A yellow couch in Dorchester filled with cat hair. A blanket and stray ray of light from the street lamp outside. The Red Line train rumbles by, causing me to stir. There are footsteps on the stairs, again.
I struggle between sleep and waking, between the before and after, between what was and what is yet to come, between one reality and another.
There are moments when one life dies utterly and completely, and the body is left void of anything but blood and guts. A heart beating, but a soul yet to be born.
My brother is over me now trying to catch my eye—“Tom, are you still all right?”—in a tone that conveys the kind of concern next of kin has when a sibling has a noose tied off over a rafter.
I don’t want to wake. I don’t want to leave the old reality. I don’t want to admit that I was a hero one day and the next I was…
My eyes are opening now. The marriage is over, the drinking, and “the kids” I cry out for are my 6-month-old sons and 2-year-old daughter.
My brother is holding my shoulder. “You are going to be all right, Tom.”
I don’t believe him. I am terrified, white pain in my eyes. The darkness of night has me by the neck.
Then I notice just the faintest hint of dawn and realize that, despite being completely lost, I have survived the worst night of my life.
I hug my brother, holding on for dear life the way I had the night before when I arrived on his front door with nowhere else to go.
—Photo kevin dooley/Flickr