Back in Pennsylvania…
I slumped to the ground in a lifeless pile. The ground was so cold, so muddy. My fingers and hands that were so desperately trying to hold me up were buried in soggy cold, thick, wet dirt. The rain had not stopped all day. It was the type of rain that just kept coming and coming….no end in sight and pouring down. Every time I opened the door to see if the guys had arrived, the rain was loud and insistent. I could see my breath outside on the back porch. I was wearing a white v-neck t-shirt and a long skirt….no shoes. The kids were inside playing video games and Ted was pacing nervously back and forth on the porch as he tried to put his best it’s-going-to-be-okay face on. It wasn’t working.
We knew something had happened. Something tragic, but we didn’t want to believe anything we read on the Internet. I only checked it twice and saw two news reports. I read only a little and closed them out….the computer was off from then on. I had a horrible sinking feeling of dread. I knew he did something really stupid this time.
I finally heard two bikes coming closer to the house. The sound was so faint, but I heard them. I had been listening for hours for that sound. I wanted to know what happened….the real story…… The bikes grew louder and louder until they finally arrived. It was Tom and Sam. They were wearing their usual jeans with their old worn in leather jackets. Tom had a cigarette hanging from his lips. He always had a cigarette hanging from his lips.
I stood on the porch, cold and barefoot, waiting for someone to say something. Ted was standing on the front steps, waiting just out of ear shot. They walked up to Ted so slowly that it seemed as if an hour had passed. They shook Ted’s hand. I couldn’t hear exactly what they said. I only saw tears and heads shaking.
Sam looked Ted dead in the eye and said, “I’m sorry man….there was nothing anyone could do.”
Ted walked back and forth on the porch while I just watched him. I gestured for Tom and Sam to go in, whispering there was coffee or beer. I still didn’t know exactly what had happened. I was afraid to ask Ted. I didn’t know if he was angry, upset or just completely distraught with grief. I kept looking over to him and he finally looked back at me.
“He was in a bad way”, he simply stated. His eyes were so welled up with tears that never fell. His head was tilted to the side slightly with a look that I ached for him. There was so much pain in his soft voice and crooked glance.
“No one could help him any longer. It just happened…..it had to happen sooner or later.” Ted said with a tremble. “He took a bunch of pills and wrecked his bike.” He went through the open sliding glass doors into the kitchen. I wanted to go and help him, console him….but I knew he wanted to be alone for a while.
On my way down to the mud I couldn’t control myself. I was inconsolable. I cried so hard my chest hurt. The kind of cry you had as a kid when you couldn’t catch your breath. My face down, struggling to catch the breath I could see right in front of me in this wicked rain….my hands grasping the mud, squishing through my fingers. I sat there in the yard getting drenched on the freezing ground. No one would know I was crying unless they heard me….the rain was sliding down my face…mascara running down with it.
I didn’t even like him. He had done so many awful things in the past two years to everyone who had tried to help him get on his feet again. The whole family talked about him taking pills, but no one ever confronted him. Everyone was great at that….talking about what was wrong with someone, expressing so much concern, but never doing a God-damned thing about it and then saying they couldn’t have done anything anyway. No one actually cared enough to sat anything….even myself. Plausible deniability.
There was a certain look on Ted’s face. You cannot describe it….you only know it if you see it.
Guilt of never confronting him about the rumors of pills, erratic behavior and lies. Ted would never be the same after today. I knew it would be a long time for him to open up and talk about it, but I would wait. He would need me soon enough and I didn’t want to push him. He needed to feel the loss….face the pain….it was his only brother, after all.
Leonard was dead.