Sleeping Wide Awake


I lost my best friend early last year. Because of lockdowns, retrenchment, and a jealous ex (although not an ex at the time) we didn’t get to hang out as much in the last few years. When she died, there was this immediate regret about all these missed opportunities, and guilt over choices I made that contributed to that.

I’ve lost other people before – one of my earliest memories is my grandfather’s funeral, and kissing his cold cheek at the open-coffin ceremony. I would’ve only been three or four. Some time later, I recall my grandmother, dressed all in black, draped over his grave at the funeral, sobbing uncontrollably, screeching as she implored him in Macedonian, “Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me?”

Since, I’ve lost aunts and uncles, my dog of thirteen years, my sister in-law to cancer, and a couple of sometime-friends (I only saw them sometimes, although I’d known them years) – one in his twenties to suicide, and another in his forties to a condition known as Scleroderma. So my friend’s death wasn’t the first time I’d had to deal with death.

But she was the person I was closest to – somebody I clicked with and who got me (lunacy and all), who checked in on me every day fourteen years ago (because she feared I’d suicide) when I had horrible dietary issues and excruciating pain for six months, who always supported me, who championed my writing (when nobody else would), and was always there for me.

Her sudden absence created not only this emptiness, but a vacuum that swallowed all hopefulness, anticipation, and motivation for anything in the future, leaving only this stark joylessness (as much as she would’ve hated that) which, now that it’s been sewn, not only continues to grow but overrun everything else.

After the shock and through the grief, I dealt with a lot of anger that often involved hitting things – like street signs or bus timetables (in their plastic encasements at bus stops, ready victims whenever I walked past them late at night), until my right hand was bruised and swollen and I had to hide it in one of my gloves (fortunately, they’re ubiquitous during winter).

I speak to her lots, talking about regrets, or apologies about not hanging out more, talking about conversations we never got to have because of the last few years (and there are lots of those – a handful of important things I had wanted to talk to her about when the time was right, always thinking there’d be some fucking opportunity), or sometimes (albeit rarely) reminiscing about good stuff.

Sometimes, lying in bed at night, I’ll talk, and then wait, the ringing in my ears almost mesmerizing, until I’m sure that it’s not ringing but just a sound I don’t understand yet – the equivalent of trying to read a foreign language (I can see that it’s language, and I can identify it’s language, but I just can’t read it) – and that one day, I’ll understand it, and it’ll no longer be ringing, but deconstruct into some form of communication that I’ll grow to understand.

And while I think about all the possibilities what that communication might be, sometimes, in my bleak wistfulness, I hope – I want to believe – that whatever barrier separates the realms of life and death might collapse, and my friend will speak to me, and after I get over my initial alarm, we can talk like we used to, and we can visit all those conversations we should’ve had.

Of course, if such a thing is possible, then God knows who – or what – else might be able to speak to me also.