Falling into Us Read online
I never once found her writing in her journal.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I found her sitting on our bed, knees drawn up, Kleenex in one hand, her phone in the other. She was scrolling through her pictures frantically, her thumb swiping across the screen over and over again, and with each photograph she bypassed, her features grew more and more panicked.
I sank onto the bed beside her, sitting cross-legged with my hands on her knees. “Becca? Are you looking for a specific picture?” She nodded without looking at me. “Which one?”
She then did something I’d never seen her do: She signed. I’d heard her say once that when she was really young she used sign language if she couldn’t express herself in verbal speech, but she’d abandoned the use of sign language by fourth grade.
I didn’t know sign language, not even the alphabet. She’d formed an “L” with her right hand, starting near her forehead and drawing it downward to her right hand, which was held as if pointing at me, or a number one.
“I don’t…I don’t know sign language, baby. ”
She just shook her head and kept scrolling. I tried to take the phone from her, but she jerked away from me, turning in place so she was facing away. I watched over her shoulder as she scrolled, picture after picture blurring past on the screen, snapped selfies, pics of her and me, her and Nell, random things. Then she reached the end of her photo album on the cell phone, the image bouncing but not swiping. She swiped at it repeatedly, as if unable to comprehend that it was the last picture. She moaned, a high-pitched whine in her throat, and slammed the phone down on the bed, but then immediately picked it up and tapped the blue and white Facebook icon, brought up her photo album in the Facebook app and began the process of frantically swiping through the pictures.
“Becca, honey, talk to me. What are you looking for?” She made the same sign, over and over again, L-shaped right hand brought down from her forehead to her pointing left hand. “I don’t know what that means, Beck. Please, talk to me. Please. ”
She shook her head and kept going through her Facebook pictures. When she reached the end of those, she whimpered through clenched teeth and pressed the phone screen to her face, shoulders shaking. Then, with a burst of inspiration, she logged back into Facebook and brought up Kate’s profile page and found her pictures.
That’s when it registered. “Ben? You’re looking for pictures of Ben?” She nodded, rocking in place in time with her scrolling thumb.
Kate had taken down every single picture of Ben from her page. There wasn’t one, not a single photograph of Ben. Becca screamed out loud and threw the phone across the room, where it smashed against the wall, putting a hole in the drywall and cracking the screen.
I gathered her in my arms and pulled her against my chest. She thrashed in my grip, screaming, pounding on my chest hard enough to cause pain.
“I-I-I-I doh-don’t-don’t n-n-n-nnnn…don’t remem-mem-mem…remember what he luh-luh-luh-looks like. I don’t r-r-r-rem-rem-remember!” She shook in my arms, trembling violently.
That was the most she’d spoken in more than a week.
“We’ll find you a picture of him, okay? I’m sure your parents have one. We’ll get one. I’ll go there right now, if you want. ”
“Everyone’s forgotten hi-hi-him,” she whispered. “Eev-eev-even Kate…and m-m-mmmm-me. Everyone. He’s guh-guh-gone, like he never w-w-wwww-wuh-was. ”
“You remember him, honey. You do. You remember what he was like. You remember who he was. ” I had her wrapped tightly in my arms, and she’d stilled, barely breathing now. “When my grandpa died, I had this same fear. I loved Grandpa so much. He was Mom’s dad, and he was my favorite person in the whole world. He lived up north, between Grayling and the Mackinaw Bridge. He had, like, twenty acres. He had horses and dirt bikes and all this awesome stuff. I’d go up there for weeks at a time during the summers, and he’d let me do whatever I wanted. We’d go hunting and fishing and four-wheeling, and I’d stay up till midnight every night. Then one day he died. All of a sudden, just gone. He had a heart attack and died, just like that. I cried for days. Dad kicked the shit out of me for crying, but I didn’t care. I loved Grandpa, and he was gone. Then, like a month after he’d died, I had this panic attack. I couldn’t remember what he looked like. I thought it meant I didn’t love him, or that I’d forgotten about him. It was the only time Dad was anything like helpful. He told me you have to forget what they look like. Otherwise, you can’t learn to live without them. Forgetting is your brain’s way of telling you it’s time to try and move on. Not forget who they were, just…keep living. ”
Becca seemed to shrink even further. “Why did he lee-l-l-l-leave me? Why, Jason?”
How did you answer that? Telling her that I thought he’d taken the coward’s way out probably wasn’t a good idea. His suicide was confusing and tragic, and it had f**ked up so much for so many people. Like both Becca and Kate, I was angry at Ben. It felt wrong to feel that way, like I wasn’t being compassionate enough, but it was the raw truth of how I felt. Times like this, when Becca was falling apart, I hated Ben for killing himself.
“I don’t know, Beck. I wish I did. ”
She lapsed back into silence then, and eventually fell asleep in my arms. I laid her down on the bed and covered her with the blankets. She stayed asleep all that day. The next day was Monday, and when she showed no signs of stirring from bed by eight in the morning, I called the law office and told them she was sick and couldn’t come in. I think they understood what I meant when I said “sick,” because they didn’t argue or ask any questions.
I left her in bed to work out, hoping when I got back she’d be up and doing something, but she wasn’t. She was still in bed, but awake, staring at the ceiling. I stood in the doorway, watching her, unnoticed, for a long time. My heart was breaking for her, for us. She’d completely stopped living.
“I think you need to start seeing Dr. Malmstein again,” I said.
Becca glanced at me, furrowed her brow, and then shook her head dismissively.
“You made me go when Kyle died. Remember that? Do you remember what you said? Do you remember what Nell went through because she wouldn’t let anyone help her?”
“Leave me alone, Jason. ” She said it clearly, bitterness lending her fluency.
“No, Beck. I can’t do that. You know I can’t, and you know I won’t. ”
“Going to drag me in?” she asked.
“If I have to. ” I sat on the bed in front of her, and let her roll away from me. “I love you too much to let you do this, Rebecca. ”
She glared at me, then; she hated being called Rebecca. “Just s-s-stop. ”
“No. I’m sorry. ” I tossed the covers away from her, scooped her up in my arms, and carried her into the bathroom.
She didn’t fight as I set her on the toilet lid, but she watched me warily. I reached into the shower and turned it on, let the water run hot, and then adjusted it.
“W-w-w-what are you…” She trailed off as I closed the shower curtain and then shied away from me as I tugged up the T-shirt she’d slept in. “No! J-Jason, s-s-sss-stop!”
I lifted an eyebrow as she jerked away from me, crossing her arms over her chest. “Becca, either get in the shower, or we’re going to do this the hard way. ”
She lifted her chin and pressed her lips together. “Leave me alone. ”
I sighed. “I love you, Rebecca Noura de Rosa. I will not let you stop living. ”
She wavered then, her chin quivering, her eyes shimmering, but she tightened her arms over herself and shrank into the corner of the bathroom. I grabbed her by the hips and pulled her against me, wrapping my arm around her waist and pressing my lips to her cheek, whispering.
“Last chance, babe. You’re going in, like it or not. ”
She rested her forehead against me. “P-please, Jason. Just give me some time. ”