From time to time, I write about my inner adolescent, that part of me who was a resilient boy, who saw possibilities for a life ahead, even in the darkest moments of grief. He’s become a fictional character now, but he still lives on inside me, thankfully. You can find my latest piece about him below.
The prompts this time were:
When you’re older, you’ll understand
No apologies necessary
Get out of the house
“Stop writing about dead people,” my inner adolescent says. He’s got his feet up on the coffee tabel again, but I’m choosing my battles. Besides, I’m too distracted by how smooth and perfect his toenails look, so I can’t scold him right now. No ridges. No dry cuticles. He’s wearing that baby blue sweatshirt with the little tear at the collar; I can see a little patch of his hairless chest. He’s got a tight abdomen, curly golden brown hair, and that coppery summer tan. He’s oblivious to his own sex appeal.
“When you’re older,” I say, sitting down next to him, “you’ll understand why I write what I write.”
“It’s maudlin,” he says, which I know must be a new word for him. He loves words. Always has.
“Writing about death and loss is my way of grieving,” I explain. “It’s a tool I use to deal with loss.”
He’s leafing through the new IKEA catalog; his unlined hands flip past page after page of bright fabric, polka dot pillows, and sleek kitchen cabinets. He doesn’t stop to consider the convertible sofas or the coffee tables like I do. He thinks furniture found on the street and spray-painted is way cooler.
“You should work on that sex advice column you’re always fantasizing about,” he says, turning his blue eyes toward mine. I’m struck by his thick eyebrows, the lack of a five-o’clock shadow, and something else: a veneer carefully spread over the enormity of his loss. His one big loss. And I think, Oh! He’s only known that one drawn out funeral: the living corpse wandering the halls in adult diapers. No one he knows has actually died yet. And I feel a surge of compassion for what he still has ahead of him, and the ways it will split him open.
“I don’t really want to write a sex advice column anymore,” I lie. “It was just an idea I had for a little while.” He slaps the catalog into his lap, dramatically.
“You’ve been thinking about it for years! Sex club etiquette, and finding the condom that’s right for you,” he says. “Those are cool ideas.”
This is the trouble with entering into dialogue with a part of your psyche: it’s harder and harder to delude yourself.
“I was just feeling competitive with Dan Savage,” I say. “I’m over it.”
“You are not,” he says, irritated. He pulls a Marathon Bar out of his back pocket, tearing open the red packaging, and yanking off a big hunk of the braided chocolate with his white teeth. “You want half of this?”
I want to read the label first, because I’m sure it’s filled with terrible ingredients, but I take his offering.
“Here,” he says, handing me half of the ridiculously long candy bar. “You think it’s too late,” he says. “You’ve always felt that way. You better get over that.”