Mandy broke up with Justin at the prodding of Mark who had just moved out of Justin’s one bedroom apartment that he still shared with Dan who wouldn’t talk to Justin anymore. I had just talked to Justin and told him I would try to come over that night which I fully intended not to do. Justin had gone to a place that was too dark even for all of us. When he finally did use the shotgun on himself, a few hours after I talked to him, Dan was just falling asleep in the next room. Dan heard the sound but couldn’t make himself go into the living room to see what had happened. So he crawled out the window of the first floor apartment. He found a pay phone and called his psychiatrist.
“Aly, walk with me in the summer.”
I found out in the morning when Mark and Mandy woke me up at about 8am. I was sleeping on Darrell’s couch because I didn’t have a place to live. I don’t know how they knew where I was, but I remember their faces as I woke up very clearly. Mandy’s unruly mane of hair and worried smile and Mark’s common expression of indecipherable irony. My first questions were about how Dan was doing, but they assured me that he was okay. I wasn’t surprised in the least. I had fallen asleep knowing that I truly hoped that Justin would get it over with so that we could all get on with our lives.
“Aly, walk with me.”
Of course I felt guilty about hoping for this outcome in the morning. Of course all of us felt guilty in the morning. We all had some culpability in Justin’s emotional state. Justin got all of us didn’t he?
“Aly, walk with me in Portland.”
It’s amazing how far the ego will go to protect itself from admitting its own faults with denial and blame.
“Aly, walk with me.”
There was a lot of time between the act and the funeral. And I know I spent all of that time with Mark and Mandy. But I don’t know how many days that was. But we were never apart. I don’t remember eating or sleeping. I remember a deep feeling of anguish building inside me. I remember talking a lot about other things. I remember half hearted attempts by all of us to try to absolve each other of guilt.
“Aly, walk with me in my dreams.”
I also remember looking at Mandy and wondering where she went. And I also remember clearly answering myself. I didn’t want to know where she went. My guilt was enough. I didn’t want to know how she felt.
“So strange and true.”
As soon as I had these thoughts, I had to know where she was. I caught myself several times, in a quiet room with Mark and Mandy, not talking. I was just staring at Mandy who wasn’t seeing the room. She obviously wasn’t even in the room. I snapped myself out of my revery and turned to Mark. He was also staring at Mandy. He was obviously at the same level of worry. He noticed my attention, and we exchanged an understanding.
“Can I walk with you in Portland?”
This was something outside of either of our experience. And really there was no knowing what to do. We put off making any decisions.
“Walk next to you.”
The funeral was a farce. There were hundreds of people there. And while most of the people knew Justin, most of them had very little experience with being his friend outside of being in the same room with hundred of other people, and one party at Justin’s tiny apartment that was fun but only in the sense that it was concrete evidence of Justin’s mental illness.
“Aly, walk right out of my dreams…”
There was a letter. There’s always a letter. Even if there’s not a letter. I received a copy. Funeral attendees excitedly told me with a smile that I was mentioned extensively in the letter. I held the copy, absently looking at it.
“into my arms.”
The words on the page were not taking shape. The words of the people around me were not taking shape. There were black blotches of ink on the pages of the letter. Some of the blotches were covering words which made it hard to read. Then I realized that this was a copy and the blotches had originally been red.
“Aly, walk with me in the city.”
A man eulogized Justin as a Christian and a decent and generous person who was in the loving arms of God in heaven. I could hear Troy laughing somewhere. I could tell he wasn’t able to control himself. And I knew exactly why he was laughing. I might have had the same problem but I was too tired.
“Aly walk with me.”
The Raveonettes have this knack for evoking very clear imagery. The music. The lyrics. The vocals. I have yet to hear one of their songs that didn’t take me somewhere specific. This song specifically took me to this event. I immediately went to the next song because I didn’t want to think about this. I kept coming back to the song though. There’s a very specific distortion and a very specific clarity. A specific rhythm with a very specific emotional imbalance. They peak through the ether, appearing as darkened and sad angels, to tell your own stories to you for the first time. As if you didn’t know them. And maybe some stories need to be retold.
“Aly, step right out of my head.”
Mark and I could not leave Mandy alone. For days after the funeral we were always with her. She never closed her eyes. I slept and then Mark slept. We talked to each other but Mandy became more and more distant. We knew we had to get on with our lives and stop hiding in Mandy’s childhood room in her mother’s house, but we didn’t know what to do.
“And kiss me goodnight.”
Eventually, Mandy became completely unresponsive. So I started talking to her. Asking her questions. I just kept talking for hours, and I could tell that sometimes I got to her. I stopped talking and Mark kept going. We traded turns at this. We didn’t know what we were doing, but it seemed better than sitting there. Mandy’s mother tried to break into our circle, but we didn’t know how to receive her. We didn’t eat. We were running out of time on some clock that we could only barely perceive.
“Aly, walk with me in my dreams.”
I don’t know what it was that prodded her to speak, but her voice came from far away. “I am waiting for you guys to leave. And then I am going to wait for my mother to go to sleep. Then I’m going to walk down to his apartment and break in. Then I’m going to lay there… And wait for him.”
“All through the night.”
Somehow after this we were able to get her to take a shower and go to sleep. Then we called someone, a friend of ours and Mandy’s, who was familiar with interventions and all of the professionals that had to be involved in something like that. She took over. There was nothing more to be done.
I’m so sorry Mandy.