Happy Birthday, Silas

Happy Birthday, Silas. Those Taurus men, always making dramatic entrances and exits.

How I wish, every day almost, that I had known the person Silas would become. When I turned 24, and was then as old as Silas was when he died, I realized how incredibly young and unformed 24 years old really is. I thought he was so grown-up. So mature, and wise, and learned. So well read, so well traveled. So deep. So intense. Every conversation we was intense, everything we had in common was cosmic and incredible. Every argument we had was a raging war of words and sometimes fists. Every fight was the end of the relationship.

Of course, Silas was all of those things, and much, much more. In the end though, Silas was still so very young, and unsure, and scared. Silas, like all of us, was just a young man trying to find his way. At almost 33 now, I am just a baby, only now beginning to learn by trial and error how to make it through a day. Silas was 5 years older than me. On his last birthday, his 24th, we went to an Eric Clapton concert and I got violently ill. Silas had to carry me from the venue through the parking lots to the car. Later he would confess to me that he never believed I was truly sick, that he was convinced I was sabotaging his birthday, even as he held back my hair while I vomited all through the night and into the next day.

Silas once told me he’d had a vision of our wedding. We were on a mountain in North Caroline (Boone? Asheville?) And the officiant had dreadlocks. I was wearing a veil of snowflake lace. When things went south between us, I would tearfully whimper, “but… snowflake lace, remember?” I still look for snowflake lace when I visit antique stores.

Back then, when all I knew to do was dig in and hold on, it was Silas who taught me that “sometimes, people just break up. And they live through it”. I was only just beginning to understand that concept- to get angry, to hit that “how dare he, that asshole!” stage- when Silas was in what would have been a minor traffic accident had he been in a car, on his was home from the law office where he worked as an assistant. Since he was on a motorcycle, that car that slammed on brakes in front of him caused him to drop the bike and somehow he ended up in the path of a vintage pickup truck traveling toward him in the other lane. The driver never had time to stop. Once he was able to pull over and get out he went to Silas, lying in the road, and held his head. He told him that help was coming and to hold on. I was told that the driver never went back for his truck. I remember every small detail about the moment that Bobby T broke the news to me in a stairwell at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Most of all, I remember that right before he came to find me, I was on the phone, venting to my dad that Silas wouldn’t give me back my furniture. When I saw Bobby and Shannon, all I could think was “great. Drama. What is he, going to beat me up now? I have to be escorted to the meeting, or worse, away from the meeting??” It’s a bizarre thing, that split second switch between fury, disbelief, and total devastation. True to the movie of the week, I went ballistic. I hit Bobby. I collapsed. I screamed.

Years later I would move to Willow Springs, 4 miles from where Silas died. I drove that route several times a week and I don’t think I ever stopped wondering, “is this where it happened? Right here? Here? Is that the truck?” but I was never able to get out and stand on the asphalt where it happened like I so wanted. Ever so, ever so wanted. If I stand in the very spot where your soul left for heaven, will you come back to me just for a second? A minute? An hour?

Sometimes I forget his birthday, which really, isn’t that big of a deal. After all I only knew the man for 9 months. Sometimes, around June 24th, I get cranky and bitchy and it takes me several days to figure out why. On mothers day most years, especially since I’ve had children, I cry for Silas’ mother who didn’t know on Mother’s Day 1992 at that wonderful brunch, that this was their last mother’s day together. This year, I remembered. This year I spent way too long putting myself in the shoes of a mother who will never see their child again.

I wish I could say I miss him. I can only say that I ache to know the person Silas would have grown into. Looking at myself at 19, and now at 33, I see two completely different people. I wish every day that Silas had been given the chance to transform. To grow, to forgive.

When I read The Lovely Bones, I grieved Silas all over again, and was marginally comforted by the fantasy that he was out there (up there?), missing his family, missing his life, gently influencing the people he cared about. And forgiving me. Watching me grow up. Watching me leave behind the nutjob that I was when we knew each other, and become a strong, loving, able woman, mother to two wonderful children, wife to a fantastic man. The Silas I knew in 1992 wouldn’t have much good to say about any of that, but my fantasy Silas, the man who continued to grow and evolve and mature, would be happy for us. And proud of me.

Happy Birthday, Silas.

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