I Don’t Need Anything. Except This …

One of my very favorite comedy films of all-time has always been The Jerk. As I continue to pack, lift, go through piles, clean, organize, fill boxes and bags, and generally prepare to move out of the apartment my husband and I shared our life in for 7 years, I feel a little bit like Steve Martin’s character, Navin, as he left his mansion and his lovely wife Marie (Burnadette Peters.) My dad and I used to quote this scene constantly when I was a kid, and I can still watch it a hundred times and it always makes me laugh:

Navin R. Johnson: Well I’m gonna go then! And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need anything. Except this.
[picks up an ashtray]
Navin R. Johnson: I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control. – The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches. – The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp. – The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that’s all I need. I don’t need one other thing, not one… I need this. – The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I’m some kind of a jerk or something! – And this. That’s all I need.
[walking outside]
Navin R. Johnson: The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair.
Navin R. Johnson: [outside now] And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.
[Shithead growls at him]
Navin R. Johnson: I don’t need my dog.

I don’t need anything else. Except this ….

About 13 months ago, I lost my husband when he had a sudden heart-attack. Four days later, I was staring at him in a casket, delivering a Eulogy I wrote, and getting in our car and driving home, alone. A week after that, the foreclosure went through on the home that my parents shared their life and their marriage in for 45 years. The home that my brother and I grew up in. The only home I had ever known. That same week, I had to sell my husband’s car, because at 14 years old with 145,000 miles on it and always in the shop for repairs, it was no longer a safe option for me.

And so there I was, just a year ago, sitting in Don’s Pontiac Grand Prix – his baby – in my parent’s driveway, sobbing, trying to feel him one last time as I desperately wrapped my fingers around the steering wheel like claws, trying to somehow bring him back through his love for his precious car. I walked into my parent’s house, which was technically no longer their house, stood in the emptiness, and just cried. Waves of emotion bombarded me and my heart sunk into my chest as I closed that door one last time. Something had ended. Life had been stolen. There were things I could never get back. It wasn’t fair.

Mom and Dad’s home for 45 years

Fast-forward to this week. It’s happening all over again. Don has been dead for a year now, and I’m saying goodbye to the only home we have ever known as a couple. We never lived anywhere else together. We never got to own a home, or have kids, or reach our goals. We weren’t there yet. It was only the beginning – until it was the end. Our life was here, in this crappy, dusty, tiny apartment. We had dreams. We had a future planned. We also had no money, no savings, and no idea when we would be able to get out of New Jersey like Don wanted to so badly. And in 10 days, I will be leaving, alone. And let me tell you – it hurts like hell to go.

Moving is a goddamn nightmare. Moving while grieving is a hellish nightmare. Moving out of New Jersey is an impossible, hellish, awful, terrible, evil nightmare. After all this time, I am finally starting to see why my husband hated this state so much. “It’s a pain in the ass to do the simplest thing here”, he used to say. “They are ass-backwards, and things that should be easy, you gotta break your damn back to accomplish. Why is EVERYTHING so difficult here?” He never understood why you couldn’t miss your exit, and just turn around. Or why you had to pay money to simply park your car in a space. Or why they never fixed the potholes that would ruin his car. He could never grasp the concept of the jughandle, the mafia-mentality, or “The Jersey Shore” obsession. “The beaches here suck”, he would say. The bike and golf clubs that he used all year long in Florida – stayed in our storage closet here, barely used. The lifestyle was different. He didnt like how everybody was on top of each other here. It’s always crowded. Filthy. Old. Moving from Florida to here, his car insurance doubled. HIs rent doubled. There were so many more expenses here than what he was used to. It was stressful just to live. He was always working his ass off, yet we never got ahead. He loved NYC, and he loved me. He knew I needed to be here, so this is where we were. But he really hated New Jersey. I used to take that personally. Now, after jumping through hoops trying to move the hell out of here, I truly understand.

Don’s Entertainment Center. Before my Dad took it apart …

The place I am moving into comes complete with a roommate. It also comes with a beautiful king-sized bed, dressers, nightstands, couches, desk, and everything else you can think of. It is furnished, and so I cannot take much with me. Because of this, for the past month, Ive been trying to figure out ways to get rid of my bed, 2 sofas, Entertainment Center, kitchen table, coffee table, and annoyingly large dresser. I put them on Craigslist. Freecycle. I even made posters and put them up in our building, and then walked them into the mom and pop stores all over our neighborhood. The items were all listed as being FREE, provided you come get them and carry them out of here yourself. Good luck finding a parking spot. It’ll never happen. And if by some miracle it does occur and you park within a mile of the place without issue, have fun trying to fit the ginormous items through the small doorways, and down the 3 flights of stairs. Nobody showed up. Nobody wanted my things. For FREE! Okay. Fine, assholes. I will donate them. Surely a woman’s shelter or The Salvation Army would be honored to have these items, right? Wrong. Turns out the Salvation Army only has one guy available to pick up donated items, and he isn’t free until mid-September. The shelter doesn’t take any items from families who have cats, due to possible allergies. (Seriously?) Well, Kelley, you may say- why not just leave the furniture on your curb? Surely someone will come and pick it up! Not in good ‘ole New Jersey! In my neighborhood, you are not allowed to leave any large items or furniture in the basement or on the street. If you do, you will be fined. And then killed. The town will come and pick up your items for you, but only on Tuesdays between the hours of 12:45pm – 1:17pm, and only on partly cloudy days, and only if it’s not raining. Or sunny. Or hot. Or cold. And they wont come up the steps to your apartment to get the items. They will only pick them up on the curb. Oh, and they will only pick up 3 items at a time. Are you fucking kidding me? What kind of dumb-ass racket are you people running anyway? How is this convenient or logical in any way whatsoever? And what the hell am I going to do with all my crap??? Eventually, I had to let my friends know that I needed help. And when I did that, they came running, and the process of getting rid of my things began. So did my extreme emotions.

Our apartment living room

First up, our good friend and Don’s long-time EMS partner on the ambulance Meg showed up and tore apart the two sofas. She literally took box-cutters and a mallot, and destroyed the damn things. Don would have really appreciated that, and found it awesome. Me? It was really weird watching the couches that we bought right after our wedding, the couches he always sat on when he strummed his guitars – being turned into sawdust. “They are just things”, Meg reminded me. And she was right. I just have to constantly remind myself of that. Meanwhile, I took the mallot to the dresser, and showed it who was boss. Two 7-hour days later and our lungs filled with dust, we had accomplished something. We had bonded in our violent destruction of innocent objects. We were one. (Okay, that last part is ridiculous. It’s late and I’m just tired. We weren’t one.)

Meg scares the crap out of our couch

Next, my friend John came over and helped me go through Don’s hallway closet, a project that, if I had done by myself, would have left me frozen by intense emotion at the discovery of each new item found. With him there, I was able to control that, continue, and talk about it with him instead of crying in a corner alone.

Lady Gaga’s got nothin’ on John

Today was the biggest project of all. Two gay men, a married guy driving a church-owned box-truck, and a widow – all working together as the weirdest moving company ever, to get all the pieces of junk that was once my furniture out of the apartment and into some dumpster somewhere. In preparation for all of my friends arrival, I woke up this morning and moved what I could into the living room so they would have easy access to it all. Then, I stopped. Looked around. Another empty room. Just like last year, standing in my parent’s house. Once again, it all hit me. The flood gates opened up, and I broke down. An hour later, I cried again, this time while talking to Rebecca on the phone about the details of today. That time, I was overcome with gratefulness. Thankful for the many ways friends like her have helped me. So I cried.

 Just hours later, my crew arrived, and we were eating the pizza I ordered, and drinking the soda and bottled water I provided them – a tiny thank you for all they were doing for me. And then we got to work. Bobby, Jay, Ben, and me. Slowly removing the pieces of my life into a truck donated by Ben and his wife Rebecca’s church. It was messy. It was funny. It was strange.

When we found an empty trash bin outside and Jay came up with the idea to “borrow” it for a few minutes so that we could use it to put all the many loose pieces of wood from our couches and Entertainment Center and dresser that had been hacked to pieces the days before, I suggested that may be considered stealing by our neighbors. Then Bobby came up with an Ad slogan for our new fake Moving Company:

“Need movers? Have no values? Call us!  We are QuestionableMorals.com! We have no conscience – Right or wrong, we  get the job done!”

Ben and Jay pack away the pieces of my past …

Later, when we removed our mattress and bed frame, we discovered Don’s gun in a case underneath the bed. This wasn’t a surprise to me, as I recall him telling me he had brought it up here from Florida. It sat under our bed for 7 years, never coming out of it’s case. Don was in the Air Force, and he enjoyed skeet shooting – even won some trophies for it in competitions. So, it was some sort of skeet-shooting rifle. When I told the men that I wanted to open the case and look and see the gun inside, again we started creating fake future newspaper headlines:

 “Widow Accidentally Shoots Herself with Dead Husband’s Gun. Gay Friends Watch in Horror.”

 Or my favorite:

“Young Widow Found Dead After Gay Friend Accidentally Mistakes Gun for Microphone. Local Church Held Liable.”

 (Not to worry. Later in the day, I phoned the local police station and informed them of the situation and that I found my deceased husband’s gun while packing. An officer came over and made the gun go bye-bye.)

Questionable Morals ….

Today I cried. Today I laughed. Today my friends were amazing, as they have been throughout this neverending nightmare of losing my wonderful husband. Today I stood in our living room, and saw my never-reached future and my bittersweet past. I saw the things that we bought together and used together and lived in together – carted away. You would think that the emptyness of the rooms would make the place seem more impersonal. It didn’t. It just made me sad. Made me think about 10 days from now, when I close that door forever, when I walk out of here for the last time, and how I won’t be with my husband when I do that. None of our things made it out alive. Our couches. Dresser. Tables. All the small and big things we owned together – gone. Cut up and thrown into a truck.

 The only thing that made it – the only thing that is coming with me – is his chair. His silly, stupid, dumb, horrible, wonderful chair. I made fun of it all the time. He loved his chair. He brought it with him from Florida. His La-Z-boy chair. The chair he napped with the cats in. The chair he took care of me in for a week when I threw out my back. The chair I sat in the first time I flew out to Florida to visit him, when we were dating long-distance. I sat in his chair, and his cat Isabelle jumped right into my lap. Don smiled and said: “She loves you. She doesn’t usually do that. She loves you, Boo.” It’s the chair that I called ugly on more than one occasion. And now, as if Im being punished for mocking it so openly, I am left with it.

Bobby, me, and the lone, remaining chair …

As I leave this apartment and move into this new one, I am 40 years old and I am starting my life all over again. I am left with no husband. No money. No health insurance. No security. No safety net. No plan. What if my new roommate hates me? What if he regrets letting me live there? What if he dies like Don did? Then where will I live? What if my cats freak out and hate it there and he kicks us out? What if I get sick and cant pay my bills? What if I lose my job? What if I can’t think of any more panicky questions? What if ….

And so, as I attempt to fall asleep tonight in my husband’s favorite, lame chair that is now my lame chair – I am reminded again of that classic scene in The Jerk. And when I leave here in a week and a half, I will need to remind myself that, like Navin, I don’t need the Entertainment Center. Or the dresser. I don’t need our couches. I don’t need anything.

Except this chair. This chair … and my kitties. And I don’t need anything else. Not one other thing.

I do need friends. I need my friends. So this chair, my cats, and my friends .. and that’s all I need ever. And I dont need one other thing.

But as I close the doors on New Jersey and open them to New York and to this new part of my life, I’ll tell you a secret. And the secret is this:

 

I’m terrified.

 

No Christians or Gays Were Harmed During This Move …

(Thank you to Rebecca, Ben, and Powerhouse Christian Church for the use of this wonderfully perfect truck today. And thank you to all of my great friends, who always come running whenever I ask. I just need to remember to ask. I love you.)

Caitlin is Gone

This morning, I was jolted awake by the most frightening dream. It was not scary in the typical fearful ways that dreams can be scary. There were no monsters or fires or people chasing me. It wasn’t even about Don this time. Except it was. He was not in the dream, but it centered around his death. It was about change, and how much I fear it. It was about being terrified of things and people disappearing – people I love, people I count on. Maybe it was also about me feeling guilty anytime I ask for help from others. I don’t know. Having a tough time figuring this one out totally. It was off the charts weird and mean. It was also incredibly hilarious and bizarre, and although I am able to analyze some of it pretty well, I’d love it if my readers would attempt the rest for me in the comments. Most of my dreams seem to quickly leave my mind an hour or so after I have them, so because I just woke up from this one, Im going to write it out here exactly as I remember it happening. It felt incredibly real, as most of my Don-related dreams do these days. When I woke up from it, I was actually gasping for air a little bit. I was very confused. Here is the dream in all it’s terrible, hysterical reality:

It is Monday, which is my grief counselor day, and the dream begins with me getting off the bus in Manhattan and then walking the couple of blocks to my appointment. It’s a sunny day, extremely windy, hot as hell, and I’m rushing. There was traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel, so the bus was running late. I turn the corner and pass the Starbucks that is there, (in the sea of other Starbucks within a 4 block radius), except it’s not a Starbucks anymore. It’s a McDonald’s. What on earth??? Why the hell … I have no time to react to this baffling turn of events, and I run the rest of the way to my counselor’s high-rise. The usual leathery-faced older man who is worn out by life and announces and buzzes me in – is now replaced by an older leathery-faced woman. She grunts at me angrily as she lets me through the front entrance. During my elevator ride up, I anticipate all the things I want to talk about with Caitlin today. It’s been another exhausting week and I need this safe place to explode and vent without judgement or fear. I get off the elevator and walk down the long hallway, expecting my counselor to be standing in her doorway, with the door held open for me, in that welcoming way that she always does. That doesn’t happen. I reach the door and nobody is there. That’s strange. I guess I will knock. Still nothing. I get out my cell phone to call her and let her know I have arrived, when the door opens suddenly.

A flamboyantly gay man who is minimum 85 years old  and looks like an aging Tim Gunn looks at me, then says insincerely: “Can I help you?” He is wearing a wool beige sweater with a hot pink scarf. It is August and 95 degrees. “Well, are you going to come in, or are you going to stand there like a fool?” I walk in. I don’t know what the hell is going on here, but my need to find out keeps me moving forward. Maybe my counselor hired this odd, rude man as her receptionist. “Wait here. The therapist will be with you in a few minutes. You may sit in this chair or that chair, but never that big one. There is bottled water on the table. The cost is $5 per beverage. Your timed session begins now. Toodles!” He flings his scarf around his rooster neck, sets a loud kitchen timer for one hour, and then exits the room, slowly disappearing. I have no idea where he goes.

I feel sick. Something is off, but I stay anyway. The comfy, large marshmellow-y chair that I always sit in is now off-limits to me, apparently. As is the water, which I now have to pay for? What’s up with that shit? And therapist? No. Caitlin is not a therapist. She is a grief-counselor. Why is he calling her a therapist? I begrudgingly choose the hard, tiny, uncomfortable chair, and squeeze my fat ass into it somehow. I look like an overstuffed sausage, it is boiling hot in the normally comfortable, friendly room, and I suddenly want to run away. The loud kitchen timer makes me nervous. It is larger than a normal one and looms over me, watching me like a creepy owl. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock …….

A few minutes go by and I’m now sweating. The clicking of heels gets closer and someone enters the room. The someone is not Caitlin. She is a brunette with medium-long, straight hair and glasses. She has a cold, dark face. She wears a business suit and black pumps. She looks to be about my age. She sits directly across from me and glares at me with suspicious eyes. She is not Caitlin and I hate her. She opens a drawer and pushes a button. A hidden cabinet opens, and a flash of light appears. A spotlight. There is a spotlight on me. I can barely see, it is so bright. She picks up a clipboard and a pen and begins to take notes. She is writing furiously. What the fuck is she writing? We haven’t even said anything yet! She speaks and doesn’t look at me.

“So last time you were here, you mentioned your mother, Fran?” She taps her pen on her clipboard. The kitchen timer gets louder. Her breathing gets louder. She crosses her legs and squints at me. Her squint is an accusation against me. She despises me. She is everything I loathe about therapy.

“Fran is my grandmother, not my mother. And I never mentioned her. I’m sorry, but who are you??? And where the hell is Caitlin?”

“I am Kathleen. Caitlin is gone. You need to start accepting that.”

Start accepting it? It JUST happened! Where is she?”

“That is irrelevant.” She turns the spotlight so that it is directly in my eye.

“Actually, it’s pretty much the only thing that IS relevant right now. Can you please get that light out of my eyes?” The normally warm environment is now frozen, and I am being interrogated.

“She had more important people to tend to. More important things to do. She no longer felt the need to spend her time discussing your loss, so she asked me to replace her. You will be seeing me now. It’s really important that you not dwell on the past. She is not here. Accept it. Move on.” She takes out a pack of cigarettes out of nowhere and lights one up. Cigarettes? Seriously? Could this bitch be any more of a cliche?

“But this makes no sense. Why would Caitlin give up her job? She loves her job. And why wouldn’t she tell me? She would never do this to me. She wouldn’t just disappear like this.” My face feels hot and I can feel the tears welling up. It is four-thousand degrees in that room, but Kathleen’s veiny hand is ice-cold on her cigarette.

“People disappear. Don disappeared. He left you. Get a grip, Kelley. You are wasting session time talking about this. The clock is ticking. I did not want to go down this road with you, but if you insist, I will tell you. Caitlin did not give up her work. She gave up you. She doesn’t hate her work. She hates you. She took her practice and moved it to Wyoming.”

Wyoming??? She hates Wyoming!” This cannot be happening.

“No. As I said, she hates you. Her exact words to me were: ‘I would rather live in Wyoming than be forced to sit and listen to that woman’s whining for one more hour. I find her story tiresome and annoying, and life is too short for that kind of nonsense. Please do not give her my contact information, and good luck to you in trying to find some relevance in her insipid grieving.”

“Insipid? No. Caitlin would never say that. She doesn’t even talk like that. She is amazing. You’re a bitch.” Now I’m crying and I grab the kleenex box behind me. There is a lock on it, with a sign that reads: “Kleenex: $2 per sheet.” I throw it across the room and cry into my hands.

The bitch is unphased. She picks up the kitchen timer and moves the time forward by ten minutes. There are now 35 minutes remaining in this mindfuck horror show. She removes her glasses, takes a drag off her cigarette, and says calmly: “I do not allow profanity in my office, and crying is for infants. Learn how to grieve properly. Your husband would be ashamed by this embarassing display. You are acting like a child. I will tell you this one more time – with feeling. Your husband is gone. Caitlin is gone. And if you keep acting in this manner, everyone in your life will be gone. Your counselor asked me to take over, and because that is Kathleen’s job, that is what Kathleen will do.” The fact that she just referred to herself in the third-person, twice, is the catalyst that makes me get up and get the fuck out of there.

I stand up out of the horrible chair. “Well, no offense, but you suck at your job. You are the worst person I’ve ever met and there is no way in hell you have a license to practice anything. I can get through this much better without you, than with you. I’m leaving.” I walk toward the door. I can’t get out of this place fast enough. I still don’t know where the hell Caitlin is, but I don’t believe for one second that she is in Wyoming, that she hates me, or that she would abandon me and send this mess of a human-being in her place. The door won’t open. “Try again”, the bitch says. “There’s someone on the other side.” I open the door, and my brother walks in. He is stumbling, is wearing his Red Sox hat and sweatshirt, and has blood-shot eyes. He is drunk.

“David? What the hell are you doing here?” I have never been more confused in my entire life. He goes over to Kathleen and takes one of her cigarettes and lights it up. He smokes in my face rudely as he talks: “I live here now. In NYC. I fuckin’ hate this place but I had to move here because you’re so needy with all your grieving bullshit and all the constant help you need from everyone. I had to sell my house and truck. Jen left me and moved to Wyoming, and I had to give my kids away cuz I couldn’t afford them anymore. I gave them to The Salvation Army. I started smoking again and I drink again too. I go to the bars just to take away the stress of having to hear abour your stupid grief all the time. I’m tired of hearing about Don. Even Don is sick of hearing about Don. You should just shut up already and leave it alone. My life sucks now, and to top it all off, I’m stuck here with a bunch of stupid Yankee fans. Thanks a lot.” He puts his cigarette out on the floor, stomps on it, and then walks into the other room and disappears. Kathleen laughs. “I’m charging you for that cigarette”, she says. “Get the door.”

The doorbell rings. I go over and open it. This time, my parents are there, and they have aged about 20 years. They look terrible. Dad has a cane and mom walks with her spine in the shape of the letter L. “Holy Shit! What happened to you guys?” I am stunned at their appearance. “What the hell is going on???” I scream out loud at the universe. My dad sits down in the nearest chair, exhausted. Mom leans against the wall with her brittle hand. If I didn’t know it was them, I would never know it was them. Dad lets out a long sigh, and then finally speaks: “We have done so much for you. Too much. We can’t do it anymore. I got fired from my job because I had to keep coming up there to help you move out of your apartment. You have made my diabetes worse and your mother now has Alzheimer’s because of your inability to move on from this. She doesn’t even know where we are right now. She thinks I’m her father, and that we are getting ice-cream. We are quitting. We quit you. You need to sign these papers. They say that we are no longer your parents and that we no longer have to feel obligated to help you. We are resigning and moving to Wyoming.” Kathleen cackles again. Mom looks lost and plays with the spotlight. What the fuck is happening??? And what is with Wyoming???

“Do what my father says, honey. We love you, but it’s just too much. Look at what you’ve done to us. All because you refuse to live in reality. I’m going with my dad now to Kimball’s for my Black Rasberry ice-cream cone. Sign the papers, Katie. Fend for yourself. You’re all alone now. Be strong, Karen. These are the cards you were dealt. You can’t stop counting your chickens until they hatch. Life is not a rollercoaster. It’s a journey and a destination. There were two footprints in the sand. That was when Moses carried you. And I took the one less traveled by. Deal with it, Karla.”

Dad sighs again. “Come on Chris,” he says. He grabs her gently by the arm and leads her away from me. “I’m coming, Father!” she yells.

They both walk out of the room and into that weird other space that everyone keeps disappearing into …..

There is a loud, horrific noise. It sounds like an ambulance siren. The ambulance my husband drove. It gets louder and louder as I block my ears. Kathleen chuckles. “That’s the kitchen timer. I had them make it into the sound of an ambulance – just to mess with you a bit and remind you of his death some more. Funny, huh? Time’s up. Please get out of my office now. I have to relieve my bowels. Jerome will see you out.”

The flamboyantly gay older-than-dirt man that resembles Tim Gunn and his pink scarf return from thin air, and he hands me a piece of paper. “Here is your bill for this week. You’ll see it’s been broken down into sections so that your feeble brain can comprehend it. $150 for the session, $5 for the cigarette your brother smoked, $2 for the kleenex, and Kathleen added an annoyance fee of $45, because she finds you annoying in a general sort of way. So your total is $202. Kapish?” He opens the door and physically starts moving me into the hallway.

“But, I’m never coming back here again, and I can’t pay this stuff!”

“We’ll make sure that you do. I have pilates and yoga to get to, followed by my daily colonic and cleanse ritual. So – be gone with you! Toodles!” He takes his foot and literally kicks me in my rear end to push me into the buildings hallway. The door slams behind me. I walk down the long hallway, which got longer while I was inside, and push the button for the elevator. The door opens. The elevator is packed with people. There are at least 75, maybe 100 people inside. They are all crammed in together and they are talking to each other. They are everyone in my life. My parents are there. My brother. Relatives. Friends. They all keep talking. Everyone ignores me. The elevator starts going down, over 100 floors, 200 floors. 300. It is moving like a racecar at lightning speed and Im so dizzy. I start screaming out my friends and families names one by one over the loud elevator engine, praying someone will acknowledge me: “Hey!!! Sarah! Mom! Dad! David? John! Andrew! Hello??? Bobby? Why won’t anyone talk to me? Tabatha? Aunt Debbie? Caitlin!!! Oh my god! You’re here! You’re not in Wyoming! I knew it! I just had the weirdest dream … you didn’t want to see me anymore, and then nobody wanted to see me, not even my own family. Everyone was so mean, and they kept rushing me to grieve faster, and there was even a timer and a mean, horrible therapist … Hello??”

The elevator jolts to an abrupt stop. We are at street level, but it’s no longer a street, and it’s not New York City. It’s farm land and grass and trees. Its gray and ugly and drab. The large door opens. “This is our stop, everyone!” Caitlin says enthusiastically as she leads the huge pile of people out of the cramped elevator and into the land of Wyoming. I begin to follow. “No. Not you. You stay here. This is goodbye. I’m very disappointed in you. We are all very disappointed in you. I can’t help you anymore. I don’t want to. Nobody wants to. You’re hopeless.” Everybody nods in unison, and they enter into the farmland, toppling over one another like dominos. The door shuts again, and before I can move or think, the elevator goes all the way back up to the top floor. It shoots up like a cannon, and I feel like I will be sick. The door opens. Jerome is standing there in his wool sweater and hot pink scarf. He glares at me. “Well” he says, “Are you going to come in, or are you going to stand there like a fool?” I walk into the awfulness and sit in the terrible chair. Kathleen is already seated across from me, and she turns the kitchen timer dial with her veiny fingers. She shines the spotlight into my pupils – the start of her killing my soul.

She starts speaking after a long, hateful pause. “Last time you were here, you mentioned your mother, Fran?”

And so it begins. And ends.