This is an old story based on a combination of several support chats I’ve had with people struggling with grief, some years ago. The Wicked Wednesday prompt this week, “Core” reminded me of how it might feel to lose one’s core forever.
The featured image is from pixabay.
Content warning: severe grief, not much sex. Way longer than the word limit.
He is dead, I must move on. I can’t move on, he is dead.
Today the flashbacks are worse than usual. The sirens. The sinking feeling in my stomach. The policewoman at the door. “M’am there has been an accident. I am so sorry.” The street light going dim. The realization. The impossible. awful realization. His life is over. My life is over. Life is over. Over. Everything is over. Despair is all that’s left. Darkness without meaning.
Another flashback. This one is worse: happy times. Ross chopping wood, with his shirt off. His arms as wide as the logs he is chopping. His 6’5” frame barely moving as he swings the long chopping axe like a child’s toy. Crack! The log bursts apart in a shower of splinters into two neat halves, falling to the sides. It looks very showy. Suspiciously so. He must be showing off. He is showing off, definitely. For me, his only spectator. I am flattered. I am easily flattered by Ross. He turns around and looks at me, smiling. — I snap out of it and It rips me apart. I break down in sobs.
He is dead. I will never see him smile again. Never. His mind is no more, his body is no more, his soul… I don’t know about souls. Today I don’t believe in souls. Sometimes I do, especially on Sundays in church, when the pastor’s sermon is especially moving. The feeling doesn’t last. The space beside me, where Ross would sit, is still empty. More than once I had a crying fit right there, assisted out into fresh air outside by fellow parishioners. Eventually I stopped going altogether. Except on holidays. It’s a lot of people, and it’s impersonal enough. I don’t get triggered. I go through the motions. I feel nothing.
I feel nothing. I feel nothing below the waist. Ever since Ross died. I didn’t even notice for the first year or so, after… Didn’t think about it at all. Until my friend started asking more insistently, realizing I am not getting better. Ross and I used to be so sexual with each other. That time he was chopping wood and I was watching, we never even made it up the porch after he gave me his smile. I wanted him all the time. He wanted me all the time. We made love everywhere. We weren’t kinky, we just couldn’t help ourselves.
10 years. We had 10 years together. 10 magical years. Sometimes I think it’s my fault that it was only 10. He asked me to marry him 10 times before I agreed. Should I have kept saying “No”? If I did it 50 more times, would he have lived another 40 years? No, that’s just a silly coincidence. My mind keeps grasping for something. For a way to blame myself. If that’s what it takes to make it all make sense. Maybe if I kept him in the house just a few minutes longer… But no, he left on time, like he did every working day. Only that day, he did not come back. He will never come back. He is dead. I feel just as dead.
The other day I woke up screaming. I dreamt that I forgot the sound of his voice. I kept screaming “No, no!” even when awake. Eventually, I half-walked, half-crawled to the living room, barely managed to put a DVD in, with shaking hands. And there he was. There we were. Our last vacation. His smile, his voice. “I love you, Jenny!” My happy laugh in the background. “I love you, Ross!” We kept repeating it, probably 100 times or more. Passing the camera back and forth, again and again. Carefree, happy. Impossibly happy. His voice is just like I remember it. I did not forget. I don’t think I can ever forget. It was just a nightmare I dreamt, within the nightmare I am living.
I look at our wedding pictures. My father, a Marine, even taller than Ross, and with a similar build, only with black skin. Ross’s family clan, all tall big Scotsmen, and women to match. And me in the center, skin pallor bridging the black on the left and white on the right, hugging Ross with both arms. Everyone looking so happy. So happy. Not a trace of apprehension on anyone’s face. Probably because my mum wasn’t in the picture. I grimace. I love my mother, but we were never really close. She had her life, and I was only a small part of it. I was always close to my father. And to my great grandmother, who mostly raised me for the first 8 years of my life.
When Ross and I got married, I moved to live with him in Edinburgh, right after I had graduated from MIT. He always felt guilty about it, about me abandoning a promising career for a life in the boonies, as a wife of a woodworker. I never felt that way. Ross was my only priority. Not just top priority, the only one. It never crossed my mind to ask him to move. He belonged where he was. And I belonged with him. I had no other attachments. I worked from home. My expertise is cybersecurity, and all I need is an internet connection. With clearances and citizenships on both sides of the Atlantic, I could work from anywhere, for any government. And so I did. It helped that I was fluent in several languages. English from my father. German from my mother and great grandmother. Spanish and French from my boarding school years. The harder ones to learn were Russian and Arabic. I never really got fluent in Mandarin or Japanese. Barely enough to get by on our vacations.
Our vacations. For our honeymoon Ross said we could go wherever I wanted. I didn’t care, as long as we were together. So he spun the globe he kept from his school years and made me point a finger. I laughed and did as he asked. I always did as he asked. He never asked much of me. I wish he did, I wish he asked more. And he will never ask me anything again. I want to do something for him so bad. There is nothing I can do. He is dead. I am alone, a shadow of the woman I once was. My soul left the earth with his, and my body simply forgot to stop moving.
So, we ended up in Vietnam on our honeymoon. My dad only shook his head when he heard. His uncle, also a Marine, fought and died there, in the jungles. My paltry Japanese and Mandarin were no help there, the locals had no love lost for either China or Japan. We got by with mostly French and English. I managed to pick up a few essential Vietnamese sentences after a couple of weeks. The locals laughed at my pronunciation. Well, I did all the talking. Even those speaking English could not understand Ross’ thick Scottish accent. He didn’t mind. If anything, he was proud of me. And of himself, for landing such a catch. Silly him, he had me the first time our eyes met in that pub. It just took him a little while to reel me in. But I never felt like a fish out of water. Never. I feel like that all the time now. My fisherman is gone, and I am still flopping aimlessly on the pier, the world making not a drop of sense.
That globe-spinning tradition became our way of picking a vacation spot. I used to joke that if any foreign powers wanted to track me down, they could never predict our destination. Antarctica. South Pacific. Kamchatka. Uruguay. Northern Canada… Sometimes we were freezing cold, sometimes we could barely move from the heat and humidity. It was always fun, oh, so much fun. We argued maybe twice over these 10 years, Ross wanting to do something extravagant for me, and me trying to talk him out of it. Usually successfully. I am good at debating. He always gave up with good grace. All he cared about was me being happy, after all. Maybe we just used up a lifetime supply of happiness in a single decade. And when it ran dry, Ross was no more. The drunk truck driver was just a blind tool of fate.
Fate. How did I end up in that pub? My childhood friend and I were feeling adventurous. It was a summer break, I visited her in Ayr, and we took a drive to Glasgow. Two teenage girls on their own, in a rough and tumble part of a town not known for its gentleness. We weren’t clueless, but we were lucky to avoid trouble. Why did Ross puck that pub after visiting a customer in Glasgow, who knows. I think we looked at each other’s eyes for maybe 10 min non-stop after locking our gazes. He later said he was watching me for maybe half an hour before that. I remember the world stopping, like in the movies. My friend’s voice, in the background, first worried, then amused, but still distant. Are there love potions? If so, that’s how drinking one must feel like. Ross never approached me. He just kept staring. I had to do something, or risk dying from old age. Old age. Dying of old age staring into his eyes… Oh how I yearn for this fate now.
I crossed the floor, still looking at him, his mouth slightly open, and introduced myself. So did he. We shook hands and then… he excused himself saying he’d be back shortly. I was left standing there for what felt like an eternity, but was maybe a quarter of an hour. I found out later that he stepped out, called his then-girlfriend and dumped her on the spot. Just like that. He said, much later, he knew there was no one else for him except me. How romantic.
We seemed so different, a mixed race brainiac girl who traveled the world, and a local woodworker who had never been outside Scotland. Yet it was never an issue. Well, it was, because he did not expect me to refuse his marriage proposal so many times. Heck, I didn’t take it seriously until he produced a ring, which was after maybe half a dozen times. Yeah, he could be thick sometimes, and not just physically.
Speaking of being physical… The first time he took my top off and saw my lacy sexy underwear (I went all out to impress him), he had to stop and take a break… This stuff was not commonly used where he grew up. He loved the package and enjoyed the unwrapping, and the content. We kept the set through the years, and used it on occasion, since I barely gained any weight. But he was rather a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy sex-wise, and it suited me just fine. We clicked.
Ross was so sentimental. When my father was walking me down the aisle during the ceremony at the church in his village, with the whole clan present, he broke down crying. We had to do it again. I didn’t mind one bit. I loved it both times.
We quickly realized that neither of us wanted to have kids. So, he got snipped, and that was that. Now, thinking back, I wonder if it was the right decision. Would I feel better now if we had a little one or two? How would I raise them without Ross? Am I selfish in even thinking that? The life insurance money, the blood money from his accident, let me not worry too much about my finances. I work when I can, I get paid well when I work, but I do it as much to get away from reality as to make money. The hardest part is to muster the courage to get into the chair and turn on my computer. We used to sit across each other, him punching holes in his papers, me punching holes in the client website’s security. Then dropping everything and me playing a hole for Ross’ puncher, then falling asleep in each other’s arms right there on the couch.
I haven’t sat on this couch in months. I haven’t slept in our bed since he died. I haven’t done a lot of things we did together since then. No sex, of course. I got worried about my dead lady parts once, bought a vibrator, for the first time in my life. Never needed one with Ross. It didn’t work. Well, it did, buzz and all, just didn’t do anything for me. Couldn’t do it with my hands anymore, either. I thought maybe someone else can do it better, and my friends started prodding me after a year to get out there. I spent six months by the Ross grave, every day, until one day his father blocked my path and old me to only come on Sundays and get a life. “That’s what Ross would have wanted for you”. And he is right. We did have this discussion, a long time ago and Ross said that he would want me to move on, find someone and be happy. And I told him the same thing, and meant it too.
Only it’s so hard when it’s time to actually do it. Never thought seriously about it. Ross’s grave is the only place I feel safe, and close to him. But I do try. I went out with a really nice bloke here in Edinburgh, at my friend’s urging. It felt good. We got along well, even snuggled together on a bench by the beach. Then I got home, found Ross’s blanket in the closet, wrapped it around myself and cried till morning. I don’t think I can be a good lay in this state. I messaged my date the next morning and broke it off. I didn’t trust my voice enough to call him. Hope he understands. Or not, I cannot bring myself to care. I want Ross and only Ross.
Ross is dead, I must move on. I can’t move on, Ross is dead.