August

It’s gray and rainy and I stumble down to the basement to find what is currently serving as my rainshell for the first time in months. Weird August weather so far. I’m shivering and wishing I’d worn socks, and the rain falls down and the cars go by and I hunch over in my chair and look out the windows over the trees to the red brick of the university.

It’s August, and the days keep unspooling and I do everything I’m supposed to be doing. I get up every morning and go to work and eat either a bagel or yogurt for breakfast, sometimes both. I do some work and I get on the bus and come home and I keep in touch with people I love and I write in my journal and I read books and listen to music and watch movies and I do my laundry, ride my bike and I talk to my housemates and make dinner and do the dishes and pet the cat. I wash my hair and brush my teeth. I get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, curled up underneath a patchwork quilt made several generations ago by one of my Midwest relatives. Currently I am thinking of getting a new set of fancy sheets; every night when I turn out the light I think about these sheets for a minute, and think about the ones I’m lying on, which I’ve had for so long they are starting to get holes in them. I consider thread counts and floral patterns and maybe some fluffy new pillows and I wonder why the days have sixty hours in them lately, and I go to sleep and wake up and go about my business.

My business is keeping on, is holding on. My business is assessing the facts of the situation, replaying the options, accruing theories and considering possibilities. My business is to lay it all out and shuffle it all around and stand back and squint and try to make it into a whole and to switch it all around again after that. My business is to wander around the house and nod my head and make little jokes and to keep a handle on things, mostly. My business is to realize that the heavy lifting is all over now, right, the decision-making and the words said in anger and the subterfuge and the resentment and the accusations, not to mention the practical stuff like finding a new place and putting old stuff in it and trying to find some room to fit in. August is a pause between what’s happened thus far and whatever is on its way, and my business is to live there in that pause and catch my breath.

August, and it’s unreasonable to think about the future too much. August, and I check my email obsessively. August, and I will buy new sheets. August, and I put new pictures on the wall and the letters into a box in the back of the closet, wondering if there is another box somewhere where I can put all the love and the hope and expectation, the rage and grief and loneliness, the just plain sadness.

There is a void, I say. There’s a void where he was and I have nothing to fill it with yet and that is very strange. Give it time, various people say. Give it time and soon we will be having dinner together and you’ll say that you can’t imagine being where you were six months ago, a year ago, two years ago. Maybe you’re right, I say, but why can’t I just fall asleep and wake up then? Why don’t I get a pass on this? Why did I do this, why did I lose this, what could I have done? There are no answers, various people tell me, gently and with compassion. And I’m not even sure those are the right questions to be asking. But what are the right questions? I say. No one knows, no one can tell me. Give it time, they say.

I’ve imagined this void as residing in the pit of my stomach, dense as a black hole. It’s fraying at the edges now. Instead of filling in and plumping out and leaving me with scar tissue it diffuses throughout my body, infiltrating me with empty space. I’m getting gauzier and more indistinct, blurry. It must be hard to look at me straight this August because I fade in and out like a thunderstorm, full of this emptiness that has no fixed geography.

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