All that was left was past. Yesterday. A week ago. There would be no seeing you later.
The morning after hearing the news, I felt like a cicada’s shed shell left clinging to the patinaed bark of a silver maple tree. One breath of wind, and it would cascade from its perch into the grass. Held too tightly between the fingers of an observer and it would be crushed into dust. I was hollow and lifeless, like my being had vacated my physical shell and left it settled within an abyss.
All that was left was past. Yesterday. A week ago. There would be no seeing you later. No replenishing the void of your absence with the thrill of having you walk through the front door because you were just gone for a little while. Gone was now permanent. I wished for time to freeze. The only hope I could cling to was in taking inventory of all that remained of your presence from just a day earlier, to feel, even if for a moment, that maybe you were still here.
There was the box of donuts you had brought over Sunday morning, when Saturday, after going to the farmer’s market I wanted to take you to get some, but the line was so long. You went back on your own before coming over that day, to surprise me. We shared them while having coffee, becoming more giggly than usual from the sugar high. There were four left. The box sat on the counter for at least three weeks before I could bear to throw it away.
There was your unmade side of the bed, that I swear the heat of your body lingered on for days to follow. I could still smell you on your pillowcase, and on my sweatshirt, that you had wrapped around me to keep me warm while we slept. Oh, how I craved to fall asleep in your arms in those days succeeding your passing. You never let me sleep, as I liked to think of it, without knowing where I was; either in your arms, holding my hand, or with my head on your chest. And any time I stirred, you’d wrap me up even tighter to keep me close. I still sleep on my side every night, even though I could very well sleep in the middle. But staying on my side and turning my back against your pillow turned horizontally plays to the illusion I’m still sleeping next to you.
There was the glass you had drank ice water out of left by the sink before you departed on your trip north. It still had the print of your lips around the rim. I planned on keeping it there, because I knew you would go straight for it when you came back, and we had a tendency of keeping with our designated cups that lingered around the kitchen. I washed my cup and put it in the cupboard. Now I use yours.
There was the bruise on the back of my calf that I got from being hit by the edge of the door on your SUV when I went to close it too quickly, because I was trying to chase after you when you were racing me to get to the overlook we were going to watch the sunset from on Friday night. That was the first time I saw belugas in the inlet. We named each one, and gave them personalities. I sat between your legs and you had your arms around my waist, and your chin on my shoulder. Most people would want to have bruises disappear quickly, and don’t want to remember the hurt that was associated with falling, or bumping in to something. I was rather dismayed to see it fade into nothingness.
There were the blueberries in the fridge you took me to go pick on the mountainsides of Arctic Valley that Saturday afternoon. I relished the opportunity to explore this new place with you, and hear of the other times you had been there before. You taught me the proper technique of collecting berries off the low bush. The fullness of your bag outdid mine, but you joked that you had picked more stems and leaves, and I was being more precise. The view from the peak we hiked to was breathtaking. I plan on printing the pictures I took that day, as to remember that last adventure we took together. When it came time to throw the blueberries away, they were exceedingly fermented.
There were the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made you, your absolute favorite, that I was going to surprise you with when you came back from camping. I had a dinner all planned, knowing you would be tired and hungry upon your return. The stories from your last outing had me so excited, I couldn’t wait to hear about this one and view the pictures you’d take. It was even more exciting, because before you left on Monday we talked about going on a similar trek and camping out. It would have been my first time camping in Alaska. I awaited your return and having that dinner together the way a child awaits Christmas morning.
But it would never be as I had expected, and maybe I still convince myself that your return is still imminent, a week from now, a year, a decade. It helps to dull the sting of missing you, no matter if it isn’t true, because when you left you said you were coming back. And all that remains is hoping one day you will.