One Last Task

Dearest Rachel –

And so it ends. As I said, the convention always ends on an anti-climax. Not with a bang, but a whimper, just like the end of the world.

But there’s always something that needs doing, and since we always contemplated the idea of doing… something… it falls to me one more time to seek out the volunteer desk, and see where they need me to be. I do sort of wonder if I cast a certain vibe, one Harry Chapin described once as “long past lonely, and well nigh on to lost” as I stand waiting to see if they have any instructions for me.

They team me up with another volunteer, and we drag a couple of tubs around, one to the bridge, and another out by the marketplace area, where a Ryder rental truck is waiting. Everything has to be packed up, and carted over to some storage facility somewhere in Coralville. But first, it needs to be loaded up onto the truck.

This whole situation seems strangely familiar.

The truck is fairly big and deep, so it’s hard to see how much has been put away in there, but believe me when I say there’s quite a lot in there. It helps that it’s a fairly large crowd of staff and a handful of volunteers, both inside and outside of the truck, to move things along pretty quickly. Everything on the curb is picked up and packed in less that an hour.

The odd part is that the swag that would be presented to volunteers for their time is also in amongst that. But let’s be honest, would I have wanted anything they could have offered, especially considering Jan’s dictum regarding whether I would use it or not? Even the prize of a fully paid admission would be useless to me, since I always purchase the sponsorship rather than a regular admission. Still, I keep the time sheet as a perverse sort of souvenir; maybe I’ll remember it for next year, and be able to collect on it then.

And maybe Buu-chan will sprout wings and fly.

I putter about the room for a little bit before I receive a text from Nightelf. We are, after all, at liberty regarding what to do with the evening. So what do we want to do?

We’ve done the standard staples of hamburgers and pizza… why not go for Japanese food? As it so happens, you’ll probably remember Konomi, this place within walking distance from the hotel – I believe we were here with Greg a number of years ago.

Surprisingly, considering that basically everyone has gone home from the convention already, it’s fairly full here. The wait time isn’t bad, though, and we settle in at the bar. We discuss the literal movable feast that RAGBRAI was – and thus, the fact that Nightelf didn’t miss much by not arriving until Saturday, as all I remember were the nighttime parties, which were a feature of the bicycle ‘race.’ This moves on to a discussion about a particularly potent beer encountered at these parties, with 10% alcohol – about double what you would expect to find in a standard beer – and how it’s even possible to craft such a concoction.

Slowly over time, we will begin to move on to more weighty discussions. Struggles with anxiety and grief in our respective lives, and how to deal with them. These are not problems that will be solved over a single meal (which is excellent, by the way – they have some impressive creations that we wouldn’t be able to find at the Station), but N.E.’s experiences produce a fair sagacity that I would do well to take to heart.

The most significant take away I find is a question of whether I am running to something (which is to say, another relationship) or running from something (which would be the loneliness of being single). I confess that currently I am doing the latter, which is not healthy. And I will not be healthy until I have something to run toward as opposed to from.

In addition, it is suggested to me that I need to learn how to manage my grief. The question is, how? At this, Nightelf is at a loss. There are no easy answers; life is not a sitcom, romcom or even a TV drama (which at least usually takes twice as much time), and I can’t expect a solution in a few hours time, with space for commercial breaks.

It may be that I will need to seek out therapy after all. I feel like I should wait until all the other things in my life are sorted out, but it’s pointed out that there will never be a time in my life when all the other things are sorted out.

The other thing I think about in retrospect is how to get to the point of running toward without at first doing the running from. What I think I mean is, I’m running away from singleness rather than towards Megumi – but this is in part because I don’t know who she is, or if she exists, and therefore don’t know where to run to. So I’m thinking, maybe you start by running from, and as the path clears, you begin running towards something else…?

What is clear is the need to manage the grief. It will always be a part of me; N.E. mentions this song recorded by George Jones entitled ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’:

He said “I’ll love you til I die”
She told him “you’ll forget in time”
As the years went slowly by
She still preyed upon his mind
He kept her picture on his wall
Went half crazy now and then
But he still loved her through it all
Hoping she’d come back again

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that you never left me; that you loved me through your very last day. But it does mean I have no hope of your coming back again.

And with that being said, what do I do? What is that one last task I need to do to manage this grief, and get on with life? Is there such a task, or is this a forever process? And if the latter, can I ever move on?

Or is that all just a matter of running from again?

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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