Paradox and the Light

Tanya Taylor Rubinstein
5 min readDec 21, 2022


CN: Suicide

For Allison



I’m twenty-eight years old.

I’m back on the east coast from New Mexico, going through boxes of books in the attic of my mother’s Victorian home.

I come across a bound journal with a faded violet cloth cover.

It doesn’t take me long to realize that I’ve come across old writings of my mothers.

September 1963

Astonished, I realize that it’s from the year before I was born.

On the worn pages she expresses deep pain about her life. She hates her sister; she hates her mother.

She feels lost.

Suicide is mentioned more than once.

The week Kennedy is shot, she discovers that she is pregnant with me.

She is overjoyed.

Despite her waspy upper middle class parent’s misgivings and even though she is not married to my father, she wants me.

She writes:

“When I have this baby, I will finally have someone who will love me enough.”

She is twenty-three years old.



I’m fifty-eight years old.

A few weeks ago, home in Nashville, I wake up from a dream that isn’t a dream.

I am on an airline, an old Pan Am 747, the kind that my mother and I travel on from Dulles Airport summers when I am young.

We cross the Atlantic to visit my grandparents who are living in Lebanon, or to go shopping for my school clothes in London.

In the dream that isn’t a dream, I am crammed into the middle of a row in the middle back of the plane.

A blonde 1970’s flight attendant announces, “I need one person to sit up here with the crew.”

Without thinking my hand shoots up in the air.

“I will.”

I stand up and make my way to the front right of the plane and notice that only she is here.

There is no other crew.

The blonde is wearing a classic small blue hat and is sitting on a narrow jump seat.

I’m not sure where we are going — only that it is to someplace I’ve never been.

I start to sit down next to her when all at once, the two of us are off the plane running through a corridor of some kind in pitch blackness.

I hear her high heels hitting the pavement and nothing else.

I am aware of three things: one, that she is holding my hand, two, that we are running very fast, and three, that I have no fear.

We come into the light on the other side of this corridor, and she is gone.

I find myself in a modest hotel room on the second floor, looking down at a courtyard.

This place is what I imagine a small town in the former Soviet Union to look and feel like.

There is a tree, about the size of the elm tree that I used to climb to string with Christmas lights, in my grandparent’s front yard in Maryland.

There is also a small pool of water that seems like a hot spring in the middle of the courtyard.

I see my former husband, my daughter’s father, Steven, up in the tree.

We lost him to suicide the summer of 2020 in late August.

In all honesty, we lost him to mental illness almost twenty years before.

In the dream that isn’t a dream, Steven and I sit in the water together.

He is quiet and solemn, his sad blue eyes peering at me.

It has been more than two decades since we hung out like this, just the two of us.

“Are we still married?” I ask him.

“No.” he replies.

I mention that I am surprised that the water we are sitting in is not hot-it is only lukewarm.

He explains to me that after so many years of living out of his mind and on the streets, lukewarm was all he could take.

He’s recovering in this place.

Before I leave, he lets me know that he thinks I am doing a good job of parenting our daughter.

He is helping us as much as he can from where he is.

He wanted me to come here so he could tell me that.

When I wake up after the dream that isn’t a dream, I remember a scene from the film “What Dreams May Come.”

In it, Robin William’s character descends into hell where souls who have committed suicide live and rescues his wife.

Steven and I saw that movie at the mall in Santa Fe, shortly after our daughter was born, when I was filled with hope for our happiness.

For us, there is no rescue mission.

But I find myself able to breathe a little bit deeper after the dream that isn’t a dream.


December 2022

On Wednesday morning, I read that Stephen “tWitch” Boss has taken his life.

His beautiful life.

His beautiful light.

I am dialing the phone.

I am taking long gulps of air between my sobs.

I am back in the living room pounding the walls with my sandal.


I am not crying for him or his pain, whatever it was that came to haunt him.

The entire world has already memorialized him, and he will not be forgotten, and that is right.

My tears are for those whose lives have been hijacked forever by this story- a mother, a wife, three children, friends who will carry what he could not.

(I cry for my daughter.)

(I cry for my former brother-in-law.)

(I cry for myself.)

All that Stephen was unable to digest

Has not left with him.

It has already been transferred into the bodies and souls of those he loved the most-

They will live with the shattering of all that went unprocessed and unspoken.

It becomes their burden now.

I’m not surprised to read that his wife says it’s like living in a nightmare.


This is how love works.

We cannot escape our binds to each other-

The lie that we can is where the violence begins, but doesn’t end.