A letter I don’t know where to send

christophe by the cherry trees

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-Barr√©. 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.

5 Thoughts on “A letter I don’t know where to send

  1. Wish I had something to say that could make you feel better. But my mom used to say it’s enough to try. So here I go…

    Christophe’s story will live on. It will live on through your story telling and through your photography. Even the photography that does not feature Christophe: Your self portraiture tells a story as well. It’s a story of someone who cared about him deeply and with great meaning. There is love there, and it’s all clear enough for all of us to see it. And even that tells his story; because where there is true love, there are two great and caring people. And it would be worthwhile to meet and know either of them. I’m sorry to have never had his acquaintance. Because based on my image of what he was like, based on what I have learned through you, I bet he’d be a pretty great person to know.

    Keep telling his story, no matter how painful. It will eventually get easier to tell. But in doing so, you are keeping his spirit alive. And we are all better for it.

    Cheers,

    T

  2. In 2007, I lost my first wife to cancer. She was 37, and I started photographing almost every day… it was — and is — my therapy.

    To this day, I see a little bit of her in me. I see her in our daughter. And I see her in the way I deal with my new wife and two new children. With life.

    I was fortunate to have known her, and as painful as it was, it was a privilege to be with her in her final days.

    This letter that you “don’t know where to send”… it seems to have found its way to me.

    I’ve learned that it’s often better not to try to say too much, for often we fumble with our words.

    So, I’ll just say this: thank you for writing this letter.

    Peter.

  3. Micah McCoy on April 28, 2014 at 05:44 said:

    Crying here reading this. It’s so beautiful. And none of it is fair. Even now you are offering him something of yourself that is beautiful and rare. I think that means something.

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