A Month, or 29 Days

January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

In April, a little over a month after my mother’s funeral, a student comes to my office. She is wearing a colorful long skirt and a peach hijab, and she is smiling, though sadness seeps through. “I wanted to come see how you’re doing,” she says, “but I wanted to give you some time.” Tears start rolling down my cheeks. There’s no way I can stop them. Then, she starts to well up. I give us each a tissue. “Are you ok?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “This is the month.”

Many people have attempted to comfort me by this point, which often leads to talk of “better places” and “time healing all wounds,” most of which I do not believe. My mom and dad are not in a better place. They are dead. A better place would be alive, with me. I let these well-meaning people hug me, I force a smile. I tell them I hope they are right. I do hope they are right.

This student (I’ll call her Susana) is the first person to make sense. She is the one who emails me out of nowhere the day my mother is found dead in her apartment. I am worried that something really bad has happened, she writes. It is not like you to miss class. I decide at that point she is psychic, or at least extremely sensitive to changes in the atmosphere. We become friends.

Susana carries her school books in a Land’s End backpack, embroidered with someone else’s initials. It belonged to her son, and she can’t give it up. He died in a car wreck four years ago, at sixteen, driving to work at a pizza restaurant.

“People keep telling me it will get easier,” I tell her. “They say I’ll move on.”

“It never gets easier,” she says. “It’s just not so present every single moment. You learn how to get through the days. And some you don’t.” She doesn’t look away from me, even though my face is a mess of emotion. I know she is telling the truth. “When people say stupid things like that,” she says, “I smile at them. At first I laugh at them inside for being  ignorant, but by the time they’re done talking, I can usually forgive them.” This is brilliant. I decide to try it.

Susana is very religious, a Muslim, but she doesn’t tell me God will get me through. Her faith helps her, but doesn’t wipe anything away. She knows that some losses leave huge gaping holes that nothing but more nothingness can fill. I can’t help but keep the hole, even marvel at it sometimes. She knows that there is no going back to who I was, that it isn’t even something I could desire now.

“I always feel April coming,” she says. “It’s the month Mac died.” By now we are both fitting words through tears when there’s an opening, a breath. “That’s when I remember exactly.” I know a little about this already. My mother’s birthday is April 3, and it hits me like a truck.

Susana checks on me periodically through the semester, never offering the idea that I should get over anything, or that I should try to work through my sadness. She just comes to sit, to make sense. Neither of us even attempts to stop the other from crying. We are comfortable with each other’s grief. She even emails me when I am in Italy. I was just wondering if you got through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day ok, she writes. I did not and I tell her the truth. I tell her I hope those days weren’t too hard for her.

Susana is not in my class this semester. We have different schedules, but I keep expecting her to show up at my door any day now. February is my month, and I have been feeling it coming.


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