The Seven Stages of Sorrow

by Michael Frissore

I. Crash

When we got inside the teacup ride, Jay made it fly into the air like the Great Space Coaster.

“Check it out,” Jay said, positioning his arms as if to say Ta da.  “We’re flying, dude.”

“Holy crap!” Colleen, Jay’s girlfriend, said.  “What are you? A witch?”

“I don’t know,” Jay replied.

Colleen and I both stared at him.

“Oh, come on,” Jay said.  “Let’s not Snuffleupagus this.  You knew I had powers.  Remember that time I sent you to Rome instead of home?”

“No,” I said.

“Hey, you know what?” Colleen said.  “This is freaking me out.  I’m outta here.”  She then leaped out of the flying ride and to her death.

“Colleen!” Jay screamed.  “Dude,” he then said.  “I don’t have magic powers.”

“I didn’t think so,” I replied, right before we hit a mountain.

II. Grief

What had actually happened was that some bolts came loose from the car and threw us into the air.  We survived the crash and, unlike Colleen, lived to go into litigation with the town that ran the fair.  Colleen’s family won their case.  Jay and I each took a settlement.  The money from mine was enough that I could take a leave of absence from work to be on constant suicide watch over Jay.  The money could not replace Colleen.  He was despondent for weeks and would hardly talk to anyone.  He kept asking how and why we survived when Colleen didn’t.  I didn’t have any answers for him.  I told him it was just God’s way.  God needed a hot, twenty-year-old college student and for Jay to be miserable.

After a lot of pushing, Jay saw a doctor who put him on an anti-depressant.  Then I found him a support group for people with anxiety and depression.  It took me days to convince him to go to the group and he finally agreed, but only if I went with him.  So there we were in this horrible little room in a building next to a church that they used for support group meetings and intramural volleyball.  The room was full of sad sacks, all old enough to be our parents.  They were hypochondriacs, all worried about colliding with a busload of kindergarteners on the way to work or that the mole on their back might be cancerous.

We sat there listening to a tape of some woman who had the magical cure for anxiety.  She gave us this brilliant piece of advice: “The secret is in the ability to wipe from your mind anything you don’t want there.”

There.  Got it?  You’re cured.  Where’s my money?  I would have been more optimistic if she had said, “The secret is bacon.  Eat lots and lots of bacon, scrambled eggs and Minute Maid orange juice.  Not Tropicana, Minute Maid.”

“Hey,” I whispered to Jay.  “Can I just pay a homeless guy a dollar to squeegee my mind?  What if I wipe too hard and lose the ability to walk, drive, or play checkers?”

Jay began weeping.  Or maybe he was laughing.  I couldn’t tell.

“What’s wrong, Horatio?” the group leader, Nina, asked Jay.  Other than a brief “I see we have some new faces,” in the beginning of the meeting, this was the first time Jay and I were acknowledged.  Jay told Nina and the group that his name was Horatio.

“I don’t have the equipment to wipe my mind of negative thoughts,” Jay said.

“Equipment?” Bob with OCD said.  “You don’t physically wipe your mind, you jackass.”

“Oh, it’s go time,” Jay said as he lunged at Bob and pounded him with his fists, all the while telling him that if he doesn’t touch every street sign on the way home tonight, he’s going to die.  I tried to pull Jay off of him, but I instantly hated Bob when we walked in.

“Stop, Fellatio!” I shouted. “Stop!”

Ulee, the sexy, forty-something European woman, who obviously had been taking a kickboxing class, pulled me off of Jay, and then Jay off of Bob and began slapping Jay’s face with her feet.

“Sorry,” she said to a fallen Jay.  “My doctor just upped my prescription.”

“How about increased?” I said.  “He increased your prescription.”

Upped is a word,” Bob said.

“So is increased,” I replied.  “And it’s a better one, you freak.”

This started another battle resulting in Bob and I rolling around the entire building in a big puff of smoke like Popeye and Bluto.  I finally broke free and Jay and I ran to my car and got the hell out of there.

III. Fight

So the group didn’t work, and, despite the medication, Jay’s depression was getting worse.  He sat home all day for weeks watching television.  Periodically, the old Jay would show up, but most of the time I would come home to a Gloomy Gus.  I knew I had to bring him out of this funk he was in.  I mean, life goes on, right?  Seize the day?  Look before you leap?  Whatever other clichés may or may not sum up Jay’s situation?  So when I came home one day to Jay sitting directly in front of the television, I knew I had to kick it up a notch.

“Jay, sweetie,” I said.  “Don’t sit so close to the television.  You’ll go blind.”

“No, that’s masturbation, dude,” he replied.  “Don’t masturbate so close to the television.  But I’ll tell you, man, soap operas rule.  I’m hooked on, like, five of them.”

“That’s fantastic,” I said.

“Dude, I’m trapped inside the tyranny of this cursed box.  Please help me.”

“What would you like me to do?” I said.

“This thing is powerfully evil,” he said.  “It’s like Stalin, this oppressive bastard.  It’s like Satan’s magic eye, pulling me in like frigging Poltergeist.”

“Hey, did you ever think that if Heather O’Rourke from the Poltergeist movies had lived, she would have posed for all those men’s magazines?  I’d bet she’d be really hot.”

With this I kicked the television screen in, smashing Jay’s fascist master.

“Dude,” Jay said.  “That’s so not what I meant.  What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Jay,” I said.  “I know you miss Colleen, but a wise man or two once said, ‘If you love something, set it free.  Yadda yadda yadda.’”

“How does that…” Jay started to say, but he stopped, came toward me and kicked me in the testicles.  A good shot too.  My vision blurred.

“Hey, man,” he continued, “when one of the chicks who sang ‘It’s Raining Men’ died, did I make fun of you?”

“Okay,” I said.  “A. Yes you did, B, I have no idea why.  It’s not like I was a fan or even knew the woman’s name.  And C, in no way am I making fun of you.  I’m just trying to help you.  Get out.  Join something, like a book club or a cult.”

“I always wanted to learn a martial art.”

“Wonderful.  That ruthless kick to my boys was a dandy start.”

“Do you know of any local cults?”

“I don’t know.  We’ll check the Yellow Pages.”


“Hey, Jay,” I said, and as he turned around I bashed him in the face with a frying pan a la Tom & Jerry.  That’ll teach him to kick me in the nuts.  He lunged at me and grabbed my neck, trying to choke me.  I broke free, grabbed his bottle of beer to drink and spit in his face like a Japanese pro wrestler.  However, this was definitely not beer.  I gagged and spat this garbage out everywhere.

“What the hell is this?” I demanded.

“That’s my tobacco spit,” he said.

I ran to the bathroom and threw up, realizing full well that I should have known not to drink from any open bottle in that place.  Jay’s cups, jugs and bottles of chewing tobacco spit were everywhere.

IV. Party

After vomiting, I stormed out.  For the next week we spoke very little to each other.  It was quite childish.  Jay even put Scotch tape in the middle of the apartment to separate us like on some silly sitcom.

One day I came home, chloroformed Jay and took him to our friend Tom’s place for a party.  I didn’t even let him put on cologne.  Screw that, I said.

We showed up three hours early for Tom’s party.  Tom was our friend, sort of.  Neither of us was close with him.  I ran into him at an adult video store a couple of nights before and he invited us.  I had worked with him at Walgreen’s until he was fired for leaving a box cutter out and a four-year-old found it and cut his mother with it.  They were always left out, but nothing had ever happened until then.

At the party, Jay was determined not to have fun.  He sat quietly on the sofa, nursing a beer.  The drink was more a prop for him than anything else.  He was very worried about mixing alcohol with the Paxil he was on.  He sat staring at the television as Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” played on the stereo.  I was sitting in the bathtub, which was also acting as a makeshift cooler, watching him, and growing tired of his quietness.

“Hey, Mr. Happy,” I shouted.  “Slow down, you’re causing a scene.  I can’t take you anywhere.”

“Is that sarcasm?” he said as he came towards me.

“You always could detect that, couldn’t you?  Hey, you want another drink?”

“No,” he said.  “I think I want to go home.”

“Why, man?  Aren’t you having fun?”

“Yeah, I guess, but…”

“Tom’s gonna put in a Dokken CD next.”

“Tom’s upstairs throwing furniture out the window.  And it’s nine o’clock and you’re already in the bathtub.”

“I need my rubber ducky, dude.”

“Yes, well, about my leaving?”

“So go home.  What do you want, a permission slip?”

“Well, no.”

“Dear Mrs. Teacher Person,” I said, mime writing, “Jay has my permission to go on a magical mystery field trip home.  Please whack him with a ping-pong paddle exactly one hundred times, dip him in hot mustard, and toss him in the garbage.  Hugs and kisses, His Daddy.”

“Well, thank you,” Jay said.  “But you know I need your assistance to get home.”

“Oh, right.  Sorry, dude.  Where’s my wand?” I said, searching through the ice in the tub.  “Okay, here we go.  Alakazam!”

Jay then became a giant squid.  Or maybe he didn’t.  I sort of passed out around here.  I woke up still in the tub and freezing the next morning to find out someone had taken Jay home at around eleven.

V. Desert Caravan

Jay was a little upset with me for not “being there” for him.  His depression was still getting worse.  Not only was the Paxil not working, it had made him so tired that he kept falling asleep while driving.  The state took his driver’s license away and declared him a bigger hazard behind the wheel than Mr. Magoo.  Plus, the sexual dysfunction, a possible side effect he initially laughed at, was now making him completely crazy.  Jay’s doctor recommended a long vacation.  I suggested Vegas, but Jay wanted to go to Europe.  I then suggested Amsterdam, but Jay said he wanted to caravan through the desert.

“Which desert?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “The Gobi?”

“The Gobi Desert isn’t in Europe,” I said.  “It’s in Mongolia.”

“Then Mongolia it is.”

Holy shit.  I told Jay that being a mongoloid doesn’t mean he has any kind of ties to Mongolia, and that we have decent deserts in America, but his mind was made up.  Four weeks later we were caravanning through the Gobi Desert.  I don’t know where he got the camels, but they were freaking me out.  Between the heat and the movement of the creature underneath me, I grew sick of it fast, but at least Jay seemed to be in a good mood.

“Jay,” I said.  “Why are we in a desert in Mongolia?”

“It’s nice.  Don’t you think?”


“Well, it’s just that life is fragile, you know?  People come, and then they go.”

“You’re young.  You can’t let Colleen’s death ruin your life.”

“It’s not just her,” he said.  “I think of all the people who’ve died.  Rock stars, professional wrestlers.  I wanted to be a rock star or wrestler when I was a kid.  I’d probably be dead myself if my dreams had come true.”


“Hey, we should go to India, or something.  How far is that?”

“India?” I said.  “Well, I hear the dollar to rupee rate is quite good.”

“The currency in India is the date rape drug?”

“Not roofie.  Rupee,” I said.  “But, I don’t understand, as I was saying, why, of all things, we’re caravanning through a God-forsaken desert like Hope and frigging Crosby.”

“I’m dying.”


“I found out a few weeks ago that I have AIDS and I’m dying.”

“AIDS?” I said.  “How?”

“My dentist has a thing for prostitutes and heroin.”

“Wow.  Why didn’t you tell me this before?  I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” he said.  “Now I have to stop taking the Paxil because of the AZT.  I’m gonna lose so much weight.  You should get AIDS, dude.”

“You think I’m fat?”

“I’m just goofing around.  I’m not dying.”

“You are such a jackass.”

“Well,” he said.  “You know what, man.  I think I’ll be all right.  I mean, it took a while, but I think this helped.  And, you know, you’ve been…”

“Hey, Jay?”


“What the hell is that?”

Coming right towards us was an unruly gang of Mongolian ninjas.  We hopped off our camels and grabbed our swords, which were Jay’s idea to bring.  There were seven of them and only two of us, but we handled ourselves beautifully.  It was a clean sweep.  We killed every one of them, and fell, exhausted, into each other’s arms.

“Oh, Jay,” I said.  “Let’s never argue again.”

“No, let’s not.”

“Jay, darling, will you marry me?”

“Oh, yes.  Yes, my sweet, yes.”

“What?” the camels seemed to say to each other, as romantic music and rose pedals filled the wonderful Gobi Desert.  We were married two weeks later in Japan by Akira, the Samurai Justice of the Peace.

VI. New Love

Our families were shocked when we announced that we were married.  They had no idea we were gay, and neither did we, really.  We honeymooned in Provincetown, where we walked along the beach and took in a drag queen production of The Golden Girls. It was the most beautiful week of our lives.  Jay and I bought a little place in the Berkshires and lived happily with our dog.  Jay seemed to be much happier.  All of the moping he was doing about Colleen gave way to his fighting for gay rights.  It was an amazing transformation.

One autumn day Jay was outside doing yard work as I went about the kitchen, preparing lunch and making cocoa.  Jay walked into the house covered with leaves.  I freaked out and dragged him into the patio.

“Dude, what the hell?” he said.

“You’re covered in leaves,” I said.  “You don’t walk into the house like that.”

“I was just playing in the leaves with Dog.”

“What are you, seven?  Those leaves are disgusting.  I don’t even want Dog playing in them.  Now she’s got to be washed and the kitchen has to be mopped.”

“Sorry, man.”

He left as I started cleaning the kitchen.  When he returned, he was carrying a giant sack over his shoulder like Santa Claus.  He opened the sack and began taking wet leaves out and throwing them at me.

“What is wrong with you?  Stop it,” I said.  “Pick up these leaves and go back outside.”

Jay began picking the leaves up off the floor and putting them back into the bag.  I went to get the mop out of the closet.  I moved some things around and there hung one of Colleen’s old jackets.  Why did he still have this?  I thought we had given all of her things away.

“Jay,” I said.  “Do you think we were meant for each other?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean we haven’t even had sex.  Are we really gay?”

“Hmm,” Jay said.

“Because I’m not sure I’m gay.”

“Hey, man.  Don’t ruin what we have.”

“What do we have exactly?”

“We have Dog and each other,” Jay said.  “And, by the way, Holly Golightly, why don’t you name this poor dog?  You’ve had him for almost a year.”

Her.  We’ve had her for almost a year.  But I’m the one who paid for her.  I’ll call her what I want to.  Now, go away.”

Jay and Dog went back outside as I continued with lunch and the cocoa.  I thought more about our situation: the wedding, the honeymoon, the house.  Why did we rush through it so fast?  Was I just playing a role?  Why was I suddenly questioning it all?  Weren’t we both happy again?

I looked out the window and saw a giant wind blowing and leaves scattering through the air.  Then I saw Jay and Dog floating among the leaves.  They were going higher and higher.  I went to the porch to take a look, but they weren’t outside.  When the wind stopped, I went out to look for them.  They were gone, nowhere to be found.  My last words to Jay were, “Now, go away.”

VII. Floating Away

Bob Dylan said the answer is blowing in the wind.  My two best friends were blowing in the wind and never came back.  I never saw Jay or Dog again.  It was as if God plucked them right from me.  So, if you’re out in the park or a supermarket parking lot, and you look up to see a big, dumb, football-player-looking guy and a golden retriever flying above you, tell them to come home.  The cocoa is ready.

MICHAEL FRISSORE is the author of a poetry chapbook called Poetry is Dead. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Gold Dust’s Solid Gold Anthology, Fast Forward Volume 3, The Houston Literary Review, and elsewhere. He writes for and blogs at

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