I awoke on a morning just like any other morning. It was a week day. It was humid and overcast outside. It was absolutely unremarkable. My two year old daughter had climbed into my bed sometime around 4 a.m. I eased out of slumber and gained a gradual cognizance of my dimly lit bedroom. I remember basking in the warmth of her small body. She radiated in a sweet cocoon of blankets beside me.
I’d heard the harp chords of my iPhone ringtone somewhere in my dreams. Somewhere distant and unwanted in the background of my imagination’s conjuring. That melody beckoned me back… Come back, April… Back to a morning just like any other morning. I’d chosen selfishly to linger a while longer in the surreal landscape of sleep. Looking back, I’m thankful I did. Thankful for those few extra minutes of ignorant bliss.
In that four post bed, I eventually found the lackadaisical strength to raise my arms above my head and achieve the perfect feline stretch. I reached skyward for a sun hidden carefully behind Appalachian clouds when the low volume harp song began again. Seriously? It’s 8 a.m., on a morning just like any other morning. What could be so important?
My hands fumbled for the phone on the nightstand and I stood up out of bed in one fluid movement. My daughter would be getting hungry soon. I’ll answer this as I head to the kitchen. I wonder if she’ll want cereal or pancakes, on this morning just like any other morning.
Multitasking, mommy’s always multitasking.
Too late. I’d just missed it. I’ll call right back, I thought. No big deal. Then my sleep stained eyes caught a glimpse of the glowing display. 6 missed calls. Fran. Melinda. Kris. I thought I knew exactly what this meant.
Craig must be in trouble again. Almost a year had passed since I was chained to that phone. Talking to and comforting his mother, Fran. Sharing concerns with our friend, Melinda. Planning interventions with confidante and addiction sponsor, Kris. Police, crisis centers, intense conversations. Hunting down the phone numbers of drug dealers and bottom feeders. Calling them and threatening them with a fate worse than death if they didn’t divulge where he was.
Every day. For weeks. Missing and making frantic calls about Craig. I’d been so proud of the resulting silence. So proud of him. It meant he was safe, stable, moving forward. Mission accomplished. That quiet was beautiful and so strangely reassuring. He’d just celebrated his year anniversary of sobriety. Surely he hasn’t relapsed? Not on this morning just like any other morning.
I took a deep, meditative breath just the same, anticipating news of some setback. Maybe we’d won the battle but not the war? It happens. No one is perfect. So I inhaled and prepared.
I prepared to save him once more.
Before I could hit redial the harp rung out once more. Seventh call. Lucky number seven… I answered. It’s Melinda. We’d had a falling out years earlier over something random that no longer mattered. At some point we realized our only chance of rescuing Craig meant we had to band together. Strength in numbers. Her tone immediately gave birth to the most awful, haunted feeling inside myself. She was speaking in a pained hush.
She said my name in a desperate, almost pleading way. “April…” as if my name held the fate of the world in its hands. Like speaking my name out loud might break some terrible curse – but didn’t. Why does my name sound so tragic on this morning just like any other morning?
I stopped abruptly on my heels, half way the kitchen. “What’s wrong? Is it Craig?” It had to be. She whimpered in response, “Yes… I just found out…” Every alarm, every emergency signal in my heart’s chambers began to sound. The rest of what she said got lost in a symphony of terrible sirens.
“He went to work. He seemed fine. Nobody knew anything was wrong. And… he… hung himself. I don’t know what happened. I’m so sorry….”
I held my breath because all of the oxygen in the house was removed forcibly. Every muscle in my body tensed. I was flinching in the midst of some brutal, invisible impact. I remember choking out some kind of response. Drowned in a tide of angry disbelief on a morning just like any other morning.
“What?! ….Craig? ….He what? No… Hung himself? …. Why! Why would he do something like that? No, he was better! He was well. How did this happen?!” I lost count of the times she replied to me in a quiet voice full of horrific, defeated sorrow. It felt like the phrases “I’m so sorry. I don’t know. I can’t believe this” were spoken in some inescapable, torturous loop.
Adolescent memories came rushing over me like flood waters. Eric, Chris, Steve… Craig. The smell of eucalyptus. Laughter, innocence, freedom. A life before the great responsibilities. I paced like a restless tiger confined to a cage at the circus. I sharpened knives in my mind and wired atomic bombs in my eyes. I growled at an imaginary God. I would burn down the entire world. I would ruin everyone, everything, it didn’t matter. I would find Death, the careless thief, and intimidate him like I had the low life’s feeding my friend’s weaknesses. And oh, I would punish him. For taking him away from me. For taking my friend.
On a morning just like any other morning.