I’m a record with a scratch across it and the needle is stuck on April 13th, 2014. The absence of Jason seems more acute now than it did months ago. I keep reliving the day before the race and the day of…as if the (almost) 6 years preceding the event never happened.
I replay how I was annoyed with him on Saturday night because the elevator in the hotel was broken and we kept having to take the stairs up and down, and he forgot the keys on our trip down to get gas in the car and energy drinks for the next morning. I waited downstairs while he ran back up 5 flights of stairs. Why the hell was I annoyed? I just had to stand there and wait on him.
I replay how we drove around Raleigh for 30 minutes on Sunday morning trying to find a place to park because we didn’t leave early enough to park in the deck, even though we pre-paid for parking the day before. I kept thinking that we should leave earlier but I didn’t want to say anything because I was trying to play it cool and not be a nag. And how I didn’t even really want to walk 13 miles that morning…and even made the comment in the truck that pancakes sounded better than sweating for the next 3 hours. Then I wonder if that feeling of dread was some sort of premonition that we should have ditched the race and gone for breakfast instead. Would he still be here? I got the same sick feeling every single time he hopped on a plane for a work trip so I wrote it off to being a neurotic worrier.
I think about how I got THE PHONE CALL right after mile marker 9…and how I didn’t answer the phone because it was a number I didn’t recognize, but there was some overwhelming feeling that I needed to listen to that voicemail. And I did. It turns out that he was already dead when that call came through. And I didn’t feel him leave. I was just walking a fucking race listening to 80’s music in complete oblivion while he was dying up ahead of me. And even when I was told there had been an accident I just kept telling myself that he sprained an ankle, or tripped and broke a wrist.
How in the hell was he 1 out of 250,000 runners who die of a cardiac event, and what are the odds that another man in his 30’s died that same day at that same race?
I remember walking into the room where Jason was and seeing tubes coming out of his mouth and a brace around his neck. I didn’t even notice the huge gash on his chin from when he fell and didn’t even put out his hands to catch himself. I wanted to crawl on top of him and just stay there forever, but even in that moment I recognized the inappropriateness of that gesture. And there was some horrible ridiculous chaplain who wouldn’t go away…so he kind of ruined our last moment together. And that also makes me angry because I was too polite to tell him to leave us alone. But I should have.
And then someone from the marathon group drove around downtown Raleigh so I could find Jason’s truck, and go back to the hotel without him. In my lap was a clear plastic bag with his phone, sunglasses, shoes and his wedding ring…oh, and the scratchy Project Linus blanket. And there were all the other runners celebrating and drinking that free beer that was promised at the finish line. I remember looking at them through the back window of the car and wondering how they could possibly be celebrating when Jason was dead. But that is probably exactly what we would have been doing had Jason crossed the finish line.
But he didn’t finish. He collapsed around mile 11 and checked out forever. And I went back home that day and picked up my dogs because they were all that was left of our family. And now even one of them is sitting on my dresser in a box next to Jason.
I’m making a shirt for New Year’s Eve. It’s going to be white with black iron-on letters and it will read: 2014 Can Suck It!
And that is really how I feel. I will wear it proudly while I drink inexpensive beer and wonder who I’m supposed to kiss at midnight.