At first I had no idea how much it would affect me. I hadn’t thought ahead or even considered this possibility at all, although I should have. We could all see how sick she was. But at the time I simply couldn’t make my mind confront that scenario. And then I was numb. For a long time, I only thought I felt the pain, but I was in shock. So it wasn’t until weeks after she died that I began to realize what it meant to lose not just my wife, but the only person I’d ever really wanted to spend time with.
My life changed completely in those few weeks, as events faded into routine. It’s not just her death, there is this, too: I’m almost always alone, now. There is no one else. There’s no one to bring news to, to make laugh, to ask for an opinion. It’s as though I was transported to another planet, and I must learn to live the life of an expat. This daily solitude was easier for me long ago, when it was voluntary, a circumstance somehow leading toward the life that lay before me. I actually enjoyed being alone back then. But now, all that lays before me is a few more years of the same. It has become more difficult.
There are many things that I can’t do on this new planet. Restaurants are impossible, there is nothing to do there except think. I see old couples sitting at other tables and jealousy wells up inside of me. How come she gets to live? Why are they allowed to be happy? I try to go early when places are empty, sit at the counter, have a quick burger, and leave. Fine restaurants, long meals, those things are out of my life. I can’t do them any more. Concerts, ballgames, any entertainment you would normally go to with a spouse or significant other — where I would have taken her — are off limits, as well. I can’t do them alone, and I don’t want to go with another couple, to be a third wheel. Charity is embarrassing, however well meant.
Even travel, once one of our great joys, would be a constant reminder of her absence. We were thrown together all the time overseas. But that kind of adventure — that once brought us so close — would now make this solitude even starker.
So I sit in the house alone, eating takeout and trying to work on my projects. Some art, a photograph, a piece of writing. It’s all completely pointless. No one is going to look at them, appreciate them, or even care that I’ve done them. Why do I bother? Just to pass the time? Waiting around to die.
Every once in a while the phone rings. One of the boys checking up on me, or some friend who has promised to “be there” for me. I have to lick my lips before I speak. They are stuck together from disuse. I’m glad to hear from people, of course, to break up the long day. But I can’t help feeling that I’m a burden. The guy who’s alone, with whom we should spend some time. Practically all of the friends I have were made through her. I was part of the bargain: you had a put up with the husband. Now that she’s gone and I’m the whole ball of wax, it has to be far less appealing. And the smell of death is on me. I am more than ever a pariah.
My life has become a sort of minimum security prison. I can come and go, but some places, some activities are off limits. And I’m definitely trapped, no way to get out. Life sentence with no parole. There are times when the realization that I can never speak with her again fills me with panic. Like claustrophobia, it makes me jump out of my chair. Pacing empty halls in the house where we once lived, I wish there were some way I could join her. But, how? I’m far too much of a coward for suicide. So for now I’m stuck here, like a refugee longing for distant shores that can only be imagined. Will I find her there?
There are times when anger overflows and I break down, swearing out loud in these empty rooms at the god that did this to us. This senseless thing. I call it a coward as it crouches in hiding, wanting to anger it, to make it strike me down, too. But it is too cruel to do that to me now. It’s going to make me wait.