While Your Wife Is at a Memorial Service
She’ll be gone a good hour, perhaps two. You’re happy, of course, to watch the kids while she pays respects. Don’t think, obviously; nothing good can come of that. Try to make yourself useful instead. Maybe look for the long blue spatula, the one good for flipping hash browns for The Boy. It was a friend of hers, younger than you both. You’re getting to that age where such things shock but no longer surprise. Keeps them crispy to flip them all at once. The hash browns. Funny phrase “paying respects,” as if respect were a kind of currency, with death calling for an exchange. Also “paying attention,” though the expense of that seems to make more sense somehow. What language has us do. Speaking of which, the pencil sharpeners probably need emptying of their dust. And Q will always be up for a game of Crazy Eights or Go Fish, played, if she has her way, with the novelty deck from the Boot Hill gift shop, the one with the neat hole in the middle pretending to be from a bullet. She can beat you now without your help, and the game will provide a good fence against your thoughts. The spatula should be in the drawer by the stove, like always. She had two children, both boys, one very young, not yet able to remember. You won’t be able to decide at which age it’s better to begin not having a mother. You will be sore tomorrow from those push-ups. Now is not a time to make promises to yourself. Better to see if anyone needs a snack. The Boy — these days you can almost see his cells doubling themselves — will undoubtedly want something. Not you, though; you have to protect yourself from your body. Drink more coffee instead. Now they say that it’s good for the brain and the liver, that you can never have too much, and you can have too much of so many things. Don’t imagine her never coming home, the house full of her things suddenly become the only bits of her you’re allowed to hold. Don’t think about how you would tell the kids about her but, without her to help you remember, how you would come to doubt whether she actually liked the opera or balsamic vinaigrette. Did the babysitter melt the handle on a hot pan lip and throw it out? The shorthand you share, the rich narrative that collects your lives into a story, would soon require a translator, then likely lapse into an idiolect so unfamiliar that you would struggle to recognize it as a language at all. She’ll call soon, no doubt, and you can all meet her out to eat. Maybe a new place. You should pick where. Not so much the worry of having to carry on alone with the kids, of losing her help with the vast effort of life, whether short-sleeves or long or pancakes again for breakfast, all that oppressive banality of choice, though that’s worrisome, too. It’s your dependence upon the division of linguistic labor. She keeps much of the meaning in the house, helps keep the house meaningful. So many sentences would be left unfinished, their ends ragged. Thoughts with unfillable gaps, half yours but no one else’s.
That spatula was here and now it’s not. How can a thing just disappear?