When there is loss, grief inevitably follows. Grief is round: a black rubber ball. It's thick and opaque and has lots of give--it bends, it folds, it sighs. It never breaks.
Grief has no definable size. You can carry it in your hands, your pockets, your heart. Or it can carry you--you can live inside of it, burrow in it, die in it.
I'm still grieving. I wish I could say I was over it. I wish I could toss it in the bin with tonight's trash. I wish it had an expiration tag.
All I can say is that I'm better than I was yesterday, and it aches somewhat less than it ached a month ago, and the shock that kept me up nights last year has eroded into a mild jolt of insomnia.
It's not an obsession over the past. It's more of an attempt at reconciliation, between what's lost and what's found. I don't mean to think about it, really. It's just when you live with someone for nearly a decade and suddenly they're gone, you find yourself constantly reminded of things, stupid things really, from your time together and everything comes back in a wave of nostalgia, some good, some bad.
It's never big things, obvious things. I can go to a wedding and be absolutely fine with it all. Happy for the bride and groom, having fun at the reception.
But then later, I'll stop at the store to buy something completely ordinary, like a bottle of shampoo, and as I walk down the aisle I'll see men's razor blades on sale and think, "I should pick some up for Justin," and then I'll remember he's gone, and there's no need to buy him razor blades, as a matter of fact I will never buy him razor blades again, and when I go home he won't be there.
And that's when that rubber ball finds me, rolling through the store, bouncing right back into my hands.
Tag. You're it.
I don't know how to get rid of the damn thing. It helps to write about it. It helps to share it. But I'm tired of the anger. I'm afraid I'll become one of those embittered, lonely women, who clutch that ball and never let go.
It's easy to tell you about the bad things he's done, to remember how awful he was at the end, how terribly he treated me. What's harder is to share the beginning and middle parts, the kind person that he once was, the man I had married.
Those stories are nearly unbearable for me to share. Those moments, not the unhappy ones, are the ones where I clutch my ball the hardest to my heart.
At the end of our relationship, he was not fair to me. He was unkind, cruel really, and he hurt me beyond measure. He cheated and lied. I can't and won't make excuses for him, but I will say that he has his issues, serious ones, and I know he will struggle with them for the rest of his life.
But it's unfair of me to share him as such a one-dimensional character. He was not always cruel. I wouldn't have married the man that I divorced.
He was funny. He made me laugh harder than anyone I've ever met. He has the most amazing laugh I've ever heard in my life. It was completely un-self-conscious: loud, joyful, childlike. It was an infectious laugh--no matter how bad the joke, how awkward the situation, if he laughed, everyone in the room laughed.
He knew how to put people at ease. He got along with everyone. He knew how to draw out people who were quiet and shy, and he could keep up with the most outgoing in a group.
There was a time when we finished each other's sentences. When we went out he always had a way to make the moment special between us. At weddings when the bride and groom were saying their vows, he'd grab my hand, look at me and smile. He was a foodie and shopping was very serious for him. At the grocery store he would be thoughtful, intense, lost in his own world, but then suddenly he'd reach over and rub my shoulder. Over the years our body language became one. We could absently know when the other one needed a touch, a smile, a laugh.
When I finished school and started working a regular eight to five job, our schedules became opposite. But we always found a way to spend each day together.
Some nights I'd go down to the restaurant and have dinner with him. He'd prepare my food himself, making everything exactly to my preference. He'd set up a quiet table in the back, and we'd talk about our day. When we finished he'd move over to my side of the table and put his arm around me, and I'd rest my head on his shoulder. At work he smelled like cigarettes and bread and BBQ sauce, and it always made me feel warm and safe.
Other nights I'd stay home, and he'd call me from work. He'd take a break when Lost was on TV, and we'd both watch it together, over the phone.
My favorite nights, though, were the ones when he worked late. I'd go to bed early and around midnight, I'd hear him come in, quietly setting his keys down by the door. There would be clattering in the kitchen, and I'd drift back off to sleep, drowsy and happy that he was home. Everything felt complete. Around one in the morning he would nudge me awake, and with him he'd have two plates of chicken or salad or steak, with some sort of steamed vegetable.
We'd go out to the living room and cuddle under a blanket. We'd eat our late dinner and he'd tell me about his day, and then I'd rest my head on his shoulder and drift off. Then he'd nudge me awake and with his hands on my shoulders, he'd lead me back to the bedroom, and tuck me back into bed.
On his nights off we'd have my brother over and we'd watch DVD marathons--Arrested Development, Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm. We played cards a lot--sometimes with a group of people, but lots of times just the two of us, playing for hours with music on in the background.
Sometimes I'd come home and he'd surprise me by cleaning the house. He'd have music on and he'd grab my hand and twirl me around the kitchen, dancing. Sometimes he wrote me poems or when he left notes, he'd make silly drawings on them that he knew would make me laugh.
He always said "I love you" and I believe he meant it. He used to say, "I don't deserve you," I think he meant that too. I always thought he didn't believe in himself enough and couldn't see his potential, and I still believe that.
When we said our wedding vows he cried. I still believe he really felt them, even though I know he was drunk at the time and was drunk from that moment on, for the rest of our marriage, probably for the rest of his life.
He also used to say, "I never want to hurt you," and I think in his way, he meant it. I didn't understand then why he used to say it but now, looking back, I understand completely.