This was a long week. It was fourteen months on Tuesday- and you died on Tuesday the sixth. Unconsciously I think I sensed this day and date pairing up to tackle me, and they did.
On Thursday, I impulsively find myself starting to clean our closet. I have not used this closet except to throw things into it until it was so crammed, I could barely peer into what is supposed to be a walk in closet. I still have to buy bins to put your clothes in, but I carefully remove your gloves/hats from our joint bin and put them in their own bag. I find your shoes strewn on the floor. I place them also in a bag up on shelf. First I try one on and stand the way you sometimes did with the heel of one off the floor while you were on the phone or talking to someone and about to leave a room. Then I notice in the light, the complete imprint of your foot on a black flip flop. There it is. I think for a strange deranged widow moment of how I could trace it or make a mold of it, etc.
Then I move all of your clothes to the right side behind the door and move mine to the side yours were on. It is a relief now to see my own clothes rather than yours when I walk by the closet.
Later that day, a friend and I go to the cemetery. I have felt it calling me and wanted to tell you that Audrey is starting preschool and about to turn three. Not that I believe you're there. I bring bright green flowers and one breaks off in the car so I have it beside me now on your pillow. I like knowing that the rest of the bouquet is on the top of your headstone. At the cemetery, I cry a lot. I kneel on the ground even though I see a lot of small bugs in the grass that has now grown over the dirt. I am wondering what the protocol is, if I need to weed, if I should plant flowers. I eye the surrounding stones for "ideas," and can't help noticing most of their birth dates are in the early 1900's. The rain had let up and the view of the NYC skyline is clear from your hill. The stones we left there on the one year are all still there. The river rocks I had painted with Audrey to say "We love you," are just black now. The paint washed away in the storm. I lift one and see a little paint on the top of the stone.
My friend is walking around the cemetery nearby. She finds it peaceful she says. No more stress, worries, just peace. I tell her that I do not find it that way and that I hoped the visit would be more cathartic but I just can't process that Dan is under there. "What do you say?" she asks. "I don't know, I don't know what to say, it always comes out wrong and awkward." "So...Audrey's starting preschool...wish you were here." Something like that. I think it's difficult because I don't come here that often and it's in a strange place that neither of us had any connection to prior to your burial there. Prior to the purchase of "our plots." I drive us home.
Then that night, it's back to school night at Audrey's new school. I sit in the in the parking lot when I arrive watching mothers and fathers get out of their cars. I know that if you were alive, we would've gotten a babysitter and you would've come. You would've make small talk and jokes with her teacher, I think later after I go inside. That's just how you were. You missed only one of my doctor's appointments when I was pregnant and that was because of your job.
Inside I chat with the director and a few parents I've already met. I am surprised by my strength. I get a cup of coffee and a rugelach. Then I sit down in the gym on a folding chair next to a couple from our old church. I secretly hope they don't mind. While the director and chairs speak up front, I notice the husband and wife beside me do this little trade off twice- he motions his hand and she instinctively takes the cup he was holding and hands him the folder with the information. Later, they switch back. Without a word. Oh yeah, I think. That's how it was. And I imagine you there next to me right then. I use every faculty I have and can see you holding your cup of coffee and with your leg crossed. I am the crazy one, taking notes, listening intently, whispering my neurotic thoughts to you while you roll your eyes or smile. Now I am not like that, I realize. I am not that person anymore. Instead, I am choked up as they talk about what a special, momentous time this is for our child- I almost burst out crying loudly, uncontrollably. Instead, I am composed, listening, my hands clasping the blue folder with a sticker with Cho, Audrey, on it.
Afterwards, we go to the individual classrooms to hear from the teachers. After the teacher speaks, before I leave, I am asking her about the tissue boxes she has assigned me to bring in. (This is a coop school and parents contribute both time and supplies). "Just two boxes- I'll bring them the first day?" I am asking so serenely.
Then I am in my car. The car, any widow knows, is the place of wailing, and trying to see through a mess of tears and snot. I am screaming until I am hoarse as I drive away, "Cooome baaacckkk here riiiight nooooow!" Then I am calm again. This must be the derangement Oates talks about so much in the memoir I am still working on.
Then I am calm again.