It started last week. An email from some card company. "Chris Maddera's birthday is just around the corner. Send him a card!" Let the haunting begin. I thought I'd just stay away from facebook today, but curiosity and boredom always kills the cat. "Send Chris an iTunes gift card today!" "Wish Chris a Happy Birthday!" Then there's the notes that others have left for him on his page. I see every one in my news feed, beautiful words expressing just how much he's missed. Amy losing her Charger yesterday just adds salt to the wound. It's not hard to envision a ghost world with Charger standing on Chris in some crazy way, Hooper lounging lazily at Chris's feet. Charger liked to stand on you. The higher up on your person the better. Though I'm pretty sure Hooper and Charger in the same room together would be a recipe for disaster. Dog fight. I remember Chris's last birthday. I wanted it to be special and awesome. I made everything jambalaya and the house was full. Traci and her Chris and Todd where there. Todd made beignets. Traci brought us our favorite vegan cupcakes from Green Goodies. Chris took center stage in the recliner we'd borrowed from mom, being Chris, making us laugh. All of us ignoring the cancer elephant in the room. The next day, I would go to work while Todd stayed with Chris. Sometime during the day Todd would call to say that Chris had thrown up and he needed to know where the cleaning supplies were. Todd said that Chris had told him not to tell me about him throwing up. Chris hadn't wanted to hurt my feelings. Four days later he'd leave us. This is the memory that came floating into my head while cleaning microscope objective lenses this morning. I thought "really? That's the one that pushed itself to the front". What about that time we had the Star Wars surprise birthday party for him at Stonewall's? Or what about that time I bought him an assortment of cupcakes and we had beer and cupcakes? He said that sounded like a TV show and that he'd be beer and I'd be cupcakes. No...it had to be that last birthday. That's the one that I have to remember first. That's the one that leads me down the rabbit hole of pictures looking for birthday's past, finding evidence of our stupid happy life together. And I suddenly become enraged at Chris, at cancer, at memories, at the internet, at everything. How dare there be dates that make me remember! I want to punch that stupid facebook profile picture of the squinty Fry! Why the fuck is that the last profile picture he chose to upload?!?! It all makes me so unbelievably angry.
But then I get a text from Michael. "Hey...are you OK today?" He knows that I may be struggling today even though we didn't really see each other this morning. He was still sleeping when I left for work. It's his text that pulls me back down to the present. This is what I have now. This is my life now. That was then. This is now. I won't send an iTunes gift card to Chris or even write a "Happy Birthday" on his facebook page. I won't get out the wiji board and attempt to communicate with the dead. Neither one of went in for that sort of hocus pocus, so why start now. Though I do hope, if Chris is somewhere out there, he's enjoying himself. Maybe eating cupcakes and drinking beer or watching Star Wars.