Friday, July 17, 2009

Good to be out of the rain...

"Oh, I do have some news for you."

I'm lying on my side on C's futon, phone resting against my ear. "Oh, yeah? What's that?"

"Bradley killed himself."

The name doesn't register. I flip through locations in my head, of his various social groups, and I cannot remember any Bradleys at the bar or coffee shops.

"Bradley? Bradley who?"

"Bradley. My little brother."

A quick intake of breath as my stomach drops, numbness starts growing and my eyes start to fill. Even thought it's a stupid, stupid question, I have to ask, "Did he succeed?" hoping against hope that I misheard his words, that due to static or a temporarily dropped connection that he actually said, "Bradley tried to kill himself."

He lets out a ragged breath that echoes over the phone line, "Oooh yeah, he succeeded."

"What happened?" I can't imagine that the bright young man I knew would kill himself. My brain is flooded with time spent, with conversations and laughter. I'm suddenly struck with the hope that I kept the little plush Scotsman he bought me while on vacation in Scotland. He was my favorite of my ex-boyfriend's three brothers, the one I had most looked forward to calling my brother-in-law, the one I most wanted to see grow up, to see him find the woman he would one day call his wife, knowing how amazing she would have to be, knowing the friendship we would share.

I listened as Rick told me the events leading up to Bradley's suicide. Of how he joined the army, was sent to Kuwait, then eventually Iraq, where he was stationed at one of the worst places to be, and how, a week in, he put a bullet in his brain that didn't kill his body, only his mind. Rick spoke of how his little brother's squad was able to keep the body alive so it could be moved to a hospital in Germany, and how he and his mother flew out to be there when they pulled Bradley off life support.

He explained that's why he hadn't returned my calls, that the last month had been overwhelming and he called few people back.

He mentioned that, under instruction of his sargent, Bradley wrote an "In Event of Death" letter a few weeks before he died, and what an amazing thing that had been for all of them, reading it.

He spoke of how difficult it has been for him, how little things have been setting him off. Giving him the sniffles, he says. In the years we were together, I only saw him cry once, when his mother and I surprised him by flying her out here for his 30th birthday, having him walk up behind him at his birthday dinner. They've had a strained relationship for years, but he still loves her.

It's hard to imagine Rick upset, hard to imagine him grieving. He was always so strong, so in control, so steady.

It's hard to imagine Bradley getting to the point where he could not stand to be where he was, and could not see any point in the future ahead of him.

As we talk, I find my usual strength in shoving away the emotion. I will acknowledge this later, I tell myself. This sense of incredible loss, I can do nothing. I will not cry, I will not allow myself to think on this too strongly because there is nothing I can do besides grieve.

And I will. Eventually.

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