This book takes course over a 24 hour period after a teenage boy is involved in a car accident. His brain is dead, but his heart is still beating. We watch as the parents must decide to donate his organs or not. We watch as they remember their lives together, and the lives the boy touched. We face every sad emotion associated with loss and being forced to say goodbye when we are not ready to. This is a very sad story, but beautifully written, like a poet writing a novel. The first sentence went on for two pages with no period in sight. This is a writer making love to a very sad story. After you read this, it will be difficult to pick up another book, because she has hit you right to your core. She’ll break your heart.
We walk through life trying to go from one day to the next. For some, it is easier than others. There are those that put life on auto-pilot, becoming accustomed to having a normal life just like everyone else. Then, there are the ones that struggle every single day just to make it through the day.
Yesterday was a sorrowful day as we learned that the world lost an incredible musical talent, Chris Cornell. For those who grew up during the grunge era, bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam were very much a part of our everyday soundtrack.
I mentioned to Jimmy Murphy that Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” reminded me of a time in my life that I never wanted to go back to. It was a moment in my life where I had one of those AHA! moments. Murph wrote this piece on what Cornell’s music meant to him and sent it to me. The one sentence that caught my attention was this: “But what moments like this do, is they trigger our memories and bring us to certain chapters in our lives.”
I told Murph that I thought about writing something about that moment, which I was reluctant to do. He told me to do it. So here I am.
“Like a Stone” is about death and living. From the first note until the last, you can see the brilliance of what made Soundgarden and Alice in Chains such incredible bands. Cornell has this magic of telling his tale, wrapping his voice around your heart by pulling you in, keeping his audience completely mesmerized by the spell he is weaving with his voice. That is what makes him so magical.
If you’ve read Mitch Albom’s “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” you’ll understand what I mean by magical. Music has this ability to create legendary creatures like Prince, Michael Jackson, Mozart, Beethoven, Scott Weiland, Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell. They don’t just create music, they create magic within their music.
In this particular chapter in my life that I am writing about today, the song “Like a Stone” was playing on the radio back in 2004. I was standing in my cottage in Indianapolis listening to it, when I all of a sudden came face to face with everything that was going on inside of me and realized I deserved something better.
Working for the government, getting crap for pay with a student loan payment I couldn’t afford, barely able to afford food, I knew I had to change my financial situation. I was battling with a rocker over the things that were not said between us. He broke my heart, acted like a jerk about it, but kept reeling me in only to throw me away again. I was drowning in the emotional misery he was putting me through. How can I try to be his best friend when he lied to me from the very beginning? I closed my wounded heart to him and he kept pecking at it over and over again, trying to rip the wound open. He was destroying me inside. He was the first guy I fell in love with after losing my soulmate back in 1994.
Which now brings us to Kevin. He is the one that broke me. He took part of my soul with him when he put a bullet into his heart. In the exact moment he died, I felt a part of my soul rip from me. My mind screamed his name and I had no idea why until the next morning when I found out he committed suicide.
You don’t ever get over losing your soulmate.
I spent my college years walking through life as a ghost. I felt half empty and completely lost. Everything I envisioned for myself, I buried with Kevin as they lowered him into his grave. I did not know who to be or what I wanted out of life. Life literally had no meaning for me.
Those couple of years I wound up back in Indiana was rock bottom for me. Sure, I had a well respected career both in the government and outside of it. I was in the papers every week. People wanted to work with me from one project to the next. I had the respect of my community.
I had all of that and it did not fill that emptiness inside of me. I felt nothing. There was no exhalation of a job well done after each event. It was just one thing to cross off the list and move onto the next. I did not take joy in any of my accomplishments, because all I could see was my sorrow.
I hung out with a lot of bands and musicians during this time in my life. I would help them out however I could just so I could get on their guest list, because I couldn’t afford to pay to see them. I tried to support my friends by driving all over the place, even flying to California for the biggest gig of their life, because that is the person I am. I may have struggled to pay for all of that, but I found a way, sometimes doing whatever side jobs I could get my hands on.
Believe it or not, there are a few songs out there about me from this moment in my life. I think the best one was from Josh Holmes. I heard he never plays that song live. As one of his fans put up on his site, “Whoever that song is about, she must have been someone wonderful.”
The song is about our breakup. It was about how he had fallen and how I had broken his heart. I never told anyone what happened. They just knew we broke up. That song though, is about that final conversation and how it changed him into a better person. As we were breaking up, he threatened me and said that I would come back to him just like all of the other girls did. He could hear me crying through the phone when I said, “You’re wrong. I’m not coming back.” [That’s the part of the song where he says, “Who was I to sit there and make you cry and think you’d come back to me.”]
He learned the hard way. I never came back. He became a ghost to me. He opened for a very famous act one night months later. I was there because I was asked to be there for the main act. I was hanging out with the band when he came over and sat right next to me. I pretended like he wasn’t even there. And yeah…that moment made it into the song. The band was well aware of what was going on. I remember the lead singer remarking on how guys should never piss me off. He said it was so blatant someone was trying to get my attention and kept looking at me and I pretended like he didn’t even exist. [“Until which time I became a ghost, without ever knowing why.”]
And don’t think this ex didn’t try to start a fight at another gig. He said something horrible about me to the rocker he eventually lost me to and a fight almost broke out. It was probably the absolute worst time he could have said something to him, because we weren’t in a good place at that time. It was right after I found out about the girl he was hiding from me.
The song Josh wrote is called “Grounded” from his Table 4 One album. [You can find it on streaming services just about everywhere. Download it. Help the guy make some money off of that song. It’s really good.] Our final conversation to each other was the conversation that made him think about what I had said and why I was walking away. I left him so he would learn to become a better man. I was teaching him a life lesson by breaking his heart.
Getting back to the other rocker. We never got past the lie. One of his friends ratted him out. She told me everything. It was difficult trying to move forward when we felt so strongly about each other. But the fact remained that one of us had been wounded. The next year was a roller coaster. I tried to keep my distance, but tried to be a friend when he needed me. He would call me out on reeling in my feelings when he knew there was more there. He would get frustrated with me when he’d call me at my office.
I was planning on moving to California and he was apparently following me, but that’s not how he worded it to me. I was always planning on going to Cali. I told him that when we met. After a few months, he told me ‘Surprise, I’m moving to Cali, too!’ It was nice knowing that I would know someone there. I had no idea he told his friends that if that was where I was going, then that was where he was going.
I think if he had told me the truth from the beginning, my fate line would be very different. I would probably be in California right now instead of New York. The lie was difficult to stomach. I didn’t speak to him for three months after I found out. He kept his distance, and I eventually forgave him. But then he tried to spin another lie with me in it. I knew the truth now, but the other girl didn’t.
To this day, he still writes songs about me and still sings songs about me. Out of all the girls, I’m the one the songs are still about. The ones in recent years have been a bit mean and nasty. Even the bootleg stuff makes its way to me and I sit there like…you son of a bitch.
He can blame me for leaving all he wants, he just refuses to take a moment and look at what he did that caused me to leave. “Like a Stone” is what gave me the courage to look at all of this bullshit in my life and decide that I deserved a better life. I stood in my home that day realizing that if I did not leave, this man would destroy me. I could not keep going back and forth with him on this roller coaster ride of emotions. I needed to be lost in a sea of people where he had no presence so that I could heal.
Getting over him was not easy. It took me eight years to get over him. That was eight years too long. It’s funny that when Death was knocking at my door, telling me to rid my soul of things I should not take with me when I die, he showed me this guy. This guy that hurt me worse than anyone had ever hurt me. He told me to forgive him, but more importantly to forgive myself for hurting him because I left.
That trip to Italy in 2012 was one of the craziest trips I ever embarked upon. Not so often do you feel Death following you around everywhere. After I received Death’s message, I began to see the life I should have had…that life with him. That cafe in Positano…I should not have been eating solo. I should have been enjoying Italy with this man.
But it was that day in 2004 that I made the choice I made. I realized I couldn’t do this life with this man anymore. I had to escape. Thirteen years later and I can honestly tell you that I still do not regret leaving. I left for ME. I made the decision that day to do something for ME. I was going to save myself.
Around this time, I read Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” I saw myself as Basel, and the rocker as Dorian. I saw that if I did not escape, I would wind up just like Basel…completely destroyed by the one I loved. The crazy thing though is that I never wanted to love this guy. It was just something that happened. I knew from the beginning he would end up hurting me. But you can’t tell your heart who to love and who not to love. It just loves, no matter how much you tell your heart, ‘he’s going to destroy you.’ It doesn’t care.
Do I regret falling in love with that guy? No. Thirteen years later I realize that he had to break me the way that he did. He may be the guy I’ll love until the day I die, but I will never forget how he hurt me. That is something I knew he would do from the very beginning. I just could not prevent the heartbreak.
What that heartbreak did for me was push me in the direction I needed to go in my life. It put me back on my path in life. It helped me to find myself and the person I had lost so long ago. It taught me to love myself first and damned if I would ever let anyone get that close to me again.
That heartbreak will lead to some fictional book someday. Maybe. Or maybe it will help my readers understand how each female character survives in the end and why she makes the choices she makes. Sometimes choosing love, you have to choose wisely. I chose to love myself, not him in the end. He was careless with my heart, ergo he had no right to it anymore.
I read “The Heart” by Maylis de Karangal recently. I picked it up knowing it would lead me to some unanswered question about Kevin when I came upon it. It was the story the mother was telling of a boy who loved a girl.
“They used to stay up late, talking into the night while the house was asleep, and maybe they would even whisper I love you, not really knowing what it was they were saying, only that they were saying it to each other, that was what mattered, because Juliette – Juliette was Simon’s heart.”
It reminded me of my moments with Kevin and how we stayed up late talking about everything. He let me into his world, teaching me about skateboarding and bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. We would talk about life. We would talk about death. We would talk about Heaven and Hell, religions of the world. We would talk about God and angels. But never did we talk about what was happening in his home. He never told me about the beatings…those bruises that he told me came from a skateboard mishap.
“Black Hole Sun” became part of our soundtrack. A book on Vampyres wound up in my personal library a decade after we buried him. And a Dragonfly would become the symbol of us and who we’ve become as we walk along two different sides of the veil…a symbol of things to come and to remember who we were.
“The Heart” brought me back to him, remembering the day of his funeral and his mother telling me, “You have no idea how much he loved you.” In “The Heart,” the mother ponders if Juliette will ever love again after her son dies. I never felt so connected to Kevin’s mother until I read that part of the book. I wondered if she ever pondered that same question about me.
Kevin put a bullet into his heart in the month of May in 1994. Chris Cornell also died by his own hands in the month of May in 2017.
Reading about “The Heart” and knowing how Kevin put a bullet into his heart and reading how “Juliette was Simon’s heart,” I realized the symbolism in all of this and it made me sad. I was his heart, yet he put a bullet into his own heart.
Over these last 23 years, I learned to love Kevin in ways I never imagined anyone could love someone. He’s not even here, but I think of him every single day and love him just a little bit more each day. If I am his heart, that means it is still beating and it still beats for him.
After listening to Soundgarden, Chris Cornell and Audioslave all day yesterday, I left the office ready to walk into that mess that is Times Square just a few hours after a doped up idiot ran his car into a young girl, killing her and injuring 20+ people. Just as I stepped out onto the sidewalk to join the passerbys, a gigantic dragonfly came right up to me and then flew off.
This is Manhattan. Dragonflies are practically non-existent in the city. To run right into one after all that happened yesterday, I knew something was up in the universe. That dragonfly is a symbol of me and Kevin. I was so flustered as I walked down the street, lost in what just happened when I saw my name written on the sidewalk. I’ve walked by this spot a million times over the years and I have never once seen my name written on the sidewalk.
I knew this meant something. The universe was trying to get my attention. I looked up what the symbolism of dragonfly meant and this is what I found: The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.
That moment Murph mentioned that we come back to…it brought me back to my two loves in life and the love I ultimately chose. I walked away from the misery and chose to save myself. I chose learning how to live without my soulmate. I chose learning to love myself. I chose to let go of a world that was destroying me in order to find a better life. I found a better life and I don’t regret the decision I made. It hurt me more knowing that I hurt him, but I had to do it in order to save myself.
Maybe one day he’ll write a better song about me. Maybe he’ll forgive me one day. I just hope he found the silver lining in my leaving, because it is what it is what it is. Who knows? Maybe one day we can move past the lie and try again. I don’t know what the future holds, but maybe that dragonfly was a sign of things to come…a change for the better.