A whole bunch of thoughts on grief and Brian.

So here’s one more post about Brian, the lover of mine who died over the weekend in a motorcycle accident. I actually am not sure I want people to read this, but I felt compelled to write it. I don’t want people to read it because I don’t actually want people to experience the heartbreak and loss I’m going through right now. And that’s likely what this post will communicate.
So, you’ve been warned. This pain is mine and you are under no obligation to share it.

When someone you love dies, the most trivial things become significant. Brian was fond of the brand of coffee they put in hotel rooms in Starwood hotels, in particular the Starbucks Africa Kitamu blend. You can’t buy it in stores. You can only get it off maid carts in Sheratons and Westins. I was at a Westin in January and I took all the packets of Kitamu from my room, to save for him.
I never got a chance to give them to him.
It was just a few months before that we had our latest round of the “what should we call each other?” conversation. At that point we had been lovers for more than five years by my count and at various times we would try on different words. We were in the hot tub at the hotel in Houston where we’d just run a fetish fleamarket, in the dark of night, outside the hotel, just the two of us. “Boyfriend”/”girlfriend” made us both giggle, definitely not a good fit. “Significant other” always sounds like a variable in a scientific study to me. Lover always seemed the best fit, and we stuck with it. After all, its meaning seemed to change, as we moved from some kind of maybe sometimes sex partners to loving each other unreservedly. Instead of changing words, we just changed what the word meant to us.
Brian had a huge amount of love to give. He came into my life like a friendly stray tomcat and over the course of the years became an important part of my life. I don’t make friends easily–becoming lovers is even harder. I’m just so thankful I had the chance to love him, and to tell him how much he meant to me.
I’m glad I already made the decision, for my own health, to stop running the satellite fleamarkets. Because now I don’t think I could survive trying to do it without him.
Some who knew him or know me from the BDSM scene might be really surprised to know that Brian and I were vanilla with each other. All the rope and the leather and the role playing… was for other partners. With us, it was always just us. Just two bodies and two hearts. I don’t know why. We were both switches, both experienced in so many kinds of BDSM, but the longer we were together the gentler and gentler our lovemaking got. That’s just how it was.
Fuck, I’m going to miss him.
I was just so so so blessed to have had him in my life, even just for a few years. It’s hard to explain how giving he was without sounding like I’m going overboard with exaggeration just because now he’s gone. But he was off the scale when it came to being a giving and a loving person. That was true in public ways, like with his volunteerism for various leather and BDSM community events, and in personal and private ways, as well. He was never selfish. He always checked on boundaries and respected them. He was always there if I needed him for anything, even if we were 450 miles apart.
He used to tell me he wasn’t perfect, and I would say “prove it.”
He hadn’t always been perfect–it took work, hard work that he’d done. He’d grown up not acknowledging or understanding the kinkier parts of his soul. We don’t live in a society that encourages acknowledging or understanding that, and each person in the BDSM community comes to that at a different stage of life. In Brian’s case there was a failed vanilla marriage in his past and other “learning experiences.” But he’d found his way to his tribe–or rather, his many tribes–through the kink and science fiction communities. Rope, furry fandom, event staffing (it really is a kink of its own…)
He went to New Zealand one year, before he was laid off from his job. He brought me back tea. The last time we did an event together I brought the last of the “New Zealand Breakfast” he’d given me and we shared it.
I taught him to like major league baseball. I’m going to be so angry if the Orioles make the postseason and he isn’t here to see it. (We went to Camden Yards together once. We’d talked about meeting at Yankee Stadium some day. It’ll never happen now.)
I’m angry that a future has been stolen from me.
One of the first things I said when I got the news was “I am so bad at this.” Grieving, I think I meant? One of the friends who was with me at the time is trained as a chaplain and counselor. She said, “Everyone’s bad at this.”
Brian’s the first person close to me to die who I cried for right away. Everyone else it’s taken me a day or a week or more for it to sink in enough to actually feel it. My grandfather died when I was in high school and I didn’t feel it for a whole day. My grandmother outlived him by a lot. When she passed, it took me a week to feel it–I didn’t start crying until I wrote something to be read at a memorial service for her. Maybe it’s just different when it’s a lover. Or maybe I’m actually better at having feelings than I used to be.
The physical pain of grief is hard. My chest aches. My shoulders hurt. My stomach hurts. Humans are such strange organisms. Why do we react this way to loss? There’s no real scientific or evolutionary reason I can figure, but much of the experience seems near universal. Makes one think there’s some kind of meaning of life statement waiting to be made there, but my head hurts too much to figure it out.
One of the other things I said in that initial crying burst was that it probably meant I’m going to kill someone off in my next book. Because what goes in must come out. This grief is going to express itself in my fiction and I won’t always know how or when.
I was in the train station today trying to remember what the seven stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kubler Ross were. Turns out there are only five, and I was misremembering them anyway, though I was close. Denial (numbness), Anger, Bargaining (i.e. with god), Depression, and Acceptance. Not everyone gets them all and they don’t come in any particular order. And actually acceptance–defined by Kubler Ross as the realization that this is the new reality, not necessarily EVER being “ok” with that new reality–comes first for me. Maybe this is the INTJ way of grieving, to put it in Myers Briggs terms. That makes my five stages more like Dislocation (acceptance), Shock (numbness), Anger, WIthdrawal, Compartmentalization.
I can’t speak for all introverts, but I’d really prefer to be alone with my grief. Offers from various friends for “support” are highly appreciated but I should note that the best support I can have is for everyone to respect my need for solitude.
I spoke to the most significant of his significant others today for the first time. He’d been telling me a lot about her, the last few times we spoke, about how serious it was getting, how serious it WAS, and making sure I was okay with that. The last time I saw him we talked about the idea of him bringing her up to my house for Thanksgiving, which is our big “chosen family” holiday. We were sort of leaving it up to her to figure out her comfort level, but I was hoping they would decide to come.
She asked me today if there was anything of his I wanted. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. I’ve thought about it some since then and I can’t think of anything.
What I want is Brian. But I can’t have that.
I realize I have a hat of his. The very first time he stayed at my house, back when we were still just friends and not yet lovers, he had bought a military uniform from someone. He had flown that trip and only had a carry-on bag with him, and had nowhere to pack the hat. He left it here intending to get it on some future trip. Then he forgot about it. I reminded him of it last year, and he planned to try to retrieve it on a trip this year.
Now the hat is with the coffee I’ll never give him. I don’t know what to do with either.

12 Comments

  1. First, accept the hug from me.
    Next, drink the coffee. Make that memory a part of you on the inside.
    Next, wear the hat. Not all the time, just sometimes. Make that memory part of you on the outside.
    Then he will always be with you, inside and out.

      1. If you end up feeling this is still something you’d want to do, I have chocolate cake recipes that include coffee in the ingredients.
        He was very lucky to be so well loved by you.

        1. Hm, that is a thought. I’ll ponder it.
          I heard from his primary that she just found a packet of it in his suitcase that he hadn’t unpacked from a con and is going to put it in his casket.

  2. I still have a box of albums, shirts, and books Legault left at my house the last time he stayed for a few weeks. I opened it and looked through it all when I was readying to move last week. I closed the box back up and brought it with me to the new house. It’s like i’d be throwing away Robert, you know? I wish I could say it gets easier; time just makes it different.

  3. Since I’m embedded in my own pretty profound grief cycle right now, I appreciated your notes on revised stages and grieving for introverts. Thank you and I’m sorry.

    1. Yr welcome. It’s only recently I’ve figured out a) what an introvert I am and b) how nearly all our social conventions are geared toward the needs and expectations of extroverts.
      Hugs and hang in there.

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