Saying No

I posted last night and this morning I finally realized why people like social media. I saw a few Likes and Follows, and poked around on other blogs (not something I generally do, unless its got recipes). Then it jumped out at me: the sense of not being alone in a struggle that, frankly, I feel most of the time is kind of arrogant and selfish. Screw it. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

I love The Sun Magazine. If you’ve never read it, you should. It’s got interviews, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, photography and a section called Readers Write. The magazine asks readers to write about topics on which they are the only authority; I assume this means life. Then you submit to the magazine and maybe it gets published. Maybe not. Writing for The Sun would be awesome. Until then, I decided that the Readers Write topics are great prompts (a.k.a, kicks in the ass). I wrote this one — on the topic ‘Saying No’ — intending to send for the May 1 deadline and missed it. But, I wrote it so I’m going to let it breathe.

Saying No

I held the phone to my ear until the line went dead. My weight sagged against the door frame of our back door; outside, the day was going on like it had before the call. Sunny and hot. The start of the end of summer.

I needed to get outside. I opened the back door then slammed it shut. I went into the cool of the garage and paced. I balled my fists and pounded them on top of my car as hard as I could.

“NoNoNoNoNoNo!” I screamed. “Fuck you!”

I pounded again, then sobbing silently and half to myself, “No.”

I slid down onto my heels. I pressed my palms into my eyes until kaleidoscopes burst inside my eyelids.

It was the start of the end of summer and my brother had hung himself.

Later, I decided never to take my wedding rings off again. I stared blankly at walls and could not muster the energy to eat or take showers. But my children, my husband—they had to eat. The living are needy.

I started saying “no.” After 37 years of fearing the wrath of inactivity, the scarlet letter of laziness — I put my “yes” on the shelf. I used it only in case of emergencies.

Yes, eat breakfast. Yes, read your son a book before bedtime. Yes, pee. Yes, do nothing.

Friends materialized at my door with fresh honey from backyard hives. It was sweeter than anything I’d ever tasted. They came and took my children away to play. They told me about their brother who had killed himself.

Months went by. I turned down writing assignments because nothing was important, not like it had been. It had been urgent to grab every opportunity for achievement. It had been important to do something with my life. Now, my life narrowed to a pinpoint.

The world went on around me, sunny and hot. I did not sleep much. I had a brutal imagination; when I closed my eyes, I’d see my brother’s body swinging, bloated and broken, from a hundred-year old tree branch.

Eventually, I stopped saying “no.” I ate. I worked. I dove back into doing, hoping I might drown in it because simply being was too hard.

My dead brother agreed, nodding silently beside me.


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