I'm sorry it had to happen. But I won't apologize for making you cry, if you did, or for making you sad. It's rewarding to know you've grown attached to the characters and that I can pull on your heartstrings. It means I'm doing my job and doing it well. So, thanks again everyone.
When Sid pulled into my driveway at home, I asked him to come in with me. "I know that this is going to be incredibly awkward for you, but I'm begging you. I need you. I need your strength, because I can't do this alone."
"I'm here for you. Whatever you need."
My family had all congregated at my parents' house. The composure I had slowly regained in the car ride here sublimely evaporated as I saw the absolute devastation on my grandmother's face. She had lost her husband, her love. I thought about the way I felt when I thought Sid and I were over, and I knew that those feelings were just a tiny iota of what she was going through now. After all they had been through together: over fifty years of marriage, two children after a painful miscarriage, a difficult stint in the hospital with lung cancer, lost jobs, moves, retirement....
I hugged everyone and exchanged condolences, but other than that, I wasn't sure how to help anyone. So I excused myself from the living room and made myself useful by starting a pot of coffee and steeping some tea. Sidney joined me in the kitchen. "Is there anything I can help you with?" he asked.
"You can get the sugar out of the cupboard," I said, pointing.
He did as I asked—Sidney was so amazing like that, to act unquestioningly when I need him to—and I sat up on the kitchen counter while I waited for everything to brew. Sid set the sugar on the counter and stepped in front of me. "Is there anything I can do for you? I don't know what to do."
I grabbed his hands and pulled them up to my face, kissing them and pressing them against my cheek. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Nelly."
"I just need you near me. It's like, this whole thing hasn't sunk in yet. I'm sad, but it's like I'm only upset because I know I should be. Like the weight of the situation hasn't sunk in yet. Does that make sense?"
He shrugged. "No one grieves the same way. And there is no right way."
With a nod, I added, "I'm glad you got to meet him. I know you didn't really get to know him, because you only spent a couple of hours with him, but I feel so much better you two talked, and that I know that he liked you."
Sidney looked down at his feet for a few moments, and when he looked back up at me, I noticed his eyes were wet. "You're right, I didn't spend a lot of time with him, but I didn't need to. We both have your best interests at heart, and he made me promise to take care of you, to always look out for you. And I swore to him that I would."
I felt a tear slide from my eye. Sidney had told me that they had reached an understanding, and I guess that was Grandpa's way of assuring that Sid was more than just a casual man in my life.
He continued, "He told me that he wasn't joking when he asked when I was planning on proposing, because he said he could see it in my eyes that I was going to. And I told him that it was your time line we were going by, not mine. Because there are some things I can push you into, and some things I can't. And he told me," he let out a deep breath, "not to let you lollygag too long, because he wanted to be there to see us get married—"
"Stop!" I cried. I couldn't hear anymore. I couldn't listen to Sid talk about my grandfather, least of all how he was talking about me. The tears burned like acid in my eyes, and I sobbed until my chest ached from the spasms. Grandpa wasn't going to be there; not because I waited too long, but because he left me too soon. It wasn't fair, it just wasn't fair. Sid let me lean against him, and he tangled a hand in my hair because he knew that always eased my anxiety. "Why did this have to happen?"
"It's not like he did this on purpose, Nelly," he said, lightly scratching my scalp.
"I know that," I barked back. "But... he was so healthy, and this just wasn't supposed to happen. Not yet. Not now. I almost wish you didn't tell me that."
"I'm sorry, I didn't think—"
"No, that's totally Grandpa. Totally something he would say," I told him with a smile that quickly faded away. "But it was almost... portentous. Like he knew. And now, he won't be here for anything."
His other hand snaked around to my back, and he didn't say anything else. I heard the coffee pot as it finished percolating, and I nudged Sid to get him to step away so I could slide off the counter. I needed to busy myself. I poured a couple mugs of the hot brew and took them into the living room, and then I did the same with the tea. All the seats were taken, so Sidney and I took the floor, and I rested against the comfort of Sid's chest.
I didn't have the strength to talk, but I listened to everyone else. My grandmother let us know that everything was already taken care of; ten years ago, they had each made their arrangements and bought their plots, etcetera. Aunt Linda had contacted the funeral parlor, and arranged for viewings on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the funeral itself taking place on Thursday. That seemed so far away, but the rest of our family has to travel up from Tennessee and Florida.
On Sunday evening, there wasn't much for any of us to do, except grieve and talk about Grandpa George. I didn't want to do either of those things. I just didn't want to sit there and think about him, because it felt like a waste. It's not that I didn't want to remember the good times, but I knew that reflecting on them wasn't going to bring him back, and it was too soon to look back on the memories fondly. Every time I pictured his face or relived a memory, my heart would twinge. I didn't want to remember. I didn't want to think.
After I collected some empty mugs with the intention of refilling them, I begged Sidney to take me back to his place. We stood in the kitchen and I implored him to get me out of this house. "I can't stay here. I can't hear one more thing about him. I just can't. Please."
"You wanted to come here, and now you just want leave again? Running away from it doesn't help. You should be with your family."
"I'm not running away, I just can't be here."
"You are running, just like you always do. You should be here. They need you."
I felt the tears begin to well up again, but I blinked quickly to suppress them. "There's nothing to do. I feel so useless, so helpless, and there's nothing I can do to ease the pain for anyone in the other room. I need to get out of here. And if that's running away, then that's what I want to do."
"You can't keep doing this. The problem doesn't go away just because you leave."
"I know it doesn't go away. I just don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about him. I just hurts too bad."
He nodded, and I refilled everyone's mugs and took them into the living room. Quietly, I tried to explain it to my mother. "Um, Sid and I are going to go...."
"No, you're not," she said back. "You should be here."
"I can't, Mom. Please don't make a big deal out of this."
"Fine. But I expect you at the viewings and the funeral."
"Of course I'll be there," I said, giving her a hug. I walked away and hugged my grandmother, and I hoped that she would understand why I just couldn't stay.
"If you need anything, Grandma, just let me know."
"It's okay, dear. This is hard on all of us." She pulled away and patted my arm. "Cherish him, Noelle," she added, and it took all of my strength to not burst into tears. I nodded, knowing I would cherish Sidney forever, and made my way out of the room and out to Sidney's Range Rover.
The car ride back into Pittsburgh was just as silent. I thought about what I needed to. I had some vacation time, so I planned on taking off work the entire week. No one close to me had died before, so I was unsure of how to deal with everything that was swirling around in my head.
By the time we got back to Sid's, I was sick of having to think about everything, so I did the only thing I could think of to get my mind out of the dark clouds. I reached out for Sidney. He enveloped me in his arms in a big comfortable hug, but that's not what I needed. I slid my hands under his shirt to his warm abs and nibbled on his neck.
"Nelly, what are you doing?"
"You should know," I teased. "It's not like you're a stranger to this."
"I know what you're doing. That's not what I asked. Do you think this is appropriate?"
I scratched my nails across his muscles. "I don't care about what's appropriate."
"You're upset. Do you want to go lie down or something? I'll make some tea, or fix dinner."
"No. That's not what I want. I want you. And I'd appreciate it if you obliged me." I pushed his jacket over his shoulders and then tried to pull his tee shirt over his head, but I was too short and it didn't work.
He stopped my progress of undressing him. "Nelly—"
"Oh, shut the fuck up, Sidney," I moaned. He looked back at me with shock in his eyes, not expecting an outburst like that from me. Not under the present circumstances. "I don't need you to psychoanalyze me right now. I need you to fuck my brains out."
I even surprised myself when I said that; that was the last thing I had expected to come out of my mouth. Sid looked back at me, and I didn't know how he was going to respond to me. I should have tried to explain to him that I wanted to feel close to him, to feel love, in order to counter the despair pooling inside of me. That his touch was what was saving me from turning inward into myself and bawling my eyes. Instead, I grabbed a hold of him and slammed my lips against his, hoping that he'd stop fighting me. Despite his reservations, he did exactly what I needed him to do.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago