Since you left, the alarm clock on your side of the bed has stopped ticking. After years, we’ve run out of the pepper you put in the mill yourself, and the salt that we used is all gone. They have finished renovating Martin Luther King Square, and it is different, so different from how you’ve seen it last (over a year ago?). They have painted parking signs on our street and installed speed bumps right around the corner. But the cherry trees are blooming, as they do each year. And I wish I could take your photo amongst them, as I did each year.
It is hard to explain the quiet around our house. Our dog Louise, who is sleeping against my leg as I write this, has grown so much taller. I remember her standing up against the couch trying to lick you. It would take much less effort if she would try that now. She’s still her silly self but she has gotten calmer (she became a woman about a month ago). The couch is still long, long as you left it, but there’s no one lying on your side of it. I have a card standing on our dining table with your face on it, smiling back at me if I look in that direction.
I still have cereals for breakfast, but sometimes I drink coffee or even tea (I try not to finish yours but people who come over seem to prefer it over the one I bought). I haven’t been to the bakery, to them I am as gone as you are. I have been to Thailand with my sister and her friend. I know I would never have gone if things had gone differently. I sat on an elephant named Lucky. I put my hand in her mouth to feed her, washed her in the river while she rolled over and dove under the water with me on top of her. I missed you there but at the same time knew there would never have been a time where we would have been together in that moment, in that place.
I don’t know what to do with all your pictures. You have left your dreams and talent behind, with me. I don’t even know what to do with mine. It feels as if things should have happened to me, instead. You belong here. You had the ability to live in this world, to function properly. I don’t. I’m a stranger and I’m strange. I have no chance. But I try out of principle. Because I won’t give up. Because you never did. You were one hell of a man. You always kept going, through all the pain and the suffering, even when you were almost entirely paralysed. You have done more than I could have ever asked.
But I often wish we wouldn’t have had to go through all that. Me being afraid to kiss you, afraid to go near you when I had a sore throat (again). Afraid of giving you some kind of infection you wouldn’t be able to fight because the chemo killed your immune system. Unable to hold your hand because your hands hurt from the Guillain-Barré. Unable to feel your hug because you weren’t able to lift your arms. Not knowing what to do with my hands when you were dying.
I look for reasons to explain why this had to happen. But there is no explanation that can justify the pain you’ve had to go through. Yet strange things have been happening. Strange coincidences. People’s words stuck in my head, then nullified by other people. People who took me for a romantic because they saw me scribbling in a notebook while laying by a pool. I never would have used that word to describe myself but maybe I am. Maybe I am the biggest romantic I know. When I see two old people who love each other after all those years, I think it’s the rarest thing. But when I remember you and I, I think we could have made it.