I can't figure out how to be around other people.
I recognize that I'm not like them any more. Even the ones with some sort of personal tragedy generally have something less bizarre.
I know they have questions. I know they have feelings. I know that they want to share these things with me.
I am a clenched fist.
A birthday celebration, bouncy castles and bubble machines in my yard--I dash from one thing to another, reluctant to get pinned down and examined.
They watch me flutter around, spinning the plates and keeping the balls aloft. They are impressed/troubled/relieved.
I watch C jostle across the yard amidst a cloud of pink dresses and hair bows. I see a second set of bouncing honey-blond pigtails and I know I'm not the only one. Their collective will can almost conjure another freshly minted three-year-old. But they still can't understand.
I'm not the self-appointed keeper of misery, never have been. I'm an easy one, a good listener. It was touch and go for a while there. The old complainers braced themselves for the arrival of a new sheriff in town but I collapsed halfway through the campaign. My scars are not up for a vote.
They wait patiently to see if I want a turn and then, in the absence of any airing of my troubles, they bound into the void with their discomforts, disorders, disappointing diagnoses. I nod and express sympathy. I wish I could take a pill to fix my problem. I want to tell them that I would endure everything they have described to have R back but I know they wouldn't believe me because they can't understand.
And I'm glad they can't understand because I love all of them and nobody should ever have to feel like this.
So I leave them to draw their own conclusions and quietly take my place in the family lore.
C falls asleep on the couch all dirty feet and sweat-plastered hair. The guests exit, smiling. The party is a success. I am satisfied.
But in the quiet solitude of our room, T and I hold hands and shed tears for our other birthday girl, wherever she may be. And my heart breaks all over again because next to C and R, T is the one I love the most and he is the only other one who understands.