To the Love of my (Probably-Almost-Finished) Life
A short story born out of fact and fiction and generalized anxiety disorder.
I remember a night in January that was totally inconsequential and I remember telling myself to remember it for the exact reason that it was inconsequential. I think it was a Wednesday and it was cold but that winter hadn’t been very cold yet and we had been out looking at apartments. That night was the one in Bushwick — the two bedroom with the high ceilings off the Morgan stop — and we knew we didn’t want it but went to see it anyway because it looked so nice. And it was. I think the next night was when we found our place. This place.
We came home and watched the movie Arrival with Amy Adams and what’s the name of that actor. I remember I loved it and I don’t usually like alien movies. Remember how I told you when I was a kid I’d make my mom rent Mac and Me every time we went to Blockbuster and it scared the shit out of me but I did it anyway? It’s the same as that masochistic thing I do when I go to the back and look at the snakes whenever I’m in a pet store. I’ve tried to figure out why I do that. Trying to overcome the fear maybe? But anyway, we’d heated up all the leftovers in the fridge for dinner and I really liked the movie. And you stayed awake for almost all of it.
That night we went to bed around ten (one of our New Year’s resolutions) but we didn’t fall asleep til midnight (we weren’t good at resolutions). We were laying facing each other and my fingers were curled up and the tops were grazing the hair on your chest and your hand was gripping my elbow and you fell asleep like that. And I just remember thinking: “Try to remember this wonderfully normal night. In 40 years, you’ll remember all the Christmases and moving into new houses and kids’ birthdays and stuff but you’ll really wish you remembered a normal night.”
Honestly, I was right. Sometimes I really surprise my future self by looking out for me so well. I wish I’d issued that reminder more often because we had so many great, unremarkable nights. Just watching TV or getting a drink at the shitty place down the street or having Sam and Mia over for dinner. We did all those things a million times which makes them the least notable but maybe should-be-the most-notable parts of our lives. I remember them all collectively but I don’t remember as many individual moments so well.
Remember how we always said that the holiday market in Union Square always seemed like it had so much great stuff when you first walked through? But then when you really stopped and looked at the individual things, nothing really stood out as something you wanted to buy? Up close, the jewelry was cheaply made and it was just a bunch of old fashioned toys like wooden cars that our nephews wouldn’t play with. Anyway, that thing I just said about memories made me think of that thing about the market but I guess it’s not really exactly the same thing.
I know I was right to lock in that one night in January because for the last few days it’s been my favorite memory. Of course, it’s hard to say if one of our kids’ birthday parties wouldn’t have been my favorite one because we never got to do that. I thought we’d have a boy. Though we’d kind of picked out that girl name. Maybe it’s because I grew up with boys or because I
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knew how much you really wanted to teach a little boy how to play baseball. Want. You want to. Don’t use past tense. I know you probably still want to. I hear you in my head saying, “If we have a girl, I’m teaching her, too!” I know.
I really miss talking to you. You know how I used to keep a list of things I needed to tell you in my phone all day while we were at work so I wouldn’t forget one? Imagine me right now after this long. I’d have an epic list if my phone still had any battery. I’m imagining you saying these have been the most peaceful days of your life without me talking. Your favorite joke. And you’d think it would be kissing you or having sex with you or walking to the park with you or something important and poignant and romantic, but if I could choose one thing in the world to do with you right now it would be talking to you about what we need from the grocery store.
JEREMY RENNER. That’s his name.
It’s bizarrely serene down here. Except Patches is in here with me. Now you’re doubly glad you’re not here! My incessant talking and my nightmare demon cat. Doesn’t sound like peace and quiet, but I promise. After three days — has it been three days or four? Now I’m not sure — of just the two of us, he seems like the quietest little mouse on the planet. He’s being sweet and sticking very close, either because he’s scared or he can tell that I am. Say what you want about him, but he’s been a good companion. In the few years before I met you, he was all I had. Now he may be again.
Well that’s fucking depressing!
I would literally kill someone for a glass of wine. Literally, honestly, not figuratively. After I saw the news, I basically only had time to grab Patches and throw a few things in a bag. Lots of cat food, a few of those protein bars I got you for work, my phone, my coat, and my water bottle. Half full. Biggest regret of my life.
There was a bottle of whiskey sitting right there in the kitchen. Right there! I could have grabbed it. I think I had time to grab it. I think about that whiskey a lot. I retrace my steps and weigh the possibilities of whether or not I had time to pick up the bottle. Whether those extra few seconds would have been a death sentence. I finally came to the conclusion that I would have had time if I hadn’t gone back to turn the tv off. Because why the fuck does it matter if I turned the tv off? But you were in my head saying, “You always leave the tv on,” so I went back and turned it off and I don’t have booze and that’s your fault.
I was sitting here going through my hourly whiskey memory investigation when I got the hugest, most epic surprise. I reached into my coat and found my good lip stuff. The cherry stuff I’m addicted to. Because you got me twenty of them for Christmas and I have one in every coat and every bag and now I have one here. Which completely gets you off the hook for the whiskey thing. I was so happy that for a moment, I forgot that I’m sitting on the dirt floor in the basement of our apartment building running out of food and waiting to die.
That’s negative. I promise I’ve been being positive. I never read The Secret, but I’ve been trying to The Secret you into being here. I’ve been trying to visualize you walking from the Upper East Side, over the Williamsburg bridge, lifting up the pieces of rubble blocking the door, crawling down into this basement and grabbing me in your arms. You’re dusty and dirty and your shirt is ripped from trekking through the wasteland that now is New York. Neither of us can believe that we are seeing each other again. You kiss me hard and lay me down on the floor.
I’ve turned into a real post-apocalyptic Danielle Steel. Maybe this letter will be the first text that future humans discover about our old world. It will be scripture. On an old air conditioner box.
I have another fantasy: you walk from the Upper East Side, over the bridge, pick up the rubble, climb into the basement — all that’s the same. But here’s the twist: the burger place on Graham is still open. And you stopped there and brought me a cheeseburger and sweet potato fries with the good spicy aioli. So I eat that and then you lay me down on the basement floor and all that. I’m down to my last half of a protein bar. Can you tell?
Of course, I don’t even know if there still is an Upper East Side. Or a Williamsburg Bridge. Or you. I hope you made it into the basement at the hospital. Knowing you, you were up there helping people. Maybe you still are. I have been telling myself that as long as there are people that need help, you are going to be there trying to fix them.
But there’s another little voice inside me who knows you very well and also knows that in these three or four days, you would have made it to me any way you could have. If there’s no bridge left, you would swim. You would do anything to get to me. And you would have gotten here by now. But I’m trying to shut that voice up for being a fucking bummer and making me think my husband is dead.
I’m running out of room on the box, babe. If you do make it back here, I might already be gone. You and I both know Patches will eat me if I die. And if I die, and you are still alive, and you find this, you can re-marry anyone except Julie from the 3rd floor because she’s too pretty. Even if she’s the last woman on earth. It’s my dying wish and I don’t care if it eliminates any hope for the future of humanity.
I’m sorry. We don’t make those jokes. I miss you. I can still feel your hand on my elbow.