The places he lived in me were vacant. He had checked out.
I laid new sheets. I cleaned the dirt from the windows, I cleaned it from the mirror. I soaped my hands. I scrubbed them until they were raw. Pink and soft. And raw. I dried them. I washed the towel that had soaked up every last drop of water that purified me of him.
Because he’s gone, I clean up after him.
In some ways, it’s like he was never here. In other ways, it’s as if he always will be. Without him, I don’t know that I would have neatened up like this. If I would have ever made myself presentable. Tidied up, you know? Straightened up. I meticulously scraped every last bit of him off my floor. Swept him up and left him outside.
It isn’t that he is no longer in my life, it is that he is no longer. He has ceased.
He is too far gone. He doesn’t occupy my lifetime. His body is rotting and it’s in the ground and his soul is somewhere else. Maybe at peace, maybe in pieces.
I’ll never touch him again.
I’ll never feel his hand on my side, in my hair, I’ll never feel his heart beating against my cheek, on my fingertips. I won’t breathe the same air as him. Or sleep in his bed. Or see him through these eyes. I won’t read in bed as he sleeps, he won’t play me a song. He won’t watch me cry or roll my eyes or lose my mind. I’ve stopped imagining I’ll run into him.
Gone, gone, gone. He’s nothing more than dust of the earth, and this is what eternity feels like.
People ask why I understand dying and this is why.
Is losing someone. This is, forever.
When he died, this space in me that was full of him lived on more than his memories. Was fed by thoughts that he would be back. It was kept alive by the f*cking mess he made, that I wouldn’t clean, because I couldn’t imagine that I would ever provide him with this space, and he would not only leave it, but leave it in the way he did.
He can see now how the wreck he left has caused an even bigger wreck. The pristine room. It is too clean, too perfect. Sterile, uncomfortable, suffocating. It isn’t alive. Void of any sign that something occupies it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that in leaving my world, he promised eternity. Something I had silently requested, but not in this way. I had begged the universe for him forever and the universe delivered. He is forever and he is forever gone. Eternity is all we have.
Lately, that room has been starting to look like shit and make me sick. Not because it’s dirty but because I’ve never really been that neat. So I’ll take this shirt off and throw it on the floor and I’m not going to pick it up. And then I’ll roll around in the sheets a little bit and leave them like that and they’ll smell like me and they’ll be warm because of me and I’ll fill the space with character and love and light.
In death, there is the promise of life again.
What must live can only live once what must die is allowed to die.
Not just our love, certainly not our memories. In death, there isn’t forgetting. In death, it’s remembering that gives life.
It’s the process of letting it all be really f*cking messy, moving through the mess, cleaning it all up and starting again from a place that seemed, at some point, uninhabitable.
Dying is messy, living is too. They are strangely the same. Dependent on each other.
Neither necessary to fear. Both necessary.
He taught me well. His forever brought me here. Here is getting unkempt. Lively. Fruitful, joyful, playful. Comfortable. Death as the creator of this container where life is born again.
No vacancy. Full.
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Apprentice Editor: Chrissy Tustison/Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: via Flickr