Memoir by Marianne McGowan from our virtual circles

In the Night

Anna tells me over and over again how exhausted she is. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was tossing and turning until four in the morning. I think it was after four when I finally fell asleep.” She tells me how she has taken Xanax for years, tried weaning herself off the medication, but simply cannot function without it.

Anna tells me how she thinks of her son all night long. She lies in bed awake, wondering how he died. Nate was only thirty-one.

“He had so much to live for,” she repeats over and over again. “He had so much to live for. He was so smart, such a good writer, such a good cook, such a good and avid gardener, so much to live for.”

What really sticks in my memory from our conversations is the pain Anna lived for years because Nate was always so lonely. “Oh, so lonesome,” she would say. “And he never really had friends, always a loner.”

She talked about all the times she drove him to the methadone clinic; all the times she visited him in jail; all the times she drove him to a court appearance; all the times he was pulled over for driving under the influence; all the times he lost his job. Calls would come on her cell phone two or three times a day. Lots of times nothing was wrong, but he just needed someone to talk to. She was his go to person.

That week in late October, when no calls came for two days in a row, she knew something was wrong. She was positive something was wrong. The drive to Nate’s apartment was agonizing.

The super had to open the door. His body was on the floor in the bathroom, naked. She knew he was dead the minute she looked at him.

Sobbing, Anna told me how she cradled his head in her arms; how she kept telling him how much he was loved; how everything would be alright.

Nathaniel was cremated.

Anna confessed that she would never know if her son’s death was an accident or a suicide.

All this happened ten months ago. She still takes Xanax. She still tosses and turns and wonders. Just this summer she planted tomatoes in honor of her son, the avid gardener. She cried, telling me how the tomato plants were torn from the ground by last week’s wind and rain storm.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” she said, again.

I simply listen.