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Rainy Days and Aprils
In which I write about my various struggles with the month of April...
Six years ago, my stepbrother was found floating face down in a lake. It happened on a Friday, but I wouldn’t know about it until Sunday, when my husband saw my little brother posting about it on Facebook. The news felt like those dreams where your teeth fall out. I called my Granny, screaming the news into the phone, and she didn’t even realize who I was talking about because we have a cousin with the same name, and I hadn’t mentioned my stepbrother in six years—not since his dad and my mom separated.
Before he died, I’d already had trouble with April. It was the month we did our Spring plays in high school, which led to the inevitable tears from seniors preparing to graduate, to say goodbye. We’d all gather around the green room before the last nights’ performance, holding hands, saying how grateful we were, and immediately after, someone would run up to me and dab my cheeks with a cream-coated sponge, hiding the tear carvings of my foundation.
I’m sure there are good April’s, ones where my Granny took me to Wild Adventures or some other place with questionable roller coasters and already melted cotton candy. Maybe there was a wedding or two, which seems likely. But for some reason, my brain is resistant to hold onto good memories.
My sixteenth April, I’d made an attempt at self murder, which didn’t go over too well. I’d taken a handful of my Momma’s OxyContin and sat on my bare mattress, waiting to die, only to be interrupted when a friend had caught onto my scheme and sent men in an ambulance to my house. I was taken to a place called Hope’s Corner, where they suggested I try not to kill myself again. I said, “okie doke,” because arguing felt pointless. Every April after, time has collapsed in on itself, and I’ve been brought back to this specific moment, this memory, forced into my sixteen year old body until, like being jolted awake from a dream of falling, I snap back into whatever age I am now and go on with my life.
T. S. Eliot wasn’t lying when he called April the cruellest month.
I’ve managed to stay afloat now, during April’s. I’ve reminded myself of how important it is to find the good things, even in times of sadness. Even on the day of my stepbrother’s funeral, I acknowledged the beauty of the newly planted wildflowers along the highway up to Georgia.
When I told my Granny I was writing about my struggles with April, she reminded me that it wasn’t all bad. Hadn’t it been just last April that I was invited to a dinner with various authors, several of whom I loved and obsessed over?
She was right.
Last April, six months into querying my memoir, an author I loved invited me to be her date to a dinner party featuring other authors I admired. It felt like gaining early entry to the world I so desperately wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t stop talking about the memoir over dinner with these various authors. Maybe part of me hoped that they would tell me if it was any good, if it was worth the pursuit. That’s not their job though. What I did get was kind words of general support, a feeling of understanding, a recognition, familiarity, because they’d been here before.
The truth is, this was a perfect experience—it made it clear to me how much I wanted to be a writer, how thrilling it was to discuss the work with others and about books everyone loved, to see how these little ideas of theirs blew up over time. But just as much as it made me realize what I wanted, it made me more nervous about the idea of its unattainability. Because the more complicated reality was that I didn’t know if my memoir was good. I hadn’t really known what kind of story I was trying to tell, and it wasn’t until life intervened that I knew where the narrative arc was meant to go.
The second half of my memoir is mostly about me and my stepbrother. It had always been like this, him a key feature to the work. But it wasn’t until he died that I knew what the end of my book would be. I’d spent years thinking that he would be my future. He was the only person who had been through everything I had gone through, who understood the experiences that nobody else had, who knew I wasn’t lying. People always questioned the memories i’d recounted from my childhood, sometimes going so far as to call me a liar, but he knew the truth. There was something so comforting about being around him and never feeling like he didn’t believe me, and that he knew where to step and how to be careful with me, because I’d learned the same for him. Losing him made me realize that I had been holding onto a possible future that had never been guaranteed. I hadn’t been living, but waiting, for this life with him to begin.
This isn’t the kind of truth I want to admit to—that I had viewed the life I was living and everyone in it as disposable, as something I could drop at a moments notice, whenever my stepbrother was ready. Maybe I’d watched Thelma and Louise too many times as a kid, and had the wrong idea about how life works. But either way, to deny this truth, even as hurtful as it can be, would mean not moving away from it. When my Momma got sober, that’s the first thing she told me—you can’t solve the problem until you admit it’s there.
I know that April isn’t a cursed month, that it just so happens that these things all happened around the same time of year throughout my life. I wouldn’t even consider myself superstitious. But like those who cling to movies and books because of their nostalgia, I too cling to things that provide me structure, patterns to follow, a way to safely conjure memories and moments, contain these feelings to one specific period and not let it flood throughout the entirety of my year, or my life.
One time, when I worked at Sally’s Beauty Supply—not long after being written up for making a joke about how I always felt like a stripper when I paid in singles—my boss asked why I was so sad all of a sudden. When I explained my complicated history with April, she shrugged and chimed, “April showers bring May flowers!”
April may be the month of storms in my life, but she wasn’t wrong in that the storms brought something after. If I hadn’t been learned to say goodbye to people year after year, as they went off to greater things, I wouldn’t have been prepared for my hardest goodbye. If I hadn’t said my hardest goodbye, I might still be waiting for this non-existent other life to begin. All of those hard things eventually followed with something good.
My Granny, a devout Pentecostal and one of the kindest people I know, has weathered so many storms in her life—when I asked her how she was able to keep going, while suffering through years of terrible things, she, of course, referenced the flood. She always said that the flood was a lesson—it didn’t matter whether or not it really happened, just that we understood the point God was trying to make—that after every storm, there is a rainbow, something beautiful to look forward to. And while I am resistant to many religious things, I have learned that more often than not, my Granny is right.
Thanks to y’all for reading my ramblings today. Also I promise more NBA newsletters are coming—work travel and this cold have set me back a little, but I am doing my best! I appreciate everyone’s patience and also, as always, enjoy your interactions and am so grateful so many of y’all are here.
Until next time,