I’d like for you to imagine the place where you live.
Imagine the personal articles you associated with your spouse.
Now imagine having to discard them. Your partner is dead.
That’s been life lately. One room at a time, slowly because there’s simply so much to consider (clothes, books, accessories, spices I’ll never use, etc.), so much to discard because Lisa will not be returning to claim them. In an angry separation, of course, such items could be used as weapons; in this instance, they almost become relics.
Take for example her perfume bottles in the bathroom. I’ve had to throw them away; to look at them was like having little knives in both eyes. Now there’s very little of Lisa in that room; there’s a great deal more, of course, but I’ve had to think of in terms of one room at a time, not doing more at any one stage than I can, and leaving that room bare enough I can begin to re-decorate, a little.
As I’ve said, it’s the little things that hit and hurt the hardest. So they need to be replaced, these reminders, by whatever the survivor thinks should go in those places instead. Lisa’s grandmother Ann had it right; after her husband’s death she moved things around, and created new rules—for example, smoking was now permitted anywhere in the house, because as it was her place now, the rules were hers to make. Still, most often I’d find her in her favorite living-room chair pulling gently on a menthol cigarette, listening to the sounds outside as the next train from the coal fields passed not five hundred feet away from her back door.
There were always those trains. Lisa loved them as a childhood memory; I thought for certain one would crash and we’d all be toast.
I cannot imagine Ann’s life now; she’s lost her husband, daughter, and grand-daughter all within the space of a couple of years. She stays home much of the time as well. She’s a lovely woman, no kidding, and she has all my respect.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s soon to be interred at a cemetery near that house she loved, within earshot of those trains; her grandfather’s crypt is in the same room. Under the circumstances, that’s the ideal. She always mentioned several possible wishes, but returned each time to this. Therefore, that’s it. Now, I won’t be going there; I’ll be seeing her in a much more vital way when it’s time. Still, simply fulfilling her choice will be a wonderful thing. Be thou sure.
A bottle of women’s vitamins. Skin-care products. Brochures for performances and festivals she never got to attend. Those are the little things. Sometimes it hurts to come across them. It seems that I don’t want to throw these things away, in a fit of magical thinking (if I keep the house the way it was when she left, maybe she’ll come back). We’re past the one-hundred day mark, and it’s far too late. We all know she won’t be coming back, no matter how much we all want her to walk in through the front door of our lives again. She was never into practical jokes anyway. It was never like her.
When I’ve finished this ghastly task, then I’ll know how empty this apartment truly is. I don’t look forward to it.