Doug’s father told us what happened.
“Doug and Ben were out last night. Then about 11 pm I heard them out in the driveway. Doug was home. I heard them talking and then Doug got back into his car, and he and Ben went back out. Ben doesn’t know when to call a night a night!”
He continued. “At 2 am the Cops are banging on the front door. I know as soon as I see them what happened. If he was in jail, they would have called. Of course everybody in the house woke up and came to the door. The cop says, “Are you Mr. Grayson?”
“Well I regret to inform you that there has been an accident. Your son Doug was killed. If you would please come down to the hospital you can claim his body.”
“Of course Judy starts shaking and crying. The boys too, are upset. I’m just too damn pissed off to be upset. I go down to the morgue at the hospital, and the guy there tells me, ‘I would really recommend that you don’t go in and see him. You should just remember him the way he was.’ Of course I went in to see him. Man, I can’t tell you how pissed off I am. What a waste! He was twenty years old and had his whole life ahead of him.”
Father pulled me aside, “See, it’s a good thing you weren’t in the car with him.”
Really? I think I would rather be dead. My head hurts.
Doug’s senior portrait sat, displayed on top of the closed casket. I knelt beside it. Like a whirlwind, the guilt of not treating him better, the loneliness of being without a boyfriend, the joy of riding in a fast car, and the memories of dinner at the expensive restaurant all came spiraling through my mind. I cried big heaving sobs. Just as I felt a teaspoon of relief, Father gripped right arm and pulled it back, jerking me upright. “Stop making an ass of yourself!” Father yelled in my ear. He corralled me back to the seat in the front row, next to Mother.
“Look at the Grayson family. They’re not crying,” Mother said in a soft innocent tone.
I looked across the room at the Grayson family. Doug’s Mother looked at me like, “Who do you think you are?”
Stunned, I turned back around and noticed Sandy, a girl I had known since first grade, sitting in the back row. How nice of her, I thought. I hadn’t really even talked to her much during high school, but she showed up for me. I got up from my chair and said hello to her. She couldn’t stay long because her mother was waiting for her in the parking lot. I thanked her for coming. Then I sat a few rows back with Maddie and Darleen, Valerie and her sister.
At the gravesite, we stood around while the priest did his prayers. It was early April but it was cold.
Ben walked over to me. “He really loved you Bridget.” Well if he really loved me, why did he leave?
Six months later, Valerie and I were driving home from college. A traffic accident had blocked our usual route home, forcing us to take a different highway. Suddenly I saw a large flatbed truck, with a crashed car on it. The front end of the car was red; the rest of the car dark blue.
“Look!” I said to Valerie. “It’s Doug’s car, Oh my God!” The car was flattened and curved like a banana. It was on its way to the scrap yard to be flattened.
“What are the chances of being on the exact road, at the exact time as the flatbed truck taking the crashed car to its final resting place?”
For years after Doug died, I dreamed I called him on a rotary phone. I kept messing up the number and redialing. I finally got through and his mother answered.
“Hi, is Doug there?”
“No he’s dead.”
And then I woke up.
To be empty, alone, hollow.
Other times not empty, but filled with pain, filled with sorrow, filled with the substance of loneliness. It’s not the lack of companionship alone; the loneliness is a real, tangible substance. It takes over my being, chills through my veins, my limbs, and up to the brain …wrapping around the brain, making it numb.
Numb or depressed? I’ll take numb.
Doug did sincerely love me and at the time, he was what I needed to endure both high school and my family. What if Doug had never existed? What if he hadn’t been there to keep me from other troubles during my High School years? The pain might have been unbearable; I might have gotten into hard drugs or worse. He was there to keep me out of trouble and see me through. He kept me from feeling alone for two and a half years.