Chapter 3: You say you understand, but you don't understand...

The services were approaching quickly, and I had spent the last few days locked up in my bedroom, crying. The phone was ringing off the hook with friends and relatives sending us their condolences. My emotions were too strong, and I couldn't handle the gut-wrenching feeling I got talking to my friends on the telephone about my brother... who... died two days prior. Needless to say Isaac and my parents took most of the calls - my nerves were too frayed. I only answered if I was specifically asked for, which oftentimes I wasn't. Nobody outside of our bubble really cared all that much. But... I guess that's how it always is. Every time the phone rang it was the same thing. Everyone looked at it for a moment, hesitated, and then my mother would pick it up. Hello? There's a silence... Then she wipes her eyes, and nods silently to the phone, and her voice cracks. Thank you for calling. She hangs up and sits down with her face in her hands. She was getting better - holding herself together for a little longer each time. My dad went to comfort her, and the whole room felt her tears shake them.

Our father told us to release something on, and to take Zac off the hotline (he couldn't bear to hear his voice any longer) - so we did. Ashley Greyson posted a small article for us, and we changed the hotline message ourselves.

"Alright Tay, we're gonna do this together." Ike said to me as we each held a telephone receiver in our hands. I dialed the numbers, and we (as always) had a copy of the dialogue at hand. Please record your outgoing message after you hear the tone...

"Hey, This is Taylor and Isaac and you've reached the Hanson Hotline." I said into the phone, clutching our newssheet desperately in my hand. There was a pause and I continued, "You all have probably heard the news. Zachary Walker Hanson has... passed." My voice was wavering. "Services..."

Isaac took over for me - "Services start this Friday..." I had started to cry, audibly into the phone before I hung up my line and covered my face, "...Open for fans Five through Eight O'clock PM Friday, and Nine AM through Four PM Saturday. The funeral is..." Isaac was staring at me and he began stuttering in his so far fluent speech, "is.. Monday... Closed to the public..." I stood up and started walking away, my cries beginning to get hard to contain, and I could see Isaac cracking through my blurry vision, he had tears streaming down his face, and his voice was thick with sorrow, "We will miss him more than anything..." And with that he hung up the phone.

I walked over to Isaac and we embraced each other tight. I was so weak with this tortuous pain, and I desperately needed his support. Tears were streaming down our faces. He was gone forever - and somehow - we were supposed to accept that.

"Why? Why us? Why him? How are we going to go on? What the hell are we going to... do?" I begged at my elder brother's feet. Isaac didn't respond. He was like that lately - quiet and unresponsive. He seemed so strong to me, then. Strong and silent, and without answers. Unsatisfied, unhappy, and helpless I asked my stoic brother one more question.

"How am I ever going to face a hundred... a million people... and speak?"

He looked at me, "Tay... come on. By Monday you'll have a beautiful speech written... You'll make it through, okay?"

I nodded... and I believed him.

I reached into my pocket, and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. The third pack in the past few days - I never smoked like this. I brought it shakily to my mouth and inhaled, thoroughly enjoying the taste of nicotine in my mouth. The pages were scattered all around me and I still couldn't write. Nothing fit. Nothing felt significant - and all of the memories were beginning to muddle into nothingness. Making this speech was going to be the hardest thing for me to do - projecting it was going to be worse. My throat was closed - I could hardly talk most of the time - how I was I going to speak about him publicly? How was I supposed to face cameras and people again when I could barely look at my own brother and his guitar?

I took another drag, shuffling through the papers, trying to sum up my most powerful words and try to throw them together, and nothing was working. The cigarette was burning, and my whole eulogy was in the trashcan. I leaned back and I could feel the cherry at my fingers, burning my flesh. It didn't hurt. I took one last drag of my cigarette before putting it out in the ashtray, and lighting up another one. I lay back on my bed in contemplation... trying to stir up some memories - but there was nothing coming. I glanced at the other side of the room toward his bed... and that was it - the flash I was looking for.

I sat up, with the sudden rush of memory. I held the cigarette in my lips as I wrote feverishly. Ashes fell onto the paper along with my tears - and everything was finally coming. A couple of hours passed, and I was curled up, sleeping with a wrinkled piece of paper in my hand. I had written it... I had edited it, and now I didn't think I could let go of it.

I awoke to the gentle knocking on my door. I grumbled and rolled over, "What?"

The door opened, and instead of my mother or Isaac - it was Alexis. In her arms she held a stack of magazines and newspapers, and she stood in my doorway staring solemnly.

"Hey Taylor..." She said, her voice soft.

"Hey... come in." I said, sitting up and trying to brush my hair into order with my fingers.

She carefully closed the door behind her as she walked over, and sat down delicately beside me. I stared down at the speech in my hands and put it aside, feeling embarrassed that she caught me clinging to a stupid piece of writing, like that - though I doubt she really noticed. She plopped the pile of newspapers, magazines, in between us on the bed.

"I went out today and I picked up some magazines and newspapers with articles about him. I thought maybe you'd like to go through them with me. Your Mom said you might like extra copies for yourself."


Alexis was Zac's girlfriend of three years. She lived in L.A. but was staying in a spare room with us during our Christmas break, which extended well into February. She was his soul mate... I knew it from the beginning. I could tell by the way he talked around her and how well they fit together. We all knew they were going to get married.

She was small - petite in every sense of the word - probably no taller than 5 feet. Her hair was waist length of bright red and her eyes were the truest green I had ever seen. It was almost surreal, how she looked. Like a painting.

I ripped the strings holding the pile of papers together and began to look through them, feeling the tears well up just looking at all the attention we were getting, and seeing those pictures of Zac. Three days ago it seemed so normal, now it was like my whole life had whole world.

I looked up at her and smiled, even though the tears were rolling down my cheeks. She wiped away some of her own and reached in her pocket.

"Taylor," She said popping open her prescription bottle. "Take them... The doctor gave them to you for a reason."

I dropped them on the nightstand beside my bed and shook my head. "I can't... I can't do it..." She didn't ask why - she knew why. "I can't break my promise."

She grabbed the pills and placed them in my palm. "For when you need it."

"It's supposed to hurt, Alexis." I reasoned, clutching the Valium in my hand - tight for a moment - and then I released my grip and tossed the pills into my mouth. I wanted to be numb again.

She pulled me into a hug and whispered, "I miss him so much." I could feel her tears landing on my shoulders. I cried hard and we held each other tight until the tears paused.

We spent the next few hours smoking cigarettes and reading the newspaper articles. She left without a trace some hours later after I had fallen asleep. When I awoke I felt lonely in my own company.

I wanted a cigarette desperately, and I noticed I only had one smoke left. I stuck it in my mouth and lit it up. I decided that I was going to have to get out and buy another pack. It would be my first time out of the house in two days. I didn't know if I was ready to see the sunshine yet - so I took Isaac and my Valium with me.

"Ike, wanna come with me to the convenient store? I'm gonna buy some cigarettes..."

He didn't really respond orally, but I knew he had meant to say "Okay," Because he had his coat and shoes on, and was ready to go by the time I reached the end of the staircase. He must have been longing to get out of this house, too, even if it was just for cigarettes.