Casey had been dead five years.
In the beginning, I thought that her encouraging my bi-ness was just her being a good friend, a good ally, and it was. But it wasn’t until we hooked up that first time that I found out. It was just one of those things that happened. We spent nights binging Twin Peaks in her apartment, always too hot or too cold, stripping the mattress bare and tagging ourselves as different characters. It was our first viewing, for both of us. I’ve watched it now dozens of times since her death. I remember we didn’t have any coffee in her place, but she had an old jar of these chocolate-covered espresso beans, and we made a game out of eating those every time Cooper complimented a cup of coffee, drank from said coffee. We ate a lot of those espresso beans. We’d stay up too late, hover between wake and rest, not wanting to waste a second in unconsciousness if we could help it, and the way I’d come to across from her in bed, light still on but futile, Netflix asking if we were still watching, and the unrestricted excitement of new touch, new kisses, new everything. There was inevitably trying to play it off, trying to feign experience and worldliness. And all that. Her seeing through it and ensuring that she’d quite complete my education. Coordinating days off spent restless on the couch, under Twin Peaks ceiling fan, and she knew what my family was like, how I’d never dated a woman before, and stories of Bible Belt upbringing kept away from the dangers of trick-or-treating, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Pokémon, and so her making me marathon them with her, a different education, and those old teachings on hell and damnation caught in my hair, tangled with it as I’d brush it out mornings when I’d wake up before her, make myself black coffee I’d bought for us and go write. Waving it away with thoughts like I think we can do it if we try, willing myself to believe it, and all the mental projections of how this would end, not if, because my brain wouldn’t give me the luxury of if.
It wasn’t something we saw, could see, even thought to be in the realm of possibility. Aneurysm, just another word among so many, easily glossed over, forgotten about, remembered only in offhand mentions in doctor shows, WebMD searches. The erasure of a human being in a single catastrophic instant, and the way that words can provide the barrier you need to get through the next minute, the next thirty seconds, the next breath.
It’s taking out the bedding and shredding it, rending the fabric in your hands and watching the resultant tatters flutter down like so many leaves, autumn dark and winter frost, letting it all turn to permafrost, and I loved her more than anyone I ever fucking loved before, would love, could love, full stop.
I’m writing this now, several seasons removed, and I can finally look at fallen leaves on my back lawn without wanting to shut myself up in my room, can hear beyond the mental white noise of grief. It’s turning now, out there, all of it shifting toward longer nights and colder mornings. So I lay down an extra blanket before I sleep. Pour an extra cup of black coffee when I wake.