The weather has finally caught up to my mood as it’s officially June Gloom here in what used to be sunny L.A., which means it’s also time to check in with myself.
Lar: Nu? Who are you, my grandfather? All of a sudden, you’re super Jew?
Me: Just thought I’d change things up. How the fuck are you, dude?
Lar: That’s better. I still wish I could answer that question without having to think about it too much. Even before Rob died, my usual answer was generally “Not terrible,” which for me was the highest level of good. Let’s go with that for now, but only in its most literal sense.
Me: Well, any way you slice it, that’s an improvement. I’ve noticed that you haven’t been crying as much.
Lar: That’s very observant of you. It’s not that I don’t miss him as much or love him as much or feel sad for me and him as much, it’s all just slightly less on the surface. His loss has burrowed deeper.
Me: Maybe that’s the beginning of healing.
Lar: As Winston Wolf so eloquently put it in Pulp Fiction, “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet.”
Me: Another Rob fave. Remember when we first watched it with him?
Lar: Caryn and Zach went to visit Jill and Butch in Florida for a long holiday weekend, and me and Rob stayed behind and watched a bunch of my favorite movies. We started with Pulp because I knew he’d like it the best.
Me: The first thing I always think about when it comes to that movie is…
Lar: …the wallet! Man, he loved that Bad Motherfucker wallet. It was his calling card. Every time he took it out, he felt like Samuel L. Jackson.
Me: I think he had three or four of them over the years. I remember he lost the wallet a few times and a few times he was robbed.
Lar: He was robbed. I like that. I’m going to start using his name as a verb now. You know what just hit me? Not only is it four months since he died, but it’s also exactly two years to the day that he came to live with us. It was the night of the Ryan Adams concert that we didn’t go to.
Me: A lot has happened in those two years—for Ryan and Rob.
Lar: You said it!
Me: Let’s get back to not crying as much. I can only recall two times when you cried this month. And they happened within a few days of each other.
Lar: The first time was when we were at the airport in Tampa saying goodbye to Caryn at the end of a fantastic Memorial Day weekend with Zach.
Me: That was so much fun! Like you said, it was the five best days since Rob died. What made you cry?
Lar: It was when Caryn said, “I love you guys!” When she said it, I immediately thought of Rob, I immediately thought that even though he’s no longer here, that he’ll always be a part of “you guys” and we’ll always love each other forever.
Me: Make it three times. You’re crying now.
Lar: This one doesn’t count. It’s a new month.
Me: Touché. I know the second time caught you by surprise.
Lar: It was the next day when I came home. That night in the grief group.
Me: It was only the second time you had been there.
Lar: I joined the group a few weeks ago after somebody had dropped out, so I’m now a member of the worst fuckin’ club on the planet—parents who have lost a child. As part of an exercise that night (and instead of doing what everyone was instructed to do), I asked if I could read something I had written about Rob. I chose the snarky obit, which I thought would be a shorthand way to introduce the group to Rob and also because I thought it was a little funny.
Me: There are not a lot of laughs in that group.
Lar: For good reason. Anyway, as soon as I started reading it aloud, I got all choked up. “Robbie Carlat, who could be a pain in the ass but was loved deeply by so many, died on Thursday morning in Long Beach, Calif. He was 28.” And there I was crying just like I did when I read his eulogy at the funeral. I barely made it to the last sentence.
Me: Why do you think it hit you so hard this time around?
Lar: I’m not really sure.
Me: Well, if I could hazard a guess, I’d say that we’re all so raw and vulnerable in that room. Our defenses are down and the other things we do to trick ourselves into not feeling the usual pain don’t work in there either. It’s the one and only place to share how we’re dealing with our loss where everybody knows exactly what you’re talking about.
Lar: That sounds about right. But I think it was also about hearing me say those terribly fucked-up words again. I haven’t had to say them that often in these past few weeks. They still leave such a bitter taste in my mouth.
Me: Would you like a mint?
Lar: You can be a real dick sometimes.
Me: Takes one to know one. So what else is going on?
Lar: You know the photo of Rob from the Esquire story that I occasionally talk to?
Me: I call it the Sand and the Water photo.
Lar: Me too. It had been sitting on a hutch that faces the dining room table where I camp out to work during the day, and I decided to take it upstairs and hang it on the wall in our bedroom next to the Menendez brothers photo.
Me: I noticed, but didn’t ask you why you moved it.
Lar: I don’t know, I just thought it was time. I can’t tell you how often I’d look at it during the day and talk to it, to Rob. It helped me stay connected to him and sometimes, especially in the beginning of his end, provided a strange sense of comfort.
Me: So now you just see him when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.
Lar: I guess I’m finally allowing myself some time away from him.
Me: Speaking of which, Maura just went to New York for an MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, and she’s going to be gone for the next two months.
Lar: I miss her soooo much and it’s only been about a week.
Lar: And I just realized something else. You know how we always end this monthly whatever the hell it is with a quote from The Year of Magical Thinking by my spirit guide, Joan Didion?
Me: Of course.
Lar: Well, here’s the quote: “A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.” When I chose it, I thought it was about Rob.
Me: But you thought wrong.
Lar: I thought wrong.