst enemy.
I set my eyes on the tree line ahead, then the curve, then the hill, then the pond. The tears stream from my eyes as I settle into my stride. The ache fills my upper body, right beneath my ribs, the sobs are pulsing to escape. I close my throat to contain them and let the tears flow, the only escape. The grief feels too big. I cannot hear the music slipping from my ear buds. There is a freight train in my head.
Why is it so hard for him? Why doesn’t he connect the dots? He misses all the social ques. The face expressing annoyance, the change in the tone of voice, the blatant requests for him to stop what he is doing. He laughs when he should listen. He laughs when they request he stop following so close, or stop repeating that phrase, stop ruining the game. He laughs when he shouldn’t. I try to intervene, using words that do not sink in. It never ends well. They do not care when he leaves, escaping written all over their faces…but only I see it. He just laughs. My mind replays the events, the missed cues, the missteps, the looks, everything, and I hurt all over.
I keep going. My insides hurt. The tears slow. I pull apart the afternoon in my mind. My thoughts tumble all over themselves. I worry for the future. When he finally learns these skills, because I will never give up, will it be too late? Will these children give him a chance? Or will they be soured on a friendship with him? Always remembering the way he was, the way I’m sure he still will be to some extent. He is not an easy friend to have at almost eight. What will happen next year? What will happen in middle school? What will happen in adulthood? Will he make real peer connections? When? What can I do to help? This is too big for me. Too big. I am not enough.
Then the anger comes. The tears are gone. My pace quickens. The muscles in my back flex. I feel the anger rolling through the muscles in my legs. My feet slap the pavement. The drums beat in my throat and the guitars scream in my ears. The music matches my insides. I cannot contain the anger.
I am so angry. I let myself feel it. I use it to push me on. My legs scream at me up the hill. The physical pain a way to release the pain in my heart. The sweat slides down my spine. I am so angry. Angry at the misunderstandings. Angry that so much is difficult for him. Angry that I am angry. Angry at the jealously I often feel. Angry at the shame I feel about the jealously. Angry at the pain. Angry at the tears. Angry at what is. Angry at what isn’t. Angry. The anger rolls off my body.
“WHY!?” the voice screams. “No FAIR!” she hisses.
It’s not fair.
No one guaranteed me or him fair.
I keep going. The roar in my head slowly subsides, the ache in my chest diffuses, my lungs are free to breath again. My pace is even, my breath is calm, my fingers tap the drum beat, and I mouth the lyrics not caring who sees me. I think over the miles I just ran. The thoughts I pulled apart thread by thread. The grief I cycled through over five miles of trail, road, and sidewalk. Just as the pain poured out in tears, the anger slides down my body in beads of sweat.
I am drenched in my emotions.
I watch my feet as I walk up the driveway, I have no energy to chit-chat with my neighbors. I sit in the shade of my garage to stretch my legs, watching the sun through the leaves, listening to the neighbor children laughing as they ride their rip sticks and bounce a basketball. The grief and anger have subsided.
I am spent and I am ready.
I go inside and smile at the Roc.
I will never give up.
ed note: This was 2 Thursdays ago and every time I’ve run since then this post goes through my head. I needed to get it out. And in true Roc fashion, with tons and tons of reminders, many conversations about friendship, I saw a teeny, tiny step in the right direction yesterday. He will get there. I will never give up.