â€œHe is dead.â€ Three words. That is all they had for her. â€œHe is dead.â€ Flat, unemotional and yet they still echoed inside my head. She didnâ€™t cry. She didnâ€™t scream and She didnâ€™t flinch. She didnâ€™t do anything.
Several years ago a man was convicted of murdering his wife. The jury foreman said that they had found the defendant to be lacking in remorse and that he had not acted like a man who had just lost his wife should. The foreman said that it was this inconsistency in the defendantâ€™s behavior that had really sealed his fate and that if he had shown some emotion and acted more like a human being they might have voted differently.
That bothered her because she knew from experience that they could not know how to act, would not know what a normal response would be because there was no normal response to death, especially something that was sudden or unexpected.
What you see on television or in the movies is not necessarily what happens. The fainting, screaming and or wailing is good drama and it makes it easy for a screenwriter to cheat but it still doesnâ€™t mean that it is real. And reality is the point of this.
See the issue is acceptance and all too frequently the mind refuses to reconcile the truth that is placed in front of you with reality. â€œHe is deadâ€ is not something that you automatically digest and consume. The mind has numerous methods of protecting us from things that might harm us and one of those little items is need to process the information, to sort through it and absorb it.
Or maybe not. Maybe it is all a lot of crap that they try to sell you so that psychologists can make more money. Back in college in my basic psych course she had studied this guy named Festinger who had coined the term â€œcognitive dissonanceâ€ as well as some kind of â€œCognitive Consistencyâ€ theory. Basically they referred to behavior that was either inconsistent with your stated beliefs or some kind of B.S. that said your attitude adapted to adjust to your behavior.
Whatever. It really didnâ€™t matter what she knew for certain was that people would justify their behavior no matter how heinous or how nice. People would always rationalize their actions and few would think twice about what they had done.
Under the bright blue North Carolina sky it was easy to remember the day they called. She was confident that her mother had made the arrangements to call her and to tell her that the boy was gone. She would have done it with love and affection with the sole intent to help her little girl move on but it was one more foolish mistake in a series of missteps between mother and daughter.
Unlike her mother she did not accept life at face value and did not believe everything that was handed to her. At one time she had been that innocent and there was a certain joy in holding onto that kind of naivety. But she had been stripped of it.
The boy was responsible for that. It was hard to love and care for a drowning man and not change and she had. That period of her life had forced her to learn a number of hard lessons and one of them was that people lie. They deceive, they dissemble and they manipulate things to fit their reality.
So when the call came it was easier to just listen and not react. Because what do you do when your biggest nightmare walks out of the closet and into the daylight. Even so it still felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach and for an untold amount of time she had laid on the floor listening to angry cries of a busy signal from a phone that had not been hung up.
It was the incessant beeping of the phone that made her get up and move. The call had left her feeling completely unsettled, but it hadnâ€™t made her forget the hell that the boy had put her through or the anger. And that anger made her determined not to waste any more tears on him until she had details of what had happened.
Two long distance phone calls to old friends were it all it took to confirm that the boy was still alive and that the phone call was fake. In spite of the good news and her vow not to waste any more tears she still found herself staring at a tear streaked face. The call had done nothing to help her move on. If anything it reminded her that sometimes our past can still reach out and hold onto us in the present and that was not a lesson she was prepared to learn.
There was an old saying that people plan and god laughs. In the old days when he had believed in god he would shake his head at people and say they just didn’t understand.
When they would ask him what he meant he told them they couldn’t possibly be smart enough to understand god’s plan and then he would talk about how silly a remark it was to make.
Even though he believed in god he never believed in the kind of benevolent hands on god the people talked about. In his eyes god was more like the Federal government, a being that provided an infrastructure and protected the people from bigger stuff.
The bigger stuffÂ had always been like alien invasions and asteroids or other catastrophic moments. Of course if you had asked him to explain why that didn’t cover war, pestilence and terminal illnesses he wouldn’t have had an answer.
But that is what happens when you ask a young adult with limited life experience to offer explanations. Sometimes it is just not well thought out.
The plan to fake his death wasn’t one of those things, at least not in its entirety.
It was a combination of good intentions gone wrong and plans that went sideways.
The point had been to protect her, to keep her from getting caught up in something stupid that he couldn’t avoid. He had been young and dumb when it had all started and never expected to be concerned with someone else.
She had met him during the middle of it all but he had done his best to make sure she didn’t know anything. It hadn’t been easy and there had been more than a few times where he wondered if maybe he hadn’t been as good at hiding things as he had thought.
“Women always know when men are trying to hide something from them.”
“Baby, I have nothing to hide from you. You are my girl and you always will be.”
She had smiled and hugged him back.
He knew she wasn’t stupid and was probing but he was certain he had calmed her nerves and made her comfortable. If she hadn’t been she would have keep pushing. Her temperament never would have let her relax and eventually he would have asked her if she intended to nag him to death.
It would have been a joke. She would have made a face, he would have smiled and they would have moved on like they always did.
But it didn’t go down like that.
Maybe if there would have been more time it would have, but that was the sort of speculation people who looked back used and there was no time for that.
But then again maybe he was wrong.
It was hard to think about that time. Hard not to feel robbed of opportunity and something special.
Things had moved so quickly then, there hadn’t been time to think everything through. All he had was enough space to figure out how to make sure she was protected.
He had moved quickly to make it happen and then done his best to disappear.
And now all these years later he was back, wondering if there was a way to reclaim his name again.