14 Nov, ’21


by Cal

I have a super consistent way of dealing with emotional pain. If it's too much to handle, I put my feelings away in a box, and I put the box away in a corner, and every now and then I take the box out, open it, and poke at what's inside to see how badly it hurts. If it's too much, I put it back. If it isn't too much, I fixate and keep poking at it until it's too much or until it gets better. (Yes, I am also the kind of person who constantly picks at a scab to see if it's done healing and wind up making it bleed again and take three times longer to heal and get left with a scar.)

I've taken it out and put it back a few times in the past... two months? I think it's two months. I don't want to go back and check.

But this past week, I took the box out and poked at it, and for the first time I thought, "oh, I can handle this now". So I've spent the past three days, fixating on it. Poking at it. And there's a lot to poke at. Eleven years is a long time.

I almost put the box back. I was walking back from the store on Friday, thinking about things. Thinking about Lyn, and us, and my last exchange with her, and how even though all of it is awful, I'm glad I managed to send that email and say I was sorry. Even if it was because I'd recently learned she was still in the hospital and my fear that she would never leave finally outweighed my fear of intruding onto people when I wasn't wanted. Because, unlike everyone else I've heard or spoken to when reacting, I wasn't surprised by it. A small, very small part of me had been expecting, or at least afraid, of it, for weeks. Maybe months.

And I was thinking about that, and I "heard" her, the way I always read her chat lines, saying in dry amusement, "Well, you are always right."

I almost put the box back, right then. But I didn't. I still had all the old dreamwidth posts open at home, that I'd been reading earlier that day, so I didn't. I kept reading them instead.

I've been saving copies of everything we've done together, and getting caught up re-reading them. Old chat logs, a mix of conversations and venting and pages of roleplay. Shared stories we started together. Fic exchanges. There's so many amazing things and they're still just as much fun to re-read, especially the old roleplay, as they were to do in the beginning. I can put myself back there and remember what I was thinking. And I thought, this is good. I have ten years of memories to keep and revisit whenever I want, that I can be happy about.

At some point, something set me off. I don't know what it was anymore, but it wasn't until I reached the last part she wrote of Afterward(s) that I completely broke down, and it wasn't until I calmed down from that where I realized what was different. I'd been travelling "forwards" through our logs and stories, from older to newer, and I'd finally reached the ones that we were still doing. Had still been doing. Ones that were on hold but we were planning to pick up again.

Afterward(s). It was our story. Is. It still is our story. It started out with her writing something for me. It kept going with me encouraging her to write self-indulgent post-apoc vignettes. It turned from "maybe a short story collection" to a five-novella series with a planned cowritten sequel. It was so close to the first draft being done, completely done, and then I was going to go through and do a hard edit/revision pass and then we were going to publish it together while we cowrote the sequel - which, like how Afterward(s) is a series of vignettes showing the evolution of the world after the Fae Apocalypse with a recurring romance plot arc, the sequel was going to be a series of chapters or short stories about them while also showcasing Cloverleaf and Doomsday.

Talking about it like that, with plans for the future, or how to fit scenes in here or there, is fine. Comfortable, even. I've spent so much time working on it. But then, I think about the part she was last working on, of N going back to Aviv's island, and I think, I'll never know what she would've written next and I can't stop crying and I think, dammit, I just want my friend back.

I want to finish this book, this series with her. I want to show her our new house and share apple recipes and talk about gardening. I want to listen to her vent about her husband being aggravating and remind her that she doesn't have to take crap from obnoxious coworkers. I want to show her pictures of the kids while she can't believe they're not still tiny infants. I want to ask her all the questions about Elleheim I came up with this summer. I wanted to finish this Cloverleaf MUD remake I had started in Evennia and surprise her with it. I want to make up to her for having let my depression make me sabotage our friendship so badly, those last few months before she was hospitalized. I want to tell her that she's my best friend, because I never have been good about volunteering my feelings to people, because I never told her and I don't think she ever knew.

I think, at this point, I can handle not having a chance to do things for her, myself. It's when I think about things she'll never do, things we'll never do together, that I break down.

I don't know if it's the hardest part, but it's definitely one of the hard parts, that I've really been wanting to talk to someone about this, about everything, but there's only one person who I would ever talk to about these kinds of things, and she's the one who died.

So here I am, weeks later, having written and rewritten and re-rewritten posts about this in my head so many times I can't keep track of what I was thinking to say, finally at a point where I can open a blank file and not immediately close it again because it hurts too much.

I want to finish and publish Afterward(s). I think I also want to put Addergoole: A Ghost Story back online somewhere, since her Addergoole website never went back up. We talked through plans for her Addergoole projects a lot - TOS she had consigned to the archives, unless she decided to rewrite them later after all, and Year 9 she liked as an experiment, but GS, we both felt was just... it was good, you know? We worked together really well. I hate having to put that in the past tense, but we did. We would have, again. But it's a good book, even if darker than I would do on my own; a good Addergoole story. And as a full co-author, I feel like... I feel like she'd want people to be able to keep reading it, you know?

That's what I feel about Afterward(s), too. It's not really the same thing, of course. GS we wrote together, but we wrote it for being published. It was the next Addergoole story, aimed to tell the story to her readers. And we did intend, together, to finish up Afterward(s) and put it up for people to read - pack it into buyable ebooks and sell, even. But writing it wasn't for other people. It was for her, or for me, or for us. The "other people" part would come once we finished it, polished it, as like... a bonus.

I think I could finish it. The notes, the outlines are all there. I can camoflage my writing into her style well enough to make it flow. I know the characters inside out, just like she did. And she always was happy to read what I'd written, and to share her writing, and for me to share mine, so I think... if I want to finish it, and put it online for people to read, that she would've been happy.

It'll be a while before I can really face the last parts she wrote objectively enough to finish those, in particular. But I want to try.

So far, no one has asked me how I'm handling it, how I'm doing, and honestly, I'm glad. I don't know what the socially appropriate way to respond is. I don't know what they'll be expecting me to say, or how they'll be expecting me to deal. I spent a solid week feeling guilty that I was "doing it wrong", that I would somehow be offending someone else, but I managed to accept that my feelings about Lyn and her death are between me and her, and she... isn't here to have an opinion. So it's just me.

My mom said I should reach out to her husband. I told her we never really talked, so I didn't understand why he would want to hear from me. She took that as a refusal, not a lack of understanding, but that's okay. I don't think I could have handled talking to him, anyway; I wasn't ready to face it that directly. I'm still not really ready. I'm edging my way into it slowly, bit by bit, even though it feels every time like diving in cannonball style.

Most of the reason I won't, though, is I'm afraid of overstepping boundaries. He and I weren't friends. We weren't, like, enemies, just, the only real connection we have is that Lyn would talk about him to me or me to him. I don't think he personally cares if I miss her or not. And I can't ask him the one thing that only he can answer for me, which is "did Lyn officially give me rights to her faepoc universe in her will?" because even I can tell that makes me sound like a fucking callous asshole. And... another part of me doesn't want to know how hard she had written me off as a friend, after the last fight we had, because he would know. He'd be the one she vented out loud to about it.

Sometimes I feel guilty, or responsible, somehow. I know it's completely irrational, but there's always that part of your emotions that just don't care about logic and reason. (I always had to remind Lyn about that.) But it's hard to avoid feeling that way when you have a huge fight with your best friend and within a month while you're still not talking to each other she winds up hospitalized and then dies. At least I know how to handle irrational feelings like that, so it's more of a mild annoyance than anything else.

I think, on some level, she would be amused, a bit chagrined, if she realized how much I resemble Cya and Leo with how I'm responding to this. It's ironic, but not too surprising, I think.

These parts of it, I can write about without breaking down again. I'm used to analyzing my own feelings and taking them apart and processing them like that. It's the parts that aren't just in my head - the parts that are completely outside my control - those still suck.