how I experience you now
My late partner, David (yes, my current partner is also a David) died on September 25th, 2007 of liver failure, the end result of a life threatening hospital drug error occurring two years previous. One of the last things he said to me before he died was, “I wonder how you’ll remember me, ten years from now.”
To which I replied, “I don’t have a clue, but I can promise you that it will always be good.”
I wasn’t wrong.
Almost ten years it has been now; the time since you’ve been gone. It’s funny the things we are capable of believing while in the midst of grief. I don’t think it really hit me that you’d never be coming back, not until the day Singher stopped waiting for you at the door. Sometime after Christmas I think; she’d been there since that September morning. The morning when, to steal a quote from Didion, life changed in an instant. I almost hesitate to finish the quote, as her three crucial words that seal it seem oddly … unnecessary.
“The ordinary instant.”
Thinking of that day ten years past, the use feels redundant. Because it was so absolutely ordinary. Until it wasn’t.
I’d love to say that you are always with me like I hoped you would be, expected you to be. But you’re not. Your presence has faded over time, like the muted tones of worn and washed flannel. It’s an apt description, comforting in a similar way. Familiar, yet never consistent, but somehow right. So it is in those rare and random moments, in the midst of an “ordinary instant”, when you appear, always in the oddest places.
I’ll see something white, like a lily from the garden that no longer grows, or the crisp white of hospital sheets bearing visceral resemblance to that which covered your body, so diminished and betrayed. Or at the beach, I’m somehow back in San Diego on a night during our last trip, laughing forever it seemed after you slipped on the pier in a warm rain. Arriving at Kettner Exchange, looking like you pissed yourself, the waiter so graciously offering you fist fulls of napkins it made us laugh all the more.
This, this is what I imagine it will be like my next time in Paris, for instance, when in those small moments of stillness before break of a blue dawn, I’ll recall us strolling endlessly on the streets of Bastille, trying in vain to find that one, perfect croissant. I don’t think we ever did.
So random, so ordinary, those collisions with the past, yet so utterly unpredictable. Except when they’re not. That’s the time it hurts the most. When during a busy weekday morning, a spotted dog will walk past me, and in an ordinary instant it is a different morning, one in early September, not at all dissimilar to the day you left, but instead it is 2001, and your hand is on a cage; on the other side of the chain metal, a paw. It is quiet and still when that paw will meet your hand, and you will look at me and you will smile, then say, she’s the one.
That, that is how I remember you, ten years later.