All The Things I Still Want to Say
Today is the 48th birthday of my brother Topher. He passed away on June 5th from ALS. I fucking hate ALS. That's my first blogger F word I believe (like we didn't all know it was coming...) but in my writing career there has never been a more appropriate time.
The hardest part about losing my Topher is that he wasn't just my brother but my dear friend. I am certain that if life hadn't somehow created our DNA to show up in the same gene pool we would have found each other. We found life amusing at its corniest, but we also had an insatiable curiosity for human behavior. It's hard to find people with those particular interests. Losing one of the rare ones hurts. And when he was your brother as well? Double hurts.
Whatever...I know for sure that when I think about missing him for the rest of my life I feel panicked--like I am stuck in elevator and the heavy doors will not budge. Incidentally my fear of elevators originated with my brother Topher, who jammed an elevator in the Harris Fine Arts Center when I was in it, just to see my reaction. That's the curiosity about human's reactions I mentioned above. So I get it. I forgave him. But I still cannot help but associate any tiny drip of claustrophobia with an elevator.
I fucking hate elevators.
Do you know what's funny? The corniest thing about all of this (which I can chuckle about when I conjure up the ghost of my brother) is that I have turned into one of those cliche characters in some melodramatic depression-era three act who refuses to entertain any mention of the person they loved and lost. I simply cannot allow anything that reminds me of his absence in my life. Do not turn on Xanadu around me, for instance, because you will see me close my ears and mutter repeatedly, "We don't do Xanadu anymore. We don't do it. Nooope."
And when the grief waves roll in I go stiff like an weathered and hardened soul on stage left wearing a fedora, brown bagging it, delivering a spitty monologue in a cold spotlight. I cannot go there. Allowing for the grief is not in the cards. There's a pandemic! The death of white supremacy! The last gasp of a three-ring circus in the White House! A collapse of the largest global economy! I will not allow my heart to feel anymore! I will go on disconnected and drowning in my own Scandinavian stoicism!
But Topher man, he is everywhere. He's in the new Taylor Swift album, applauding The Chicks snickering return, and suggesting the authenticity of Perfume Genius. He's attentively laughing at the ridiculous last performances of gasping white supremacists showing up at their local events to get their racism on record. He's bellowing at the anti-mask conspiracy theorists at the Utah County commissioners' meetings (anything more corny than conspiracy theorists?). He's in Jennifer Aniston's performance in the Morning Show (because she's basically playing his wife Lisa) and he's the reason why weird things keep happening around here--like lights coming on and off and objects showing up with no explanation.
And there he was today, his birthday, eyeing the article in the magazine I read about Shakespeare's writings on loss during a pandemic. How perfectly romantic for Toph--to die during a plague, a subject his hero often sited throughout his most popular plays like Romeo And Juliet, King Lear, The Tempest, Othello. My mind reminds me of the time we wandered around London together in Hyde Park when I was sixteen and he was twenty-one. I remember him choosing a bus bound for Stratford-Upon-Avon over a day spent eating newspaper-wrapped fish-and-chips in Leicester Square with me and our parents and grandma. "He must really love Shakespeare," I realized as I watched the bus gust out of our sites.
He is everywhere (says the monologue guy in the spotlight, but also me, the adoring, little sister).
He is everywhere.
And yet, I miss him.
So fucking much.