On July 9th, 2013 the hole got bigger when my aunt decided that almost two decades without her only child was too much to bear. She jumped into that hole with both feet. Morphine and whisky, with the event marked clearly on her wall calendar.
Since my aunt's death, July 9th opens up its jaws and pulls me under for a while. I usually don't see it coming until about a day before. July 8th. Shit. I can feel my body slowly sinking, ever so heavy. The air becomes too thick to breathe, making me wheeze. And I often have dreams that mimic childhood memories of running through the forest, playing hide-and-seek among the fir trees, the smell of their sweet, pungent sap stuck to my fingers. I laugh as the branches catch my clothes. I hear the sound of Ricky's feet crunching the forest floor behind me as he follows in close pursuit. But unlike when we were children, in these haunting dreams I'm running alone in an empty forest. I think he follows but slowly understand that he is not there. The shadows become thicker, darker. I lose my way. It is the hole, opening up, filling its lungs with me. I am now the sap on its fingers.
I try to ignore hole, but it thrives on namelessness and it seems to have grown over the years. It has edges that I perch on, without knowing how I got there. Sometimes hole takes the shape of someone I've lost, or becomes the chattering voice of doubt at 3 a.m. Hole pretends to be someone I trust and takes me by the hand, leading me to nowhere.
But I've learned some things about hole over the years.
Hole doesn't like jumping out of a plane with me, or running through the woods. It doesn't like when I lay under the apple tree and listen to the birds while the clouds drift through the blue sky overhead. Dancing and laughter are talismans against hole. So are friends.
This year, hole was quiet and small. July 9th approached and I kept an eye on it. I spent that week by myself at home and didn't fall into hole, nor did I find myself at its edge. Rather, I played jazz while cooking in the kitchen, conversed with a crow in the backyard, and I read my book. I finally got in touch with a cherished artist friend from long ago. I bought a painting from her - an abstract of a sockeye salmon, splashing in the water, full of life and colour. I sat on the couch by myself for long stretches of time to see if hole would try to fill the space. It didn't.
Hole will always be there, like a blemish on my skin. Hole is sneaky and can change its voice and shape. Sometimes hole likes to make an appearance at other times of the year, and almost fools me into following. And sometimes I do. But hole is no longer stronger than me.