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When It All Stands Still…

There are days when everything stands still, when the sleet in Chicago stops between skyscrapers and the neon lights don’t pulsate in rhythm to the jazz or blues; when the good intentions of recovery lounge in the revolving door of another red brick club; when the belief that tomorrow will be better is as still born as the smile everyone expects.

And it isn’t the stillness that bothers me as much as the echos I can’t escape or the unpredictability of precipitation…condensation rife with the ashes of what could have been.  A frozen moment spanning 24 hours in a city I used to call home, just mere miles from the hospital where my son was born and the woman I once loved still loved me.

Here, in the windy city that isn’t currently swaying on the anniversary of his birth, I feel the distance between then and now as each breath propels me further away and I try to convince myself that between now and then he’ll find me again but know that statistically speaking the needle is no longer in the haystack.
I believe each year it will get better; that the experts I paid in more than cash delivered the truth.  But the only truth I seem to know, the one that follows me thousands of miles in each direction across state lines and broken boundaries, is that each year gets harder and the truth I wanted to believe is nothing more than an echo of an inevitable conclusion drawing nearer.

On these days when it all stands still, when the only movement is the inconsistent flashes of slowly fading memories with the smallest impressions of long lost hugs, I no longer feel the need for bravado and am convinced my confidence has taken a holiday.  And again dear reader, it isn’t the stillness which bothers me but the emptiness I can’t avoid and the knowledge that no matter how many stairs I climb or ellipses I travel, no matter how hard I push my heart or how much weight I lift, neither heart nor head will be strong enough to pump meaning into the void.

On the sidewalk near the river, where the homeless man sleeps with a cup weighted against the wind by a AA battery I find myself staring in a direction I can no longer travel, wrestling with the urge to rent a car and drive by the old apartment and walk the halls of the hospital where it all began.

I remember vividly the feeling as I walked with him to the nursery, the tears which streamed down my face and the force threatening to burst out of my chest to protect his every movement.

I remember the look on my now ex-wife’s face when I ordered pizza for the entire floor to celebrate, so caught up in the moment I didn’t realize her C-section would keep her from eating.

I remember the look in her eyes in the delivery room when we first heard him cry and the way, for a moment, “we” mattered, before “I” didn’t anymore.

I remember driving around the city in a green Dodge Neon, in awe that freshly from a college education I didn’t want someone would pay me for skills I didn’t think were valuable and have come to understand, never will be.

And I know I will remember his 13th birthday as the one where I was oh so close, just on the wrong end of a timeline which passed through here so many years ago.

These memories and more stand in the stillness…sentinels reminding me of a past I truly wish was still the present and executing a twenty-one gun salute for the passing of years I won’t get to remember.

Thirteen years to the day and nearly half of them blank…and I wonder…how many more will pass before I know the stories of what I missed and complete a circle I know is broken but want to believe isn’t?  As the sentinels fade with another blink and the sleet begins to fall once more, colored by the blues notes escaping the freshly revolving door, I am left with nothing but a stillness inside that doesn’t breath, doesn’t eat, doesn’t move…and I realize there is a part of me that will always be standing still and unfortunately, most days, I won’t even realize it.

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