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How to Ace it…


I’m still mad as hell about losing my favorite kitten. Yes. Mad. Still unhappy. Still sleeping with Maru’s favorite blanket. I still want her back. I want that entire day back. So I can at least remember when I saw her last. Did I pet her? Was I in a rush? Did I walk by without a word and…see? You’d think I’d know. Because I loved her. But I’ve lost loved ones. People, not cats and dogs. Cats and dogs are hard enough to lose. But when you suffer so harshly, you learn. I suffered losing Shawn, my brother in law. To watch my sisters agony, because she was in the truck too, and be able to do nothing nothing nothing…His friends shock, silence, horror and their total inability to cope. Shawn’s mother. Losing her only son. It is harsh. Still incredibly harsh.

Shawn & Liza

There is no respite. There are no soothing tears, no hope of reunion, no place in heaven for me. There is no going back to tell Buzz she’s not worth it. Don’t kill yourself. We love you. We do if she doesn’t. Shawn, that road is undercut from winter storms. there is no road. its a shell. Shawn, don’t go dont go dont go. I can remember them. I’d like to go back and tell them to be careful, that she wasn’t worth it, that I love you, please take care of yourself. Don’t go. Please don’t leave me. Don’t leave us. Please come back. Please. I can’t do this without you. Please please come back.

There’s no going back.

I figured that out. Seems simple, right? It isn’t. Everyone wants to go back. Some people build their whole lives around it. They want to go back even if its just to see themselves being awesome. Go back so you can wash your hair instead of keeping that date. Back so you can ace the test, the interview, the whatever. Just ace it. Just fix it so the screen was made of metal mesh instead of plastic. So Maru couldn’t tear it. Shawn knew about the road. Buzz knew there was more to life than one girl. Ace life.

I’d give anything. Anything at all to ace the test. How do you handle stress? Do you know? I wondered how I’d do every so often. In an idle way, I’d wonder. I was so young. I introduced them. I didn’t think anything of it. I’d known Deborah for a long time and I knew about the plan. Tall, gorgeous, electrifying California blonde with a husky whiskey voice and a no nonsense attitude to life. She was going to marry well. She was going to have a couple of kids and she was going to help her husband run his business. Whatever it was. A good solid plan.

Buzz thought he could be part of it through sheer determination. But there are some things that love does not conquer. She was nice at first. We talked about him, I promised to try to reason with him. He started a fight in a club with a bass player and threw beer bottles. He acted like an ass. I suggested that Deborah maybe fade away for a couple of weeks. Go visit mom in Ventura, see her brother…Buzz followed her and broke her arm. Yeah, it was an accident. Yeah. Deborah didn’t press charges but she told him she was going to kick his ass if he came near her again. She probably could have, even with a cast. Not to mention her crazy brother.

I don’t know how much anyone knows about this part. I haven’t ever really talked to anyone. I’m talking about stress and ‘do overs’ and taking a mulligan in life and going back, right?

Time passed. Not a lot of time but when you’re young, a couple weeks. It’s a long time. Buzz and his behavior has caused a certain coolness on the part of his friends. All of us were waiting for him to chill.

Then came news of a horrifying motorcycle crash on the Hollywood 101 freeway. It was Buzz. The trucker in the next lane, the slow lane, said Buzz passed him going over 100mph. His bike could go faster than that. He was probably going faster than that. He lost control, started a wobble, overcorrected and he drove into a chain link fence near the overpass abutment. He hit every solid object for a 1000 meters. It was terrible. He was only, what? 27. Something like that. I couldn’t remember what I’d last said to Buzz. Was I kind? Did I yell at him about Deborah? Did I say something supportive or was I a bitch? It was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. Trying to remember. Stressing over.

Deborah was still in Ventura. She’d met some rich guy who owned a seafood company. The plan was moving forward. Her cast was good for a sympathy vote from seafood guy. She was still gorgeous. She didn’t come to the service. Which was fine with everyone.

One morning, a week or so after the burial, she called me and asked me to drive up to Ventura. It’s just south of Santa Barbara. Only a couple hours drive. Really pretty, too, and I hadn’t seen Deborah for awhile. When I got there she shushed me. Handed me a really strong drink and went to her answering machine. Hit play. It was a suicide note. From Buzz. There was no mistaking it. He left it, it was kind of long. He didn’t sound drunk. It was dated and timed, the way those old tape machines did. He left that message and got on his bike and killed himself. Deborah didn’t know what to do with it. By the time she got home that day and played it, it was over. There were other messages, telling her what happened. I told her to erase it.

I just remember being really mad. It was supposed to be an accident. It shouldn’t have been about a girl. Even Deborah, who was great, wasn’t worth that. No one was. Is. Are they? Are they!?

I’ve thought about this a lot. Losing people you love makes you into a completely different person. It’s a tidal wave. No. It’s more like a mud slide. Earth becomes liquid, everything shifts, there’s no howling storm to alert you. There are no gale force winds to tell you “Hey, you there! Yeah! You with the cappuccino…”
No. You just feel everything slide out beneath you. Everything shifts and nothing is the same. Nothing can be the same. The ground is solid again. But its all upside down. Empty. Leaving you looking around at everything that remains. Howling. Abject. ‘Wait…no. Take me.’

But you can’t go back. Not even one second in time.

You can’t fix anything. You can only regret. Try and remember. Try and fix those moments in your memory and its the worst way to go back. Because it makes you cry and you can’t change a thing. It doesn’t matter if you cry for the loss of your friend, the loss of a brother or the loss of a kitten. Those tears hurt to cry. The pictures don’t give you a ‘go back’ or a ‘do over’. You just wish you could remember more. Because that’s your do over.

That’s how you ace it.


5 thoughts on “How to Ace it…

  1. I hate going back, but haven’t figured out the way to stop myself yet. I’m the worst with conversations that haven’t gone well. Always replaying them in my head, thinking if I said things the right way, what was the better way, of if they just weren’t interested in listening to me in the first. Or maybe, was I on the wrong side of the argument. It never gets resolved, so those nights stay sleepless.

    But, what I really want to say is I’m so glad to see you back. Missed you.


    • You’re such a vibrant soul. No matter whether you ever decide you’re finished with writing here, what you’ve shared already is such a gift. I really feel like it should be we who are grateful.


  2. Sigh. Good to have you back. The worst time in my life was our six years of infertility – long story – but I had one phrase that got me through..and you remind me of it. – I can’t change what’s going to happen, only the way I deal with it. It’s where the control lies, but it’s a hard road to take. And I admire you for it. xxxxxxxxx


There is no sin except stupidity.

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