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Sunday Night Read: 'So Much to Tell You'

This short story series submission is from Rachel Thexton of North Burnaby.
"So Much to Tell You" is our April 14, 2024, Sunday Night Read, written by Rachel Thexton of North Burnaby.

I am reaching for you but only bunched up blankets and a flat cool sheet lay still and lifeless where you slept, a few tiny crumbs scattered rough under my hand as I run it along your spot, remembering.

I’m remembering you, your presence, and your absence, an absence I forget as I sleep.

Thinking of you is similar to a movie I can’t help but watch repeatedly, even though I know it will fill me with joy, hope, love, and warmth, followed by a fall into a grief that only you would understand. Only you could calm and slow my breathing again.

Without you, I am forever reaching. Always coming up empty handed.  

There is so much I must tell you, so much you have missed in only one year.

When I look at the calendar and realize that over one year has passed, I feel as though life stopped that day. The people kept moving and the things kept happening, but I am lost in days that are passing and nothing is going quite the way it should. You are missing. I am not myself.

The day I walked out of the clinic, your collar in hand, there were no tears. The sensation had left my hands and feet and I kept passing signs and storefronts, cars whizzed by and drizzle from the road leapt up at me, and voices echoed in the distance. My body moved along but where I was and where I was heading, I don’t know.

I still wonder. Just like I wonder where you are and how you can possibly be missing from my side when, for so long, you were there, your eyes always on me, my heart tethered to you, frantically searching for your glance in a time of worry or moment of grace.

My mind won’t allow me to accept your passing and so I stare at your pictures on the wall and use every bit of knowledge I can gather to figure out where you could be. I sometimes find myself staring at nothing at all, deep in thought for minutes at a time until one of my babies runs in with a hug, or a picture of colours arranged across paper, always beautiful and always a reminder that I must keep my feet on the ground and my mind in the moment.

You are missing so much where I am and I am fiercely missing you.

Bandit, since you have been gone people continue to pass away from toxic drugs. They are sometimes young, sometimes older, sometimes wealthy, sometimes struggling financially. Sometimes its their first-time using drugs and other times they have become dependent over many years. They are always beautiful spirits and extraordinary humans with the same value as every person, no matter their life situation, and their unimaginable potential is always lost senselessly and, Bandit, nothing is being done.

Over 2,500 people died the year you left me, and the world keeps spinning. The mouths in charge keep moving but I’ve tuned out their words. A person reaches a level of helpless anger that they can no longer feed and must only push down via either numbing themselves or taking action. I have chosen action but I’m not sure it makes one bit of difference sometimes. I know that you would tell me different.

I feel the pain I have in my fingers, my stomach, my shoulders, and then consider the grief of those who have lost family, even their son or daughter, who once built a tower of blocks to watch it fall with giggles. That grief seems simply too much to carry. Not possible. Yet their strength comes from another place I don’t know of.

Bandit, my baby boy has been unwell. You never saw the way he is now struggling and oh Bandit, it hurts. It hurst me inside like nothing has hurt me before. Watching my boy confused, in tears, feeling left out or unheard, different, or not enough. This is the furthest from the truth but how do I tell a six-year-old boy this so that he understands? How do I make him believe something that the world shows him is the opposite at every turn?

They say that ADHD affects about seven per cent of school age children in Canada and although I know that number is likely low, I wonder every single day why he couldn’t be in the other ninety three percent. I know what your eyes would say as they comfort me, always closed slightly in a calm wise squint as you stare right into the middle of me.

You would remind me of the children who won’t make it and who’s parents cry daily at their bedside. You would wag your tail and look up at me knowingly when my boy has happy days of running around, playing kindly, full of happiness and as carefree as a helium balloon floating up into the sky, soft and slow and off to another place we know nothing of.

We are trying everything we can to find the right way to give him the peace and calm heart he deserves, to see the magnificent humour he has, how the room changes in hue the second he walks in, and how his future holds something so big and special that he could never manage to wrap his little arms around it.

Can you tell him for me? When he is laying in bed so peacefully, now often between my sheets, where you used to sleep, as he dreams of whatever his bright little mind brings to his slumber, can you run up to him like you used to, so fast and healthy as a puppy and whisper into his ear as he bends down to pet you? Tell him what we all see. Give him that gift, my good boy.

Asking you for anything at all seems greedy as you have given me everything. You gave me almost seventeen years of a love so steady and sure, that an image of your knowing little furry face covers my thigh. I often wear ripped jeans that have a hole in the right thigh so that I can look down at your image, rub my thumb along your little nose as though you are on my lap again. This is where you should be.

You used to lick my tears away so fiercely, even at the end when you were sick. It was as though you felt you could stop my hurt if you licked them all away. You sometimes did, you know.

Now they drop to the floor, and I can’t help but notice that I had not seen my tears make it off my cheeks in so many years.

Bandit, people are struggling. Many Canadians are facing mental health challenges, having trouble paying their rent or for the food in their grocery cart. I read an article, with data from Statistics Canada, stating that younger Canadians aged 15-54 are less satisfied and hopeful about the future than in previous years. They were more likely to feel lonely than older Canadians. They are worried about how they will pay their bills, they are lacking community, and there is very little discussion how about to change the happiness level of the people who live beside us, who work with us, and who we sit next to on the train. Many continue to judge those who are self medicating their unhappiness but few are talking about ways to manage their unhappiness, ways to support them.

Instead, there is division and there is anger in the air as thick as a fog as I hear more car horns than ever. You would hate that part.

I am not the only person who misses you, my boy. People who do not even know you miss you. Your prance on the leash as we walked the downtown streets as the sun crept slowly behind tall buildings and the way strangers with blank stares would suddenly find their lips creeping up into a smile at the sight of you. There was, and is, something about you Bandit that made people forget their problems for a moment. I sometimes wonder if you spoke to them without words the way you would do with me. Are you doing that now from wherever you are?

I know that I shouldn’t fight all the battles I do but I otherwise it sits inside me and eats at me. I must do something. I must try in a way that maybe only you understand.

What difference it makes, I don’t know Bandit man, but I know that I try. I know that I use whatever I have in my mind, heart, and hands to have conversations and make noise, even when its not the popular thing to do.

Did you know that I have a podcast now? That I put my nerves aside to host conversations with amazing people who share their knowledge and their stories? I am honoured that they trust me and are comfortable in the small space for words that your friend, and my husband, Angel and I have built. If you were here, you would be on my lap, or curled up on a soft blanket at my feet for every discussion. I wonder which guest would keep you awake when you love to nap next to me while I work, knowing that I am not going anywhere for quite awhile!

I hope that in time, these conversations will help to shake off the stigmas and stereotypes that hurt People of Colour, that burden Indigenous Peoples that Canadians still know so little about; the cultures and parts of history that include stories so powerful that we should all be hearing them. I pray that dialogues and finding connections in the human condition, one that we all share, will eliminate the shame associated with substance use.

That one almost caught me Bandit.

I will never be able to show you the gratitude and fierce love I feel for you, not only for being the best friend I’ve had, but for saving me from something that was chasing me at fast pace, determined to silence me forever and keep me from having the beautiful family that I now cherish and love deeper than the roots of British Columbia’s largest old Red Cedar or Douglas Fir.

The world is not all bad since you have been missing from my side, Bandit.

There are brave, tireless, tenacious people who spend their days helping those in need, even in the face of hopeless or scary circumstances. They inspire me and I admire them immensely.

There is still good in the world Bandit. On New Years Eve of last year, only minutes before the clock rounded to midnight, our Uber broke down on the way out to ring in 2024. A group of young people stopped to help change the tire, not concerned with getting to their party on time. I shed happy tears of course. You know me.

My children make me laugh and their presence is beauty enough to inspire me to one day create something that I hope won’t be forgotten.

I have an imperfect and beautiful man as a husband who loves me unconditionally, even when the screen around my heart is likely dirty and hard to clean when you try to get close enough to truly see it. The thought of his unhappiness hurts me more than my own and so I know that I love him deeply — surely you knew that my boy.

Bandit, wherever you are, please don’t roam too far. I need you. My son needs you. My daughter prays for you and Elvis cat in heaven every night.

Your presence is still here and without that, some mornings I might forget how to put my feet on the ground, and then move forward, one foot in front of the other, slowly, and naively, trying to change the world.

I have so much to tell you.

Good boy Bandit. Good boy.

- Rachel Thexton, North Burnaby

You can find Rachel Thexton on X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and on her website.

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