In the end, they had a very ordinary relationship, and that was how she managed to survive.
If she thought about what she was missing, it was commonplace things. She only had to make enough coffee for one person in the morning, and to create meal plans that would last exactly one week. Vegetables would be eaten, and not pushed to one side of the plate as if she wouldn’t notice. Nobody teased her about keeping meatless options “away from the real food,” only to later smile mischievously when caught eating it anyways.
Her entertainment choices became more obvious. Indulging in terrible reality television no longer evoked lighthearted guffaws and the obvious statements of, “Are you seriously watching that?” Oh, and she didn’t have to plan her outings and errands to best avoid exposure to someone screaming at a hockey game. Really screaming. Not “enthusiastic reaction to winning move” or “great dissatisfaction for a poorly called play.” This was “neighbors might think wife is about to be murdered; call the cops” screaming.
This was not to say that everything just happily shifted to a new type of normal, or even that she felt she was better off. He teased, annoyed, and frustrated her, sure…but he had also been one of the best humans she had ever met. She hadn’t been able to put it into words when he was still alive. Even if she could have, he would have denied every point with the vehemence of a stranger on the internet arguing that scientific facts do not triumph over opinion.
But he wasn’t around to refute her anymore.
He had been a real person who never wanted to be a hero, and simply existed. The last part might sound critical or negative, but not the way that he embodied it. His life was not discolored by grudges and the mistreatment of others. Instead of dwelling, he would respond. It wasn’t obvious, because he could enter any situation, any gathering, and make himself belong. This created the illusion that nothing was unforgivable in his eyes, which was far from the truth. He was able to live without grudges because he could completely and effectively shut out people from his heart and his life. This was how he existed: in the moment, completely unattached to negative people and situations. Were there a few unforgivable persons or events? Certainly. But he didn’t hold onto them, not in a pitiful attempt to control the narrative and not by being bond by a sense of discontent and injustice –
– usually. Sometimes, a filter would slip or he would simply indulge in the moment. The result would be a startlingly accurate and scathing assessment of a person, made hilarious by the source of the observation and the way it was delivered without malice. These were very rare occasions, however. The majority of his time was invested on his own life, his family, and pursuing happiness thereof.
This was a trait he had managed to pass along to his wife, but only somewhat. At times, she thought she was still a little upset – pissed off, really – that he had left. In even rarer, more honest moments, she admitted she was actually upset about the way he had left: going from a towering, jovial, immeasurable existence of a man…to someone she wouldn’t have recognized if she hadn’t been with him every step of his last journey. She didn’t think it was fair that he went out like that. Even as she thought that, she could hear his voice echo in her memory: “Fair is a play in baseball.”
She watched a clock counting down against a backdrop of the near-deserted Times Square in New York. She thought about what she had been doing and feeling at that exact moment just one year prior. As the timer concluded at 00:00, she resolved to focus more on the only time she had: the exact second and moment in which she lived.