Dearest Rachel –
Upon sending you my last letter, about the man yelling at the intercom outside the police headquarters, I received a ping from the WordPress application. In some ways it wasn’t much different from those that I get every day, complete with the standard ‘keep up the good work’ encouragement. But today was different, because today is a milestone.
For the last three hundred days straight, I have written you at least one letter, keeping you up-to-date on what has been going on in the world you left behind, and with those of us who loved and miss you. In that time, we have basically spun through every season of life, and sit now just upon the precipice of winter yet again. We haven’t yet endured all the holidays without you, and I am dreading the impact of the two that will come at the end of this month. We never put up the Christmas tree, save for your insistence (since we would spend the holiday at either your parents or mine); I don’t really know what Christmas will look like this year without you.
During that time, I did what I could to keep Chompers alive and in good spirits for nearly 250 days after your passing. While I did the best I could, I doubt that I did him justice. Daniel claims that animals return to their pre-Edenic state on the other side, including being able to talk (you’ll recall that Eve wasn’t phased by the serpent conversing with her; he claims that suggests it was not only possible, but commonplace); I hope, if that were true, that the old boy gave you a good report of me.
You left just as the world was starting to open up – indeed, our fatal trip was a chance to get out and do something for once. I still recall us sitting in the Iroquois meeting house barely an hour before, looking out over the lake we’d just crossed on foot, pondering about the improvements being made to the camp, and thinking about when we would get to enjoy them in the future. That future now belongs only to Daniel and myself.
Since then, the vaccines – indeed, six of them, were you to count the one from Russia and the two from China – have been released to the general public. Daniel and I have been on opposite sides of that particular argument. I’ve gotten my shots, and at the moment, it appears that I’ve still gotten the Covid (it’s why I’m locked up in this hotel room, after all). I guess this means that Daniel has the last laugh on me. But at least, it looks like I will survive, for now, and hopefully, come out of this that much stronger for it.
I’ve forced myself to join new groups, in order to make up for the huge empty space you’ve left. Socializing doesn’t come naturally to me, even if I put a good face on it, and appear to be the ‘interesting man’ in the room, but if I can’t bring you back, I need to find others to fill that spot. Someone – anyone.
Of course, the road that particular search has led me on has been beyond rugged. You’ve heard me complain time and time again about the fakes and phonies online, to the point where you’re probably thinking I sound like Holden Caulfield for the internet age. And while the friends you’ve chosen for us to be our closest ones (and make no mistake, you chose them – I had nothing to do with it, and they didn’t approach you) are treasures beyond price – you sure could pick them, honey – I’ve had to discover, to my everlasting regret, that they can be no more than that. Try too hard to reach for more, and like the dog with the bone seeing his reflection in the water, I could lose what I have as I strain to latch onto an illusion – one that seems so within the realm of possibility, until I touch it, and with a splash, the dream ripples and scatters into a thousand little droplets, leaving me wet, embarrassed, and so very, very cold.
I have spent months cleaning out – with much professional help – every room in our house, agonizing over the memories that this or that item or group of items held within them. You have no idea of the regret that sometimes fills me when I think about all the times I told you that we would never be able to give the house the remodeling it needed until we cleaned up all these piles, and what it would take in order to do so – because what had to happen, as unlikely as I always insisted it was, actually had come to pass.
I have felt the need to apologize to you for having to discard so many things that we no longer have any use for, knowing all the while that I will never hear your voice granting me absolution for what I am told I have to do in order to move on. Paradoxically, we have found so much, even as we get rid of – and acknowledge that we have lost – so much.
You have read about I’ve traveled on my own for the first time, and finding it easier than I had feared, making plans for many more – since we can no longer go together. Of course, at the moment, you’ve also seen how that blew up in my face, trapping me here in a beautiful but literally foreign city, neither speaking the language nor holding any currency.
None of these things are unique to me in terms of experience. Those of us who fall in love will eventually all suffer loss of the other, unless we go first. We take on the responsibilities of a pet knowing full well that we will outlive it – indeed, in the months before the accident, we had been talking about how Chompers wasn’t likely to survive the spring; and to think, I managed to get him through summer. Finding new friends in the wake of losing one’s best friend is always a difficult proposition; and finding a new love, orders of magnitude harder. Cleaning house is a regular and necessary task, not something that should be considered extraordinary. Combined with thoughts of remodeling, these are common enough occurrences that entire industries are built up around these processes. And while, in the wake of easing restrictions, everyone wanted to get out there and travel, there’s no question that it has its hazards – that’s what travel insurance is for.
But to go through all of this in the span of three hundred days… that, my dear, is how my life has gotten so intense. Perhaps this is why I’m meant to stay put for the time being; to get things to settle down a little bit, even if it’s in the weirdest of places. Shouldn’t I be trying to find my peace at home, rather than in some strange city halfway across the world?
I know, I ask a lot of questions, and I don’t have answers to offer. Would that you, presumably with the insight of the ages that comes from being on that side of the veil, could send words of explanation to me. But until such time as that becomes possible, I need to sit here, and wait.
For now, sweetheart, cast a thought for me, and the rest of us you’ve left behind.