There are those days when I wake and am surprised that I am lying alone in my bed. I look around. Everything is familiar, as it should be after so many years. I don’t rush to get up. I don’t have to be anywhere. I am carefully settled on my side of the bed. The covers and pillows on the other side are unmoved. I think there is some goal I’m supposed to have about sleeping in the center of my bed, so I can own it and be a full person. A positive step in my grief process. I don’t care one bit about that stuff. I am whole. Whole on my side of the bed as MichaeI was whole on his side. The idea that a bed is imbued with such power is ridiculous to me.
I glance over at the photos of Michael on my bookshelf, the ones on my left. He smiles at me with his usual half-smile. The one that’s slightly sardonic and tender and loving and of course, truly aware of who he is smiling at – me. I still think that he is the only person who’s ever known me in my entirety and accepted me completely.
I expect that makes me lucky. I’ve spent a lifetime probing the depths of me. He came along for the trips. And he stayed next to me. Thinking about that elicits a hunger for being that well-known. It’s best to move on from there. So I look around and my mind is aimless.
I wonder what I’m supposed to do today. No job any more. Work is what I choose to do. I have to take care of the living creatures in my house, the dog, the fish, the plants. And there is outside, the garden and the birds. But I don’t have to rush. I feel my body and inspect it. I’m healing from my knee replacement surgery. It’s taking awhile before my tissues can absorb the blood from the bruises on my leg and the bruises on my arms where the nurses failed to place an IV.
Age. Aging is my condition despite my apparent resiliency. I don’t have to look hard for its evidence. My skin is getting thinner, crepey. Tasks that I could do in a snap take longer. I remember my mother talking about how changing sheets seemed to take forever. I’m understanding that better now. Although I can still move relatively quickly, by comparison to ten years ago, my pace is glacial. I need to find a graceful way to accept that.
More remarkable are the parts of me that still appear youthful. My skin is still soft and pliant and moisture-filled in many places. I admire it and wonder at it. Michael said my skin was like velvet. Genetics. My father’s face was oily and unlined when he died. My mother looked years younger than her 90’s. They are in me forever.
The silence in this cavernous space that I love is palpable. For hours and hours every day there is no noise other than that which I make or invite. I am not the person who turns on the television for all day company. Television is either void of anything interesting or filled with agitating news. I need to parse out what I give to agitation. The times are so wearing. I listen to music. Sometimes that feels great and other times I spin tangentially into the memories it evokes and I wail.
My phone rarely rings. My children text or call regularly. My sister, too. But otherwise I barely hear from anyone. I have friends who love me. But people my age are still very busy. Most of them are still partnered. They are involved in their lives together. As I would be with my partner, except he’s dead. This is as it should be. Michael simply died too soon. If I’d been 80 instead of 66 when he died this wouldn’t be as isolating. Death at 80 or so would be more common. I’d have other widows with whom to chat. But I know very few widows. Some that I know have already found new partners. I don’t want a new partner. Maybe if he’d died when we hadn’t already shared 45 years together I might have wanted someone eventually. That will never happen for me. I knew that from the beginning. We had a good life together. When the first round is magical it’s enough. I don’t have the tolerance or energy to try building another with a peer who carries scars as I do.
So I am here with myself. I know that because I have wide-ranging interests and an active intellect I am never bored. No conversation is still better than empty conversation. Still. What should I be doing? I feel so amorphous, just like I did when Michael first died. I’ve done so much since then and yet, the structures most of us live in, at least for this time, remain out of my reach. I suppose that means I’m done with them. After all, I’m not trying hard to build any. And I think I would if I really wanted or needed them. So I occupy this space. Life is now random and disordered. Except for my compulsion to write. I write all the time. I’m filling volumes.
I’m not supposed to be writing this. I’m wanting to write about trying to get pregnant 38 years ago. I have that story planned. But instead I’m writing about my daydreams. I’m dreaming about my body that is still so alive. Now that my knees are both done and almost healed I wonder what my energy will be like and where it will lead me. How long will my body keep up with my mind? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Going too far down the road is not what I do any more. I prefer living in the present. At this moment though, I’ll allow myself a reverie. I am daydreaming Michael’s body. The strange part about that is during our beginning I barely noticed his body. The initial remarkable collision between us wasn’t physical. I still don’t know what it was. Some cosmic, inexplicable connection. We just instantaneously aligned. But as our friendship grew, we wound up quite interested in each other’s bodies. When our friendship turned to love, we had boundless energy for exploring each other. I marvel at the amount of time we spent simply staring. Our eyes could be locked together for hours. It never got old. As time went on we discovered the mysteries of us. A silent, unending stream of communication that went on even when we slept. Exchanges across rooms in the midst of crowds. Hearing each other speak in our heads when we were far apart.
The connection was like those tractor beams in futuristic movies, beams that draw you in as your power is co-opted by the other’s. Over the years that magic grew stronger and then more complicated.
We fit together, perfectly. Quite comical, actually, as he towered a foot over me. But we fit. He had broad shoulders which he shared with me as I often carried heavy psychological loads. He was like a sedative for me. And I was always checking him out, looking at him with an appraising eye, making sure his body looked ok. Always checking. The habit I acquired while growing up amidst illness and fear. He always had a lot more physical issues than me, despite being remarkably strong and athletic. As I drew sustenance from our deep psychological connections, I also nursed him back from a variety of physical issues that began plaguing him in his thirties. He never had an opportunity to nurse me. He said that was the saddest thought he ever had, to not be here when I would need him. But I can ignore all that now. I’m not daydreaming about sickness. Instead I can see him in my mind, every mole, every hair, every curve. I see his eyes, his hands, his feet. I feel his warmth and in my mind our arms are slung around each other as we melt into one entity. And I dream of having him next to me and feeling it all again, forever and ever. My drives are still potent and driving. It’s good to know that despite feeling starved, I haven’t fizzled out. Splat.
These daydreams are hard to let go. But daily life beckons. I know that staying in dreams like that can cause too much detachment, so I find my way to swinging my legs over the side of the bed. I have lists and assignments I give myself. I’ll do them. Michael told me how strong I am and he was right. I pull myself out of my drowsy journey and step off into the now. But I’m not kidding myself. I’d still trade everything for a tiny piece of my former reality. The face I put toward the world is only part of my story. There’s always this alternate engine, humming along inside me, waiting for me to resubmerge in the flow of life from the before.