Let Me Weep

I am a midnight writer
I am a sole survivor
I am chemicals colliding

Awake late in the night with a baby in my lap, I have turned the tv on low, the mist from the nebulizer clouding the screen. Though the steroid drugs wafting from the machine should amp my daughter up, she is limp across my thighs and sweating damply into the crook of my elbow. It takes twenty minutes to give her a full treatment, until the hissing starts breaking up and popping sounds come from the ampule of liquid feeding the machine. I run my finger down her velvety arm, feel my pulse quicken.

Years later, I find that an afternoon Diet Coke takes me past the edge of hyper over-exhaustion and into sleep. What should stimulate me — caffeine — sometimes helps me rest. I drink it in the bright sun streaming through my window and then lay on the couch, drifting. My daughter and I, it seems, have our own rules about sleep.

I am a dirty misfit
I am holy bullshit
I am still in transit

Imposter syndrome — the idea that one always feels like they’re fooling everyone, not nearly as competent as they seem — is strong in me. I finish college at age 20 and a master’s degree in English by age 21, too young to even go out for drinks with my classmates for the first few months. In my graduate classrooms, everyone has nicer clothes or cooler clothes, more life experience than me, better vocabularies. I slink in and out, quiet, lonely, not one friend in the city where I’m living alone. I sign up for a class I think is Feminist Literary Theory but which is, it turns out, Feminist Critical Theory, and learn from the professor that romantic love is a sham, a biological imperative, a frill. My boyfriend who lives hours away disagrees, but he doesn’t have to sit in that room at age 20 and watch wise women nod and scribble while I enter alone, leave alone, read alone, write alone.

The day I defend my thesis, I have already moved to another city. I drive in, attend my defense, and drive home. I have a Master’s Degree and a job as an administrative assistant. There is no party.

So lay me down, let me weep let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep
Lay me down let me weep, let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep

 

I am that deep red bloodstain
I am a graffiti ghost train
I am tiring refrain
I am a cracked up mirror
I am no where near here
I am old man’s war tears

A month or so after September 11, 2001, my husband and I fly to Las Vegas for the wedding of my best friend. I am about 8 weeks pregnant, but only my husband knows. Wearing overalls and secretly ordering virgin drinks, I weather the first day of revelry before finding spots of blood in my underwear. Lying on the bed in our hotel room, talking on the phone with my midwife, I watch myself in the mirrored ceiling. I look like a child. Tears spill down my cheeks into my ears. My midwife tells me there is nothing I can do about it if I am miscarrying. No hospital in Las Vegas can help me. No flight home will change a thing. “Try not to think about it,” she says. “Enjoy your vacation. What will be, will be.”

I don’t miscarry. More than seventeen years later, every note my daughter sings makes me smile.

 

So lay me down, let me weep let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep
Lay me down let me weep, let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep

 

I am that red kite flying
I am a dead woman rising
I am smoke on the horizon
I am a budding fruit tree
And you are my skeleton key
I am a thriving city

One early spring day in 2009, I walk my daughters to school and then come home, sit on the couch, and try to identify that not-quite-right feeling in my body. Fever. Within hours, I am unable to move. I am under every blanket on my couch, freezing. It is H1-N1 flu, “swine flu,” that has knocked me down like a professional wrestler. Despite the antivirals I get quickly, I am felled for the better part of two weeks, at one point so feverish and weak that I cannot call to my husband upstairs to bring me more tylenol. Instead I lie under a mountain of blankets and feel hot tears fall on my neck. It is the worst I can ever remember feeling.

In 2014, I break my own “worst” record by contracting pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough. The worst of it lasts weeks and weeks, made more terrifying by my moderate asthma, making my throat so dry from coughing that I drink more than a gallon of ice water a day. By the time it has passed, I have coughed so hard that I tear a piece of one of my vocal cords. Vocal therapy teaches me how to mediate my worst days by raising the tone of my voice. I am embarassed by the sound of it, cartoonishly high to my ears, though no one agrees with my assessment. Still, years later, a night out in a crowded restaurant or concert will break my voice down to cracks and whistles, and only modulating the key a few notes higher allows me to even speak.

In 2016, my second daughter, my sunshine, is scheduled for her second cardiac surgery. The surgeon’s office tells us to practice social distancing in the month before, with only school and home for her. Even school, they say, would be better skipped, but they understand the practical issues that would create, especially since they advise us not to tell her about the surgery until one week beforehand. We supply her teacher with Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, and the district health clerk comes in to do a lesson on hand washing and germs. We keep her out of sports and lessons and choir and playdates, except for outside. We wash everyone’s clothes every night. We wipe down doorknobs and faucets and banisters and lunchboxes and the fronts of cabinets and the fridge. We take vitamins. We pray. And when our older daughter comes home with a cold, we tearfully send our younger daughter to her grandmother’s house for four days.

We all survive it.

So lay me down, let me weep let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep
Lay me down let me weep, let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep

 

Old Casey told me so
It don’t matter how many rounds you go
We all share the same, the same soul

I survived nebulizers in the night, exhaustion so deep it turned to hysteria, the loneliness of graduate school and the realization that everyone feels like an imposter, the fear of miscarriage, swine flu, whooping cough, my daughter’s seemingly unending medical trauma that eventually — blessedly — did end. And this COVID-19/Coronavirus scare? I believe we will survive it, too. But in this moment — just like as I was unknowingly surviving all of the above — we need to be allowed to weep. We need the tears streaming towards our ears and necks, running into our hair. As one of my favorite life-teachers, the writer Anne Lamott, said, “Tears will bathe, baptize, & hydrate you and the seeds beneath the surface of the ground on which you walk.”

So lay me down, let me weep let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep
Lay me down let me weep, let me weep
Lay me down, sweet sleep

let-me-weep


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com. The prompt was “Songs that carry me away.” This week’s co-host is Jen Kehl, who is sharing from her and her sister’s FB page, The Stereo Sisters.

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3 thoughts on “Let Me Weep

  1. OMG gorgeous. Thank you for the reminder that social distancing is not new or only of now. The world feels so foreign and I absolutely love that this gorgeous song has carried you through years of this. Your imagery in the hotel in Vegas is so powerful. I hope it’s in your memoir. xoxo

  2. Debi, when this latest new normal has come through and changed us into whatever we are to become next – let’s make it a plan to meet in real life.
    For real.

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