Looking back. It's not something I ever really did in The Before. I was far busier worrying over a future that had yet to arrive than fretting about a past that was already gone. Now, I can't bear to consider the future, not more than a few months ahead of me. And I yearn for a past that will never come again.
I know that now. That is something I can say with confidence at the end of year two. Evelyn is not coming back. But I still want to vomit every time I say it. Still want to shove a bar of lye soap so far down my throat that I choke on the words before they ever see the light of day.
Two years later, and I still hate this second life.
I'm better at finding pockets of beauty. I probably find something to appreciate in every day at this point. But damn if the places where she was inside and outside of me—the places where I was and where we were—don't still feel emptier than a basket with no bottom. Damn if they don't ache like a tooth gone soft. Damn if they don't burn like dried tobacco in a wildfire.
Damn. Damn. Damn.
In our second year without her, I have experienced both my lowest and highest emotional points. I started the year hungry for a way out of this experience, this life I didn't ask for. And I bottomed out somewhere in those first few months. It's been a steady climb out of that pit of black salt and despair. And somewhere in the last few months I found myself perched firmly atop the tallest peak I've seen in a very long time. I'm grateful for the view. But that doesn't mean it's over. That doesn't mean it's all smooth seas and stiff winds from here. That doesn't mean I can't get lower still ... or higher.
I don't kid myself. I know this is a forever journey. And forever is a very long time.
I function at a much higher level than I did the first year she died, but it's still a considerably lower level than I was functioning at Before. Functioning means that I can perform most of the basic tasks expected of me. I can shop. I can go out. Drive a car. Walk the dog. I pay the bills and mow the lawn and smile at the neighbors. I dress myself and I feed myself and I bathe myself. And yes, all of that is marked progress. But in the grief, in the big black hole of it, so little has changed. I've just learned how to wrap my arms around that space and carry on. But the suck remains. As I guess it should.
I just want to touch her. You know? I just want to put my hands on her again. To lean my face against her head and breathe her in. God, I want to hear her laughing. Not in my head. Not in a video. But right in fucking front of me. I want to buy her t-shirts and gripe about her room and cook her favorite meals. And then I want to watch her eat them. And that's the thing, the wanting never ends. It just grows and grows and grows. I wonder how much wanting a person can take. I wonder how much I can take.
On the surface, not too much about our lives has changed. We're still in the same house—the last place I saw her alive, the first place I found her dead. We redid the kitchen. Don't ask me why. Distraction, maybe. Maybe something just had to give, had to change to match our insides. I've emptied out my closet twice. I can't seem to find clothes that feel like they suit me anymore. Not that I care all that much. I cut off my hair. I'm restless. Some days I want to change everything. Others, I simply want to scrap it all and start over somewhere very far away. And still others, I panic at the thought that I might be altering something as simple vacuuming up her hair or skin cells. It's a ridiculous, fuck-all way to live. But what can you do?
I guess you could say I'm more resigned in year two.
Our circle has changed and changed again. Some days, I mourn those secondary losses with fat, bitter tears. Other days, I could give a fuck. They're not Evelyn. What difference would their presence make really? Not enough.
I've learned a lot. Sure I have. And I'd trade every bit of it just to watch her sleep.
Do you want to know the truth? The biggest impression getting through this second anniversary has left on me is simply this: How the hell did I make it this far?
Damned if I know.