There is a crow that sits in my throat. Her name is sorrow. Her name is death. Her chest is hollow but her beak is full. If I close my mouth to her, if I close my eyes to her, she will suffocate me from the inside and claw her way free.
Her song is no song at all. It is nails on a chalkboard. It is the popping of bones—the sounds of decay. Her message is no message at all. It is an uncomfortable truth, an echo of an experience—nothing more, nothing less.
I have tried to swallow her whole, but she won't stay down.
I have tried to set her free, but she won't dislodge.
I speak with the crow's voice or I suffer the consequences. I speak with the crow's voice or I will drown in her words.
Her silence is a pile of ashes on the back of my tongue. I breathe through her, not around. I breathe with her, not alone.
Her roost is the void of my heart, deep and sacred like an ancient well. Her root is the pain I secret within, a candor I can never unwrap, like a chocolate in gold foil.
She brings suffering and relief in equal measure, but the sound of her is feared by all. She is a murder of one.
I speak with the crow's voice and I suffer the consequences. I speak with the crow's voice and I drown in our words.
Speaking is a necessary evil of the bereaved parent. If I don't speak, this experience will consume me. If I do, I leave a trail of devastation that sits over the land like smog because nothing I have to say is anything anyone wants to hear with the exception of other bereaved parents. Not because I'm bad or mean, nor because others are bad or mean. There is simply nothing about this experience that fits in the kind of tidy boxes with pretty ribbons that we like to wrap the world in.
I find myself struggling to reach a space safe enough to let this truth out without repercussions. My feelings trigger other people's feelings. My memories make others uncomfortable. My experience stirs the pot that's best left settled. But losing Evelyn has rendered me incapable of the trivialities of socially acceptable conversation. I can hardly get through a phone conversation with a customer service representative without blurting out that my daughter died. I watch solicitors squirm on my doorstep when I tell them we are grieving and who and why. I watch their discomfort play out before me and I cannot help myself. I cannot stop speaking my horrible truth. I tell people over and over how this loss makes me yearn for death, knowing all the while that they don't know what to do with that kind of confession. I hear their panicked responses, but I cannot hold it in. It's the worst kind of projectile, exorcist-spinning-head-style word vomit you can imagine.
And the truly awful part is that what I'm saying is not even the half of it. Where do I put the rest? To whom do I explain what it looks and feels like to find your child's body rigid with lifelessness? I have considered digging a hole in the earth and whispering my horrors into it, but I fear what would grow in its place. Who wants to live this nightmare with me over and over again in the retelling? Because I can't seem to repeat it enough. Saying it once doesn't put it to rest.
I don't know where bereaved parents are supposed to go with their stories no one wants to hear. To each other, I suppose. But as I said before, I can't turn it off and on. It bleeds out of me no matter where I am or who I'm with. It splashes across my social media pages, in this blog, in my texts and emails. I don't know how to pretend otherwise, how to engage in small talk and keep it "surface level" anymore. I was never very good at that. Now, I'm positively lousy.
It hurts people. It makes them uneasy and awkward. I know this. I see it. I register it as it is happening and I cannot put the cork back in now that it's out. Do you want to know what her eyes looked like when I rolled her over? Put your hand here ... do you feel that? It's the erratic rhythm of my heart since she left. It's near constant now. Want to know how many ectopic beats I counted today? I know you don't, not really. And I don't blame you. But I'll probably tell you anyway because I don't know what else to talk about. I don't live in your world anymore. This is the scenery where I live, looking out the window of my experience. Let me describe it to you.
I don't know why I'm like this, but I do know where it started. It started the second I had to look my son in the eyes and dial my husband's number and deliver the most crushing news of their or my life, knowing all the while that I was killing some part of them with my words. I haven't been able to stop myself since. I'm concerned that in twenty years, or even twenty months, there will be very few people left standing in my acquaintance. And really, I can't blame the ones who leave. I wouldn't want to be near me either. I don't want to be near me now; I don't want to be me. But in the 15 weeks since she died, I have yet to find a way to become anyone else.