In the week before my sister died, I was upset because I couldn’t find anyone with whom to attend the Fathom Events screening of the English revival of my favorite Stephen Sondheim musical, “Merrily We Roll Along” which was to occur Wednesday, October 23. “Merrily” moves backward in time, starting at the jaded, cynical unhappy ending and ending at the naively, hopeful happy beginning – which, since we know the tragedy to come, becomes heart-breakingly, evisceratingly sad.
The night before my sister died I was out late, running around, being a fool, and through a series of ridiculous events, my GPS got crushed, stepped on, its screen virtually un-readable. It will still tell me where to go, but I can’t see it. Not a good thing as I almost NEVER know where I am going, even in the town where I live. I am perpetually lost.
The evening of the day my sister died, I was supposed to be out with a friend but had elected instead to stay home with another sister and so was there when the call came. As I had ten years earlier when being told a friend of mine had died, my first reaction to the news was, “Oh stop it, that can’t be right.”
No. And it wasn’t right then. And it isn’t right now. And all I seem able to do is keep running the story backward in my head, wishing I could change it, and I I am heartbreakingly, evisceratingly sad and perpetually lost in this stupid fucking story called “life”. And, being a writer, I keep thinking; “There are just two chapters now; Before my sister died. After my sister died.”
It turns out that I could not have seen “MERRILY” anyway. That was the night of the visitation. We came home – well, home being the assisted living apartment complex where I have been staying with my Mom since my sister died – and we watched the World Series. My Mom is a baseball fan. I am not. We watched until eleven p.m. at which point my Mom said she thought she’d go to bed since the – I can’t remember the name of the team (nor do I care) – whatevers were so far ahead. So, I asked her to turn it to “AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN”. She asked me what it was about, I tried to explain. She lasted five minutes and said, “This is ridiculous, I’m going to bed.”
Ridiculous? I said. Ridiculous? This from a woman who watches – almost all day long and into the evening – re-runs of games shows like “Match Game” and “Super Password” from decades past and tries to remember which of the celebrities are dead. I don’t know how she keeps score when I’m not here to look them up on my smart phone!
Anyway, seeing Christine Ebersole getting her throat slit and Patti LuPone (who, surprisingly, did NOT do the slitting – imagine that!?) portraying a crazy fundamentalist religious nut with a son so hot he vibrates with lust – well, I can only hope that Jessica Lange takes that boy as a gesture for all of those of us who are of a certain age and wish to be vibrated.
Because when I am thinking these things, I forget there is BEFORE and AFTER. I stop wishing I could move backward in time. I stop worrying about where to go from here and how the hell I am going to figure out how to get there.
My sister died. On the day after my sister died we were going to have coffee at 10am at the downtown Frederick Starbucks, and the last thing I have from her is the text she sent when we confirmed those plans: “Okie Dokie! Yay!”
And I am going to force myself into that Starbucks today. Because, stop it. This can’t be right. No.
(I just, I want to write about her. I want to. I want to describe the surreal time-stands-still of this week and how it seems that the ten years ago when Allen and Steve and Sissie and all the others died in a few months happened yesterday and it’s all connected somehow. I want to, but I can’t. I still don’t know how.)