T.L. Sherwood

I Saw the Announcement in the Paper

I find I’m a mag­net. These kinds seek me out. I offer them a ripe pome­gran­ate or a slice of pumper­nick­el. Sitting on the front stoop or pac­ing around the raised gar­den beds, we talk. No, they talk; I lis­ten. I say “I love you” and “I’ll always be here for you.”

Three times now, I’ve made this mis­take.

My North Face jack­et would be warmer, but today I reject the syn­thet­ic. I shuf­fle my arms into a pale blue ter­ry cloth bathrobe and take a walk down the dri­ve. I pass by the leaf­less wild rose bush. Allured, I pause to pluck a hard crim­son rose­hip and pop it into my mouth. Like a tiny, earthy tast­ing fire­ball, I suck on it, then roll it over my teeth and across my gums.

The autum­nal winds pick up, caress my cheek, and the belt ties whirl around. I shove my fists into the deep pock­ets. Keep mov­ing. I’m going to a meet­ing. I saw the announce­ment in the paper and knew I had to attend. Before I inad­ver­tent­ly off some­one else I think I know, I want to ask how not to do that. Learn how to lis­ten cor­rect­ly. More than that – I want to rid myself of these extreme poles.

I slide open the shed door to search for gloves. I reject the pret­ty new can­vas ones and the hole pocked back­ups. I decide to go with naked hands, fin­gers with­out rings, unen­cum­bered.

In the past, there was a time when I didn’t have an answer­ing machine or caller ID. Once I gave some­one my cell num­ber but got a new phone and had no way to tell him I’d changed it. Recently, a call came from Texas and I knew – in my heart – who it was but didn’t feel like dis­cussing why I was still mar­ried to a man who still nev­er reads my words. So I didn’t pick up.

Ten days lat­er, he was dead. Things went fur­ther south. The week after his wake, which I couldn’t attend, his girl­friend was gone, too. The last Facebook pho­to of her shows a can­dle in the fore­front, her bowed head, pain. It is the gospel of giv­ing up. I won­der, “Should that be me, too?”

At the end of the dri­ve­way, in my tat­tered bathrobe, I wait for my ride to the Suicide Loss Day Program. Doors open at noon. The pro­gram starts at one. I reg­is­tered; I arranged for a ride; I’m going. I hope to find oth­ers who share my guilt and ask them how they cope. I want to see what they choose to wear for their bois­ter­ous armor. The meet­ing is being held at the Psych Center. It’s sprung on me that if I am insane, at least I’m dressed prop­er­ly.

~

T. L. Sherwood lives by Eighteen Mile Creek in west­ern New York, not far from Buffalo. She is the Assistant Editor at r.kv.r.y. Quarterly Literary Journal and both a read­er and inter­view­er at Literary Orphans. She is the 2015 Gover Prize win­ner and her blog, Creekside Reflections, can be found here.