I got an email today from someone who used to be one of my closest friends, asking for a favor. “How are you?” read the email, “Settling in to your new city?” This person called me once shortly after my brother died, and I haven’t heard from him since. No mention or acknowledgment in this email of Alex’s death.
I spent much of the weekend with my partner’s father. This was the first time I’ve spoken with him since I have been with my partner, and I was trying to be on my best behavior, but it was also the three-month mark; I was miserable on Saturday and began crying at one point while we were out. Although my partner held me and much of my family together through the funeral, missing a family wedding on his side to attend the funeral on mine, not once did his father ask about my brother or express his condolences.
I am left with two possible explanations for why people who know me in a non-professional capacity and know about my brother’s death would not mention it: (1) it doesn’t occur to them as a relevant issue or (2) the more charitable explanation, they are loathe to bring it up and remind me. From my vantage point, both explanations are preposterous. This is the only relevant thing in my life right now. There is no reminding me; I don’t ever stop thinking about Alex. It is shocking to me that outside observers could not tell that, could not see the bubble of grief I walk around in, the pain that dressed me in the morning, the sadness that I eat, or the anger that measures my steps. But I suppose this must be the case, that my disguise is normalcy, and my functionality erases these markers from the naked eye. And that to one who does not see me regularly, three months may seem like enough time to make normalcy actually the case. It isn’t.
Yesterday I put one of the “Do it for Alex” pins back on my shirt, and am wearing it again today at work. I want a tattoo — a big one, a visible one — so that people cannot forget that I carry this loss. In the meantime, I will probably just continue to remind people (except my partner’s parents) that no, actually, I am not ok thank you, my brother is dead.