I did not post in this space last week. But it wasn’t because I was unprepared; I had something ready to go. It still sits as a draft in my WordPress workspace—where it will likely remain as long as I have this WordPress.com account.
It was titled “Symmetry (and other random thoughts).” And when my usual posting time rolled around—early Wednesday morning, Central Time—my heart was no longer in it. The words felt crass, and shallow, and not what I wanted to put out in the world at that time.
Something devastating had transpired in between the time when I wrote that post, and last Wednesday morning. I was with a very close friend in the wee hours of that Tuesday, just after she’d learned that her beloved thirteen-year-old son had died.
My friend and I were both away from home, in Atlanta, for work. We had dinner together Monday evening. She had told me how her son was being treated for depression. A very active and bright young man, he had just started to show signs of struggle. My friend and her husband had wasted no time in seeking help for him. No one involved in his treatment thought he was in imminent danger of harming himself.
I went to sleep in my hotel room that evening, thinking of her son, and how hard it is to just grow up. And how overwhelming it must be when the demons of depression interject themselves into the turmoil of adolescence.
When I awakened around 3am, and saw several missed calls from my friend, I knew something terrible had happened. By the time I padded down to her hotel room in pajamas and work shoes, she had already booked the first available flight back to her home in Wisconsin. I stayed with her for a while, went back to my room to shower and dress, and returned to her room around 5:30am to drive her to the airport.
By Tuesday night, I was back home in New Orleans. And feeling profoundly empty. Or useless. Or all of the above. My friend and I speak often, but only see each other a few times a year. I was glad I was able to provide what small support I could—getting her to the airport—but it feels insignificant compared to the depth of her, and her husband’s, pain.
Or the magnitude of their loss.
When Wednesday morning rolled around, if I had published what I originally wrote, it would have meant me ignoring how close I had been to this tragedy, so soon after it had happened. And I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do. Silence felt more appropriate.
Not to mention that my friend is one of a handful of people who regularly reads what I write. It would have been a disservice to her friendship, dishonoring of her grief, and, essentially, contrary to every reason why I choose to express myself via writing.
I’m floundering at this very moment. I still don’t know whether this is “right to write.” But I am compelled by something. Maybe something beyond reason.
And ultimately, obviously, I’ve chosen to put this out there. Also, to salvage two items from that original post. I’ve left out the “other random thoughts,” and focused on two things that hopefully, adequately convey both feeling and depth.
First, the inspiration for the title of this post (and also, the unpublished one). It’s a song called “Shore,” performed by the Danish String Quartet, from their album “Last Leaf.” I couldn’t find the song on YouTube, but I did find a promotional piece about the group and this album here.
I downloaded “Last Leaf” sometime in December, and I keep coming back to “Shore.” It’s roughly three minutes long, and I’m always struck by the mid-point of the song. It bridges the two halves in perfect symmetry. To my ear, at least. And it’s nestled thoughts of symmetry into the back of my brain for the past two months.
I can see no symmetry to the hole that has been left in my friends’ lives. I can’t even pretend to.
But I can still be moved, and centered, all at the same time, when I listen to this composition. As only music can do, for us imperfect and imbalanced humans.
And there might be some symmetry to the one other thing worth mentioning from that other post. A symmetry between the unpublished and published, perhaps.
I had cheekily mentioned Bruce Willis’s character from Armageddon, Harry Stamper. I had watched the tail end of the movie in my hotel room Sunday night. I had drawn a comparison, as I’ve done in this space before, between Harry Stamper’s record of always reaching his drilling target, and my consistency in posting for the past two and a half years.
For the last several days, I’ve thought about the actual words, the line of dialogue that inspired the comparison. Harry Stamper never missed a depth that he aimed for.
If I had published last week, I would have definitely missed my target depth. And that’s not the writer I’ve ever intended to be.