The Bright Guest Disappears

Stacy Campbell died at the worst possible time.**

Wow Kat, you don’t write  a post for two years – with the exception of two end of the year recaps – and you jump right into that? What a fucking “return”.

Yes, well, a return is also based on investment, and in this case the investment of time has created a poor return. (And while I’m at it, I love my penchant for using numerical alliterations despite being dyslexic.) But anyway. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about then we’re on the same page; I’m writing this shit and I don’t even know what I’m talking about.

No, that’s not exactly true. I unfortunately know exactly what I’m talking about, but it makes the dinner guest feel better if you volunteer that the meal is terrible.

Eat up, and please be assured that I hate the fare as much as you.

Stacy 1Stacy Campbell died at the worst possible time, but it apparently was her time – on her own time. Her official last day in this world is September 16, 2015, but the actual date isn’t known for certain. I can’t help but wonder if she didn’t actually pass on September 15th. I wonder this because Stacy had the most ironic sense of humor, and it would be so her to take her life on National Suicide Awareness Day.

And, as is the case whenever someone takes their life, I’ve being wrestling with that question of “why?”.

I know the answer, but I don’t understand it. And I hope that I never do understand it. I think that “why” is in itself part of the reason that I’ve been as frantic to figure out what made her reach that point as I have.

I’ve been low, and I’ve had those thoughts of the world being a better place without the burden of me and my insanity. I’ve also been to that point where everything hurts and you don’t want to end your life so much as you just want everything to just stop fucking hurting. I understand that pain so much that I cannot be angry at her for wanting it to end. I just wish I knew what I could’ve said to make her hold on a little longer, and that I could’ve been there to say it to her. I wish I could’ve told her that she’s not alone, and then I would’ve pointed to all of the people who have written on her Facebook wall saying how much she meant to them. The Interwebz can be good like that sometimes.

But then that very thing, the ability to connect to other people who understand your pain – the pain that “normal” people do not – is a double edge sword. I know that unless you battle mental issues you might not understand this, but people with our – ahem – affliction tend to gravitate to each other. We want to help each other, to assure each other that there are people who understand, that they are not alone. It helps, but at the same time I feel that our exclusive community of the tortured and the tested ends up being a macabre game of Russian Roulette. With so many players we’re bound to lose someone eventually. Depression comes in ebbs and flows, and everyone comes to a time when it’s their turn to pick up the gun. Thankfully the odds are in our favor. There are five empty chambers – family, and friends, and Faith, and life, and you, and anything else you value – they outnumber that single bullet. And life goes on… But people with depression identify and lean on each other, and unfortunately as soon as you put down the gun, then one of your friends picks it up.
Spin the barrel.
Fire the gun.
Someone dies.

That’s my own issues speaking though, and I want to talk about Stacy. Being a writer herself, I know she would have understood that diatribe.
Perfect segue.

Though we were both writers, I met Stacy through our love of animals. She had lost her beloved Jurgen, yet had found the strength to adopt another dog that needed a loving home. I so admired her for opening her heart again that it inspired me to dedicate my 200th blog post to animal rescue stories. I remember wondering what I should do for such a landmark post, and she was the inspiration for it.

nightmare dog, animal rescue storiesThat was Stacy though: kind and inspiring.

Unfortunately my own depression has been relentless for the past two years, and I didn’t talk with her as much as I wish I had. Like so many things in my life, I’d set her in my peripheral vision and only looked directly when something really fascinated me. I’m just thankful that she was so fascinating that I paid as much attention as I did.

Stacy just seemed so…”cool”. Even her name was interesting. Her full name was Anastasia, which usually garners the nickname of “Anne” or “Anna”, but she was a Stacy. I seriously thought that was the neatest nicking of names ever – so much so that I planned on changing the name of one of my characters in my book to that.
Stacy had the best Bucket List, and she was the only person I knew who actively worked to check things off of it. I loved it when a picture would show up on her Instagram feed documenting an adventure done, a check marked next to box on that list.

She skydived.

 

stacy 4
She went to a firing range.stacy 6
She went to concerts because she said she was going to stop saying she would see a band or an artist “next time”.stacy 5

She stayed in the fucking Stanley Hotel.stacy stanley i cant spell

I am a huge fan of The Shining and it had never occurred to me to want to stay in the creepy hotel that inspired the story until I saw Stacy’s black and white pictures of the infamous fourth floor. Not only was the fact that she was at the hotel so brilliant, but her pictures were taken with such a sharp eye that they captured eeriness without being campy. But this shouldn’t be surprising because Stacy was an incredible photographer.stacy stanley Her Stanley Hotel pictures were not just beautiful but they were complete with captions about hearing children playing in empty halls, and ordering Whiskey from a bartender named Lloyd. They were beautiful as only she could make them because they illustrated her vision, both also her wicked sense of humor and her mastery of words.

Her words. I wish that I had read more of them while she was still here.

Through the power of the Interwebz and its promise threat that nothing ever really disappears from its depths I’ve been able to read her former blog “Jurgen Nation”. There is so much brilliance there. It’s not an easy blog to read – there is a lot of pain, and it kills me a little wondering if she wished that she could make her pain disappear as simply as she thought she had deleted the blog that detailed it…and how wretchedly ironic it is that her blog didn’t truly disappear after all. Nothing disappears.

Another irony – bloody fucking hell I’m beginning to hate you, Mistress Irony – is that the post that resonates most to me right now – the one that exactly touches on the punch in the throat that has knocked me into such a pit this year that I cannot fathom ever being able to climb out of it, on a pain that I cannot even yet put into words – was written only a few days after a post where she wrote a letter to herself twenty years from now. Or “then” since it was in 2009. It a post about how she would still be here in twenty years, even though she might think she won’t.

Stacy 2It makes me so angry that Life thinks it’s so clever with these little elbows to the ribs. You’re so not fucking funny, in fact sometimes You feel downright cruel.

There is so much that I’m going to miss about Stacy. Her presence was like birds singing: you don’t realize how much you enjoy their music, and take for granted that they will always be singing until they are silent. I think of all of the empty buildings that she will never photograph, all of the words she’ll never write, all of the snarky jokes she will never make. Stacy was caring, and beautiful, and wrong, and clever, and brilliant. I read the stories shared by people who knew her better, and I’m so jealous of them. I wish that I could justify this pain by proximity, where the equation would make sense. But there is a reason that artists are dyslexic, and numbers do not add up to us. stacy 7

Stacy was a true Siren, drawing so many people to her.
I’m grateful that I  heard her song and listened while I could.

I will see you later, beautiful girl. Keep the cocktail chilling.

In the mean time I am changing a character’s name in your honour. It is my hope that “Stacy” destroying demons in my story will give you the victory down here that you so deserved.

 

stacy brody

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”

 

**The average time that people will allow you to mourn is one month. I wrote this entry nearly three months ago, and I still feel it so much that I decided to finish it and publish the bloody thing. It reminds me that loss has no timetable. Loss is not something get over, you just learn to live with it.

 

 

Snow

Roseanne’s office was always cold.

When I had first started going to her for counseling she would apologize and frequently rub her hands up and down her arms as if to make sure I was aware that she was suffering as well and to not blame her for the frigid climate. I had assured her that I didn’t mind the cold. This was, in fact, true. If the office was cold then I had a perfect excuse to keep my jacket on and enjoy the false sense of security it gave me to have it wrapped around my shoulders. My survivalist brain also registered that it would be easier to make a hasty retreat if I didn’t have to search for a jacket hung somewhere on an obscure hook. I allowed that a jacket could be sacrificed if a situation required it but I rather liked the jacket–a leather one with the Led Zeppelin Icarus painted on the back–and I decided that I would put it in as little sacrificial danger as possible.

After a year of seeing her for therapy, the temperature in Roseanne’s office continued to hover around “Arctic” though her performance had changed from apologies and arm-rubbing to complaints and eye-rolling.

“I don’t know how many times I have to tell the super to raise the heat in this building,” she snarled as she pulled a sweater from her closet.

I didn’t know either so I remained silent.

“With how much I pay them in rent it’s the least that they could do. And I’ve told them that I’ve had clients complain about how cold it is.”

I shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

Roseanne’s face convulsed between a series of dirty looks as she tried to decided if I was being obstinately contrary in expressing an opinion which disagreed with hers, or if I was being ridiculously polite and protecting the sensibilities of an inept superintendent.

“How can you not mind?” she finally challenged me.

I would have done some eye-rolling of my own except that this would have indicated what I was thinking and I had long since decided that I wasn’t going to let Roseanne know what was really going in my head. Mind you, this wasn’t a personal reflection of Roseanne, though her personality was in perfect harmony with the temperature of her office, but rather a rule in general when it came to counselors. I had seen several over the years and after a disastrous experience with my first counselor I realized that no amount of psychological training could prepare another creature to wade through the fucked up kettle of fish that swam in my head.

“I’m only in here for forty-five minutes,” I told her which was both a deliberate barb in regard to what was supposed to be an hour long session, and a satisfactory answer to her question which revealed nothing. I adjusted my jacket and leaned back into the couch.

Roseanne drew the line of unprofessional between dirty looks and talking about financials so she gave a dismissive sniff and opened up the folder which contained all of the secrets I had let her discover about my person.

“Let’s see, Kat, where did we leave off last week?” she murmured looking through her notes.

I cringed inwardly as I always did when she used my nickname. This was another common characteristic I had found in counselors in that they always ask what your friends and family called you and then used that name profusely. It helped them to create the illusion that they are friends listening to your problems because they care rather than uninterested third parties whose time you have bought. When it came down to it counseling is really just prostitution without the STDs.

“I don’t remember,” I told her.

“Well, then what happened this week?” she asked completely oblivious to my lack of enthusiasm.

“My former brother-in-law, Ronald, called my mother and said that he found some things of mine that my ex didn’t burn and was going to drop them off,” I offered.

“What was it he found?” Roseanne asked.

“I don’t know. I think it was a tote of some old toys that my grandmother made me get out of her basement when she was cleaning. They probably survived because my ex most likely thought that they were my niece’s old toys. When Ron heard that I was moving he also offered to bring up some of the kitchen and bathroom stuff that I had bought. But I’d rather he not bring that all,” I added.

“Why not? If you bought those things then they belong to you,” she told me.

“They don’t matter. I told you about the night that I left and all I cared about taking with me was Kira, and my old “Wonder Woman” comics if I could, and that’s how I still feel. The rest were things. Things don’t matter.”

Things are expensive though,” she insisted. “Those things can help you as you move into your own little nest.”

I wrinkled my nose before I could stop myself. If there was one thing that I was not building it was a “little nest”. Nests are for newlyweds and adorable birds just out of college. The least that you could accuse a feline such as me of building would be a den, though a dungeon would probably be closer to the mark in my particular case.

“I’ll either make do without them or I will buy them myself when I can afford them,” I replied as soon as my nose had returned to smoother state.

“That’s absurd. There’s no taint of your former marriage on your kitchen things,” Roseanne said.

“There is if my ex has peed in them.”

“What?” To Roseanne’s credit she processed this declaration with little more than a slight cocking of the head.

“I’m pretty sure that my ex has peed in my Kitchen-Aid by now,” I said.

Actually, for all for all of his flaws, my ex appreciated fine mixing equipment almost as much as I did and I was confident that my Kitchen-Aid had not been molested, however Roseanne had called me “absurd” so I felt the need to live up to that accusation.

And she had also come dangerously close to uncovering a truth so it was serendipitous that my conventional method of diversion was to say something inane. I’ve become so excellent at this skill that it’s a reflex rather than a reaction now. In much the way that a leg kicks up when it encounters a strike to the knee, my inanity kicks up when it encounters a strike to my brain.

I sat waiting for Roseanne’s response. I hoped that it would be another dirty look since I was creating a mental catalog of all of her annoyed facial tics. She would be a brilliant curmudgeon in a future novel.

Roseanne gave me a deadpan expression. “Then wash it before you use it,” she said.

I was so delighted by this spontaneous drollery that I almost considered taking off my jacket for the rest of the session.

Instead I told her about the time that my ex left me at a rest stop as punishment for telling him to get off at the wrong exit, because sharing a horrible experience with a counselor is akin to leaving an extra five bucks on the motel nightstand.

As was the case whenever I told her a tale of my recent former life, Roseanne listened raptly making up for my monotonous intonation with her own grimaces and colorful commentary.

“He is a horrible!” “What a jerk!” “Are you sure that he did not have some sort of mental deficiency? Because no adult male should behave like that!”

She was never so pleased with herself as when she implied that my ex suffered some sort of malignant mental malady and she, through her astute listening and brilliant deduction had diagnosed him without even a personal consultation. I let her enjoy the moment because I was still amused by her remark about washing the Kitchen-Aid, but I found myself experiencing the empty feeling that comes when a hilarious joke is no longer funny.

Despite my glaringly obvious contempt for counseling, I had entered therapy with genuine intentions of talking about my problems and attempting “to get better”–if there even existed such a state for someone like me–only had I planned on doing this is the most clinical and sterile manner possible, without the messy display of emotion that usually erupts from one’s eyes and nose during a counseling session. I expected this to be a challenge, after all I had been through some very traumatic experience, however I as shared each of the mauvais quart d’heure which were to blame for my sorry state I realized that it was quite simple to keep my emotions in check, namely because I was not feeling any. Initially I thought that it was because I was so loathe to reveal emotion in front of other people that my brain wouldn’t even attempt to access them knowing that I wouldn’t indulge the feelings anyway, but I found that even in the lone safety of my bedroom I could not feel anything. I replayed my most painful memories over and over and I could not even muster a sniffle. I squished up my face and hyperventilated and rapidly blinked my eyes but I could not convince myself to cry. To be honest I didn’t truly want to cry but I felt like I should want to cry, and furthermore I would like the option to be able to cry if the notion should strike me, but it was impossible. All of my tears were gone, or washed away, or dried up leaving behind less salty residue than it would take to thaw an icy patch of sidewalk.

If my lack of emotion wasn’t puzzling enough already I was surprised to find that their absence did not seem to bother Roseanne in the least. Even my rudimentary knowledge of psychology told me that this was likely a problem, and I anticipated a lecture from her about dealing with my feelings, but much like my tears, castigation remained absent. I wondered about her lack of concern regarding my phlegmatic state but I finally decided that she was simply grateful for a client who wasn’t constantly plucking at the requisite box of tissues which all counselors keep within arm’s length. I would have cancelled any further appointments with her at that point but by then she was comfortable enough with me to drop her professional manners and so thoroughly verbally thrashing my ex-husband that I decided to continue therapy for the entertainment alone.

But as I sat on Roseanne’s couch that day, idly twisting the chenille tassel of a of the chintz pillow between my trembling fingers and recounting the details of the trip that will forever make me averse to visiting Florida, I decided that I had had enough of this game. It had been gratifying to hear someone regard my ex with the venom that I could no longer muster, but this mock therapy was not helping me to feel any better about myself, in fact I felt worse than I had a year before. While the pain and anger I’d felt then had been unpleasant at least there had been something inside me, some kind of fire in my belly to make me live if for no other reason than to spite the ex who had assured me that he had been too instrumental in making me who I was to live without him. Now I felt nothing. I felt nothing, and I wanted nothing and I was, indeed, nothing. If I’d had any emotions I probably would have been terrified at that moment but instead there was only the tiniest of twinges like a candle being snuffed out with a pinch.

If Roseanne had asked what I was thinking at that moment I would have answered her from my broken soul for once. Instead she made an errant scribble in the folder containing my married name written in black Sharpie marker and looked up. “Well I guess that will do for today.”

I looked at the clock.

4:40.

“Same time next week?” she asked brightly.

“Yeah, that’s fine.” I gave her the check for my $20 copay and left the office.

On the day of my appointment the following week it began to snow. There was a healthy two inches on the ground by the afternoon–a veritable blizzard by southern New Jersey standards, so I wasn’t surprised when Roseanne called me cancel my appointment.

“What day do you want to come in instead?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t have my calender with me so I’ll call you back and reschedule,” I replied.

Of course I never did.

snow, woman

Photo by Mike Wood