“Don’t worry- I’m going to die first…”
“Yes…if you died first, I just couldn’t go on…”
At least once daily I flash back. Parts of it are sharp, while others are blurred. I envision myself floating from room to room. But one thing I remember is people calling me…brave of them…most seemed to say the same thing: “I just had to hear your voice and tell you how sorry I am…” And my newly foreign voice would reply, “Thanks…thanks…I just don’t know how I’ll go on…I just don’t know how I’ll go on.”
And I didn’t. And I don’t.
And this refrain has been in my head again as of late.
I am literally stunned at how fresh the pain is. The time has taken me away from the painful struggle of thinking it’s not too late to change things- during that circle when it seemed a little bit of the present still overlapped what had just happened and we could make it different. During that circle, I could still see and imagine you doing things with us so your absence was acute. It’s not that your absence isn’t acute anymore- it’s just that now I can’t really envision you playing with Audrey anymore- because she is much older. She talks. She jumps, sings, and dances. She’s in school. One evening I try to imagine you coming in the door and how you would greet her, but instead I find my imagination inserts me literally introducing you to her- telling you, “This is Audrey…” and then going on to explain who she is now…this is the “healing” power of …time.
Last night I somehow wind up hacking into your ebay account. Something I’d been interested in was sold out and I found it on Ebay through a google search. I’m not familiar with Ebay- but you bought and sold a ton of stuff on there- so I would usually ask you to sell something for me or buy something I saw on the rare occasion. I decide since I have to figure out how to do this myself without your expert advice (you had some tactic you were very proud of with the timing where you were always the winning bidder), maybe I will still use your user name and account. In grieving it seems there is always some dusty corner full of tearful debris. In your Ebay account I go through the archive of all of the items you bought and sold along with the comments from the people you had transactions with. In it, I see a picture of our life together- I recognize the CD’s, DVD’s, soccer jerseys, and a few things I’d given you. But what I’m most struck by is how much everyone likes you…I’m not familiar with this so maybe people always complement their buyer/seller in their rating, but these seem super nice…”Really nice guy- great transaction.” “Really pleasant over email.” “Really quick, professional, and honest.” “Super nice guy and one of the best people I’ve dealt with.” Things like that. I am amazed how even in these comments, I get a sense of your character. And I am very, very sad.
Today for some reason- I think because I am missing you…another crevice I haven’t checked in- I look for emails from you from your old yahoo account in my account. There are only a few before you switched to gmail. But there is one to this couple from Germany we met in Mexico on our honeymoon. We had stayed in touch and I think on your last European tour you were even trying to see them, but it didn’t work out. They also have one daughter now. When we met, we had both just been married. We were seated randomly at a big round table outside at our resort our first night there. It was a magical night…warm, tropical sweet-smelling air, and giant pelicans flying slowly overhead. You and I couldn’t get over them- we thought they looked so much like dinosaurs- prehistoric. We chatted with this couple and one other couple from the US…but we didn’t click with them as well. Then the next day, while I was laying in my bikini, you were on the defense as a man in sunglasses approached me smiling…neither of us had recognized him at first, but you soon calmed down when we realized it was the man from the German couple we’d met the night before. We chatted while in the pool and decided to have dinner at one of the outdoor restaurants that night together. It was breezy that night and we have a photo of the four of us sitting at the table as the sun set looking like…newlyweds. The couple commented that we didn’t seem like Americans, but different- and you took that as a complement. It was mostly you and the man doing the talking as she didn’t speak as much English and you were so good at making conversation with strangers whether it was about sports, beer, or cities in Germany. After we got back home to our new apartment in Brooklyn, we both exchanged a few emails of the photos we had and that was pretty much it.
I look through photos from that night and think about posting one here, but they’re all blurry as well. You had some cheap camera that had enough memory for about five photos and we took too many or something so they all turned out with horrible resolution. When we got back and realized that, I was so upset to not have a decent photo from my honeymoon. All are blurred and grainy like they’re from fifty years ago rather than eight. Appropriate now.
Today I decide I should write this man and tell him that you died. And I do- I tell the story very briefly- not even sure if he checks that email account from 2004 anymore. He writes back…they are both saddened about our “fate.” He has business in the US and maybe can make a stopover in NYC sometime to see us.
I don’t know why I do these things. Something in me needs to 1) tell the story, but also 2) lasso a rope to the places and people from my previous life just so that I know it was real and it happened, and simultaneously- revisit each portion of our life together in order to say a proper goodbye… The only other people now who remember my honeymoon…how I smiled at dinner and how you wrapped your arm around my waist on the darkening beach while they took our photo- is this couple I barely know living on another continent. But now they know – and now I know- that they are still there- still alive with their daughter- a picture of what we could have been…and I know, more importantly, that it all really happened- that you existed and we existed and it was wonderful- in another time and place.
Thinking of you…
Just to reaffirm that he existed….Yes.
I know that feeling so well.
He is, he was, we are, we were….. even that torn-ness of using the language to describe him in a present then in a past….Its jarring.
It happened. We happened.