I woke up one morning and the world had changed. It had become stagnant and gray. An empty bed. A vacant home. An absence of warmth. It had all left with him. I remember not wanting to move, but forcing myself to anyway. Needed to shower. Be presentable. Be strong. As the water ran down my body I realized I couldn't feel it. The numbness that had entered my chest two days before had now ecompassed my body. My everything. I collapsed to my knees when I realized I was crying without tears. All my eyes did was burn. My face locked into a contorted scream with no sound. No air. I had nothing left to provide the release I needed.
It took an hour to compose myself enough to get out and dressed. It was when I was about to exit my bedroom that I looked down at my hand. At the ring on my finger. It burned my flesh. Seared my mind with memories of the life I had just a few days previous. I couldn't get it off my hand fast enough. What does that say about me? A symbolic reminder of his love brought me physical pain. I placed it in the nightstand drawer. I put long gloves on to match my black dress. Not for fashion. To keep everyone from seeing I could no longer wear his ring. I don't know what happened after that. Things during that period blended together. Pieces disappeared as I went through the motions. The next thing I remember is standing over his grave.
Unable to move. I just stood there. A headstone bearing Nathan's name...and a pile of packed dirt covering his coffin. Family, friends, co-workers...they all came up. They would start talking. I would hear, "If you need anyth.." or "I'm so sor.." and then their voices would fade away. Nothing registered. I was barely aware as more and more of them disappeared. As the daylight progressed towards darkness. Eventually it was just me. I'd stood motionless the entire day. Transfixed by my world buried in a box in front of me. Our love. Our life. The laughter and tears. The little things. Gone. Just gone.
I don't know how long I was there. How I got home. I didn't attend the wake. I didn't feel like drinking with two Irish families. I wanted to drink alone. So that's what I did. For five days. I drank, I cried without tears, I screamed, and I broke things. Each day I'd wake up huddled in the corner of a room and do it again. On the sixth day I was out of whiskey. It was time to sober up and try to live. When my head cleared I found nothing waiting for me. Same empty house. Same stagnant world. I felt like I was losing it. I didn't just lose him. I lost myself as well. I hated the emptiness. The numbness. I needed to get out of my own head. So, I tried to go back to work.
It took some convincing of my boss, Paul, to allow me back. Nate and I had both worked for him. He wasn't just the stunt coordinator, but also the owner of the company. I'd worked for him for the last four years as a stunt perfomrer. Had done several movies. Typically I did fighting scenes and anything involving heights. Nate mostly did driving scenes and anything involving weapons or fire. He'd been with the company a few years longer than me, but he and Paul went back further than that. Eventually, I was allowed to go back to work even though he felt it was too early. I needed it. The movie we were working on had a scene involving a fall from multiple stories up into a pool below. He wanted me to start with something smaller, but I managed to convince him I was ready. I was too ready.
I didn't listen during the safety meeting for the stunt. I was surprised I couldn't focus on the details. I thought I would be able to wrap myself up in them to distract my brain. I was wrong. I couldn't be bothered with a word of it. Just like at the funeral, mouths moved without sound. I just nodded when looked at. Agreed to things I couldn't hear with a distant "yes" or "right". An hour later I was standing multiple floors up. Staring at a pool that looked many times smaller than it had on the ground. I climbed up onto the railing and turned to face the room connected to it. I heard "action". I didn't look back. Honestly, I didn't look at anything specifically. I just jumped. Felt my insides shift from the descent. For a moment, it was like I was stuck in time during freefall. My numbness began to evaporate. I almost felt alive. Almost. The moment I was near that feeling, I crashed against the water. Hard. The wind was knocked out of me. There was no time to gasp for the air I no longer had. I crashed to the bottom and slammed into the tile. The pain was intense. My spine vibrated. Divers had to jump in and pull me out. I couldn't surface on my own. Once out of the pool, they held me up while I coughed up water. Medical rushed over to check me. Paul came over screaming. Fear and anger mixed together in his features. I could see his concern for my safety. His frustration with my not using any of the safety precautions I didn't hear. I could see it all. I just couldn't seem to care.
I was sent home. Told to wait to return to work till I was truly ready. It was hell. Nothing brought me joy. Everything reminded me of the pain I had no release for. Friends and family called. I let it all go to voicemail. When they dropped by I either didn't answer, or I ran them off. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to hear how people understood what I was going through. How they missed him. How I needed to take care of myself. None of it. They could all go fuck themselves. They were remnants of a life that didn't exist anymore. Sent to bring me pain and sadness. Unable to cope, I shut them out. Isolated myself completely. After a few weeks, parts of who I had been returned. Not all though. Some of my previous identity would not be returning.
Enough had come back for Paul to feel I was ready to work. A few more stunts. More of the same results as before. He scheduled a meeting with me. Wanted to talk to me in his office. I, of course, showed. I needed to work. Alright, honestly, I needed the danger. The adrenaline. The thrill brought me closer to feeling alive again. If it took having a meeting to keep doing it, then I was willing to subject myself to a conversation I didn't want to have. Sitting across from him, I could see his discomfort. Which gave me my own.
Paul: Cassidy, you've been with us for awhile. You're practically family. Just like Nate was.
I found my insides bristled at the mention of my late husband. I didn't let it show. At least, I don't think I did. I just wanted him to get to the point. So, I just let him continue.
Paul: His acciden...his loss. It affected everyone.
Why wouldn't he just shut up about it? I wanted to grab his collar and twist it till he had no air to keep speaking about Nate. I found myself gripping my chair till my knuckles turned white.
Paul: You haven't been the same since.
Like I needed that pointed out to me. I was well aware of that. His stalling on getting to the point was more than I could take. Maybe I was short with him.
Cassidy: Just tell me what you brought me here to say.
My tone was sharper than I had wanted. It rattled him for a moment. His frustrated expression became grim.
Paul: Alright. I don't know how to tell you this, but...I can't have you doing stunts anymore.
His words dropped my stomach worse than any fall. My shock was uncontainable.
Cassidy: You're firing me?
Paul: I'm sorry.
The shock twisted into a fiery anger I could barely control. I stood up and pounded my hand on his desk.
Cassidy: You're fucking firing me?!
His grim expression didn't change. He sighed. There was a hint of sadness to his words that my mind ignored.
Paul: I don't have a choice. Your disregard for safety has made you uninsurable. If I keep you, I'm out of business. I'm sorry.
He was sorry? Well that just made it all better.
Cassidy: Fuck sorry Paul! This is bullshit.
The hurt on his face did nothing to soothe me. He didn't want to have to do this. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to feel empathy for his side of things. He tossed some paperwork in front of me. He kept talking as I read it, but I didn't hear much of what he said other than another "sorry" and something about working in the office. Like I was going to sit at a desk or get him his fucking coffee. The paperwork was worse than I thought. Not only could I not work for him, but no one else would hire me either. People were making sure I was blacklisted completely in Hollywood. No one was going to work with me. I crumpled up the paper hastily and tossed it aside. I found myself talking almost under my breath rather than to him.
Cassidy: This is completely insane. My career is over because of a few safety issues?
His movement towards me interrupted my external reflection. His hand on my shoulder gripped my attention. His words caused me to look up at him.
Paul: You need help Cassidy. Have you thought about talking to someone?
By "someone" he meant a shrink. The insinuation pissed me off. The part of me that was holding everything together disintegrated at the thought of talking to anyone about the death of my husband. I lost it. My words were practically a growl. Like I wanted my voice to shred his skin.
Cassidy: Get your fuckin' hand off me.
I shoved him away hard. He stumbled backwards. Apparently he didn't expect my reaction.
Paul: What is wrong with you? I'm trying to help you.
Cassidy: I feel really god damn helped. Thanks a bunch Paul..
I had so much negative energy pent up in my body that I had to do something to release it. I turned and ran my arm hard across his desk. Knocked everything off of it. The photo with the three of us flew off. The frame smashed against the wall. It fell to the floor in pieces. Just like my life. Like the friendship I was destroying.
Paul: Go home Cassidy. Get help.
His stern words weren't what was driving me off. It was my rage at the loss of everything I had. I started towards the door, but turned back.
Cassidy: By the way, you know how you're always worried that your wife might be cheating on you? She is.
Was she? I don't know. I just wanted to hit him in the insecurity. My life was ruined. Why should his continue to be happy? Was it fair? No. Was it cruel? Of course it was. Life is neither fair, nor pleasant. Neither was the scrunched up, red mess that his face became after hearing my words.
Paul: Get out!
Yeah, so that bridge was burned. Alot of bridges were burned. I couldn't work. I couldn't stand being in the home that reminded me of Nate. The life insurance payout was a bitter reminder as well. I sold our home in LA and moved back to Portland, Oregon. Bought a comfortable house. The stuff of my husband's that I took with me was put in a box and buried in my yard. Our rings...I tossed them in the nightstand. Why? I don't know. I couldn't bring myself to bury them. I wanted to. I really did. I was able to put all of his pictures in the ground, but not the rings. I didn't want the reminder around, but it is what it is I guess. You can't bury everything...no matter how much you want to.
It's been six months since my husband died. Three since I moved. In my first month of living here, I tried to find ways to feel alive. It all led to scrapes, bruises, and police attention. Speeding tickets and a charge of criminal mischief. The latter from base jumping. Whether it was that, or jumping between cars in traffic, none of it was enough. I needed to find something else. Something more. Something consistent. Even with all the changes...I had to admit, my life was a wreck. I no longer recognized the woman I saw in the mirror. Not really. Some pieces were familiar, but the rest...it's not who I was. My loss of feeling. My inability to cry. I needed release. Eventually, I found someone who could possibly help, even if they didn't know what they were helping with. Chase Johnson. President of OWF. I met with him in Texas recently. A few days later my contract was finalized.
Not many jobs could fit my criteria of needs. I'm blacklisted from one of them. Wrestling will have to do. I can only hope it provides what I need to feel alive. To feel something beyond the hollow. I've lost everything. I can't say what I've been doing can exactly be called a life. I haven't really been living at all. I woke up one morning and realized I was dead.