They say that during grief, the simplest of things take on monumental weight. Almost as if our body is weak from the tireless emotion of longing, we cannot lift and perform the task of certain movements- lost in a smell, listening to a song, allowing a memory to play from start to end.
I think of the dark mahogany staircase I was going to walk down. I imagine the serendipitous clouds that were painted on the ceiling as I took my descent, and how I would have danced with him in every room as each song chord played from the speakers. I can still hear the pulsation of the base reverberating off the almost century-old wooden floor; a precognition- a false memory.
With eyes closed, I can smell the appetizers and hear the soft fizz of the alcoholic drinks as the bubbles rise when the glass moves. I see him mornings after- as we laugh about paint colors, or argue over a dish. I visualize the way his goatee would grey and adventures that we’d never pack for. It’s true that he illuminates my mind less, but I know he lingers in the background, close enough to mourn and too far to really do anything about it. So, I reason him away.
I don’t know the men I almost married. Stack them on top of one another and they might form some sort of equation where each algebraic number fits into the whole. I’ve overspent brain cells on each numeric pattern: (A+B>X) (B>A) Solve for X. The common denominator is the same each time- I am the both the only constant, and the remainder. Call it a mathematical anomaly, but I am still very, very, much alone.
I remember telling him once that every failure was my work laying the pavement to walk to him. Every cancer check-up, the unsuccessful relationships in the past were so I could earn my walk. I remember trying to verbally calculate each step towards him- how I had grown and achieved and struggled to fight cancer, to balance my career, to raise my children so I could justify the timing. I rationalized that it was my turn, because I had never gotten to put on a single wedding gown, only hospital gowns. My math never really made sense as I tried to put an integer on my experience when all life was willing to give was a fraction.
Just a few days ago, someone I haven’t seen in a few months ran up to hug me, asking me how it felt to be HIS. I often lie- (not something I’m proud of,) but a small, personal gift that makes the conversation easier- I’ll say, “It’s great. Tell me about YOU?” When I’m very brave, I almost whisper: “I haven’t yet found the reason for the wedding dresses that still have their tags on, but I think I’m getting closer.” I told her a lie.
I am moving towards the solution- just not close enough to be able to elucidate the hypothesis of why people get aneurysms, or even the imperfection that manages to hide behind the seemingly faultless: Moments where I’m convinced, beyond reasonable doubt that this is what I’ve worked towards. I should know now, after all, when everything seems perfect, it very rarely is.
Maybe for all my attempts to be a mathematician, I’m simply a jock. Lift, stretch and repeat- life seems to dictate. In my journey to win the Nobel Peace Prize of Mathematics in my own life, I’m merely lifting weights. An overachiever in all senses of the word, I carry my barbells with me still. Why put down what we can carry? I’m learning that grief has no rules and my role is simply to feel, breathe and partake.
I know this: His arms were outstretched and we were going to dance to a quiet, indie-like cover of “500 Miles” under the cerulean acrylic paints above. Spinning me- like we practiced, he and I were going to rotate fast enough that none of the other failed formulas ever stuck anymore- the weights would fly out of my hands and all I’d have left is the muscles enough to carry the memory of the way he looked next to the rich wooden staircase, the clouds above and his feet tapping to the music.