There was a phrase uttered by the voice on the other end of the phone that bee lined down my spine and made me gravity’s *****.
“He’s coming home on Monday.”
Then the clock began to tick, and its second hand stopped at the number twenty — the exact number of seconds it took me to realize what I had just been told. It’s the number of times I made him promise that he’d get himself on a plane back to the states after his course ended. It’s the number of feet between the shoreline and where tourists found his body, face down, on the beach. Twenty — the number of days he’s been dead.
It feels a lot longer than that, but grief makes you lose nearly all sense of time, among other things. All of those moments I spent with him before he left to get on that plane just seem like a series of fleeting flashes that I cannot tame. My apartment, his car, his bedroom, my bedroom, my hands, his hands, hot breath, his scent, my scent, touches that begged, pieces that fit, blood humming fast and warm, all made for several nights spent unexpectedly well. We were always great friends but undeniably better lovers. It was one aspect of our relationship we both tried, but failed miserably, to ignore. I wrestled with the fact that could remember it all in such clear detail, but now, it was something so far-fetched.
If you knew me and if you knew him, you easily recognized what was there.
I don’t believe too much in formalities — they’re nice, but not necessary. Words are great, but actions are exquisite — which is how I know that those months leading up to his departure were riddled with clues that we cared for and enjoyed one another as much as two people could. Neither of us liked to throw the word “love” around. The stakes just seemed too high when that happened. It wasn’t something we said out loud often, but it was understood and comfortably grounded. I will always believe that’s the best love you can hang on to — the kind that doesn’t have to be validated or proven or spoken. I tried to keep that thought at the front of my mind as I stood in the Wal-Mart checkout line with a pregnancy test in hand.
Women talk. So when I explained that broccoli had started to taste horrible to me and that I had truly lost my taste for beer and alcohol (all things that I enjoy), they cocked their heads in my direction like hungry hens waiting for the feed to drop. They wouldn’t ask me outright, but they ran down the checklist — late period? Sensitive gag reflex? Nausea? Lower back pain? Tender *******? Some of these things I did have, but see, I just lost one of the most important people in my life to the Pacific Ocean. Of course my body was going to respond to that stress in weird ways. I mean, let’s not jump to any conclusions, right? I couldn’t be pregnant. I wasn’t supposed to have a child yet. I was planning to teach abroad, see at least three other continents before I sunk my roots back into the good ol’ mid-Atlantic region and settle down with some poor, unsuspecting fellow.
The idea of it though — it being his child, our child — there was part of me that immediately softened to that idea and an even larger part of me that hoped for it.
As I waited for the customers in front of me to check out, I read the fine print on the box through its smudged security case. What can possibly be so hard about peeing on a stick? That thought stuck fast in my brain as I took aim and nailed my target like a champ in the bathroom the next morning. In the three minutes that followed, I thought this might be the easiest thing I would do all week. It was the easiest thing I had done all week, until those three minutes were up, and I read my results.
I learned, in that moment, that fate has a way of dealing us the hand that we need, without fail, every time. We simply get to choose how to play it.
© Bitsy Sanders, August 2016