Ryan, Dad, Blake

I struggled for a while with how to write this- writing it in a “Dear Blake” style seemed overly dramatic, like there should be a voiceover and soft piano music playing as you read. But writing it to nobody in particular seemed too clinical and detached, like I’m just writing about a nonexistent entity. A noun.

So I opted for the former- I am not inclined to ask for your approval.

Dear Blake,

On one hand, the past year seems to have flown by; I can recall nearly every detail, however small, about the night I found out you’d died. On the other hand, that night seems as though it happened so long ago. And what’s interesting is that the passage of time doesn’t seem to heal all wounds; in fact, I’m not sure I’m better off now emotionally than I was a year ago. Maybe it’s because I was in some state of denial at first. We didn’t talk all that frequently when you were sick, so it was easy for me to pretend that you were just busy. That you’d get in touch with me whenever you had some spare time. But after a year’s worth of those moments where I think to myself “Oh, Blake would like this” or “I should text Blake about this” before realizing I can’t and won’t ever be able to again, the illusion has been shattered. It’s been a year’s worth of forgetting that you’re gone, then remembering; being angry with myself for having the temerity to forget, even for a moment, and being angry with you for not coming back. Guilt at being angry with you and, at times, despair that I still can’t seem to process everything.

I had a bit of a breakdown a couple of weekends ago. I was out with Alex, and out of nowhere I just became so immensely, overwhelmingly sad that I started crying in the middle of the sidewalk. And not a cool cry, like a single tear rolling down to my chiseled jawline as I say “Go on without me- I’ll be okay,” either. A full-on, spit-bubbles-on-my-lips, ugly-ass cry. I don’t know where it came from, but I just felt this tidal wave of pure, abject misery. I wanted to be able to talk to my big brother, just for a fucking second, and I couldn’t. I hadn’t cried about it before then, and I remember thinking to myself, “You didn’t cry at his memorial, you didn’t cry when we scattered some of his ashes in Florida, you didn’t cry when you scattered some of his ashes at the High Line. Why the hell are you crying now?” I couldn’t figure it out, and I still can’t. I guess it all comes back to the whole feeling of denial. I’ve always had a bounce-back mentality-sure, things might be shitty right now, but tomorrow it will be a little bit better. I thought that the whole time you were sick: you’d improve every day, and one day I’d turn around and you’d be fine.

And in a way, it felt good to cry. I was starting to think something was wrong with me, that the emotion was building in a supremely unhealthy manner and it was going to manifest itself in some terrible way. As far as meltdowns go, crying on the sidewalk for a few minutes ain’t that bad.

Mom texted me on the 16th saying “Tomorrow is going to be a sad day,” and I was incredibly confused: Did I have the date wrong? Had I been misremembering it for the past year? As it turns out, not really. The logic behind it (and it’s pretty unassailable) is that you stopped using your phone on the 17th, so that’s probably when you died. But I don’t want to change the date I’ll remember, for a few reasons. First, having one day to remember this is hard enough. Second, I’m a stubborn person, and I don’t like change. And finally, I don’t like to think that you were dead for two days before anybody noticed. That bothers me.

It did get me thinking, though, and in a way, the confusion is fitting. Even when you were healthy, I never really felt I knew exactly what was going on with you at any given moment. I had some idea, sure, but a lot of it was just wishful thinking on my part; I assumed you were fine because I wanted you to be fine. But I can’t help but wonder: If I had done more, if I hadn’t assumed everything was great just because I hadn’t heard otherwise, maybe you’d still be here. This is kind of a ridiculous idea, I know- I know that the foundation for the kind of relationship where you’d feel the need to seek my counsel when you weren’t feeling well would have had to have been laid a long time ago. But I still can’t help but wish we’d had that relationship. Which is selfish, I know- I only think that now because the opportunity passed us by. If you were still here, I don’t know that I’d be thinking the same thing.

For the longest time, I was angry at you. I was angry that you didn’t tell anyone what was going on, and I was angry that you never let on exactly how bad things were. But that’s passed; now, I’m mostly just angry at myself for not doing more to help you whenever I could. I tried to justify my inaction by saying to myself, “I know how he is, and he just wants to be left alone.” But that’s precisely the point: I know how you were, and I should have just said “I don’t care about your self-imposed barriers- you’re my brother, and I’m here for you.” And I didn’t do that.

Then again…

Maybe that wouldn’t have worked. Maybe I’m just upset with myself because it feels wrong and unnatural to be upset with you. I don’t think you realized how serious it was until it was too late, and I don’t think you would have wanted me to have seen you at your worst. (Unless I’m projecting like crazy, which is really all anyone can do in this situation.) At any rate, I’m going to stop thinking about the “What if”s, because they serve no purpose.

I have a hard time listening to certain songs, because they remind me too much of you. On occasion, though, it’s nice to listen to them; in some perverse way, reopening the wound makes me feel closer to you. It’s as if it hasn’t already been a year since you died. I’m sure I’ll eventually get past that phase, but for reasons that remain unknown to me, I kind of enjoy it. It’s a good reminder of how important you are to me. By conventional standards, you weren’t the model big brother, but by mine, I could never in a million years have asked for a better one. I’ll miss you more than I was ever able to communicate while you were here, and I’ll always look up to you.

Oh, also: J got engaged at Grand Central (it was lovely) and I got a tattoo. Don’t tell Mom. (About the tattoo, I mean. She knows about J.)