My home office is supposed to be a master bedroom, so it has the best closet in the house. When [we] were moving in, I threw all the miscellaneous stuff in there. When he moved out, it ended up mostly empty. A printer. Some boxes. My scarves. The filing cabinet.
Moving him out was —
I filled boxes and put them in the garage, working like an automaton, doing surgery on my life but I had to do it, had to use my own hands and sore, skinny arms and bruised heart and gasping lungs. I had to do that myself, I had to —
I have so much space now. Space to breathe, unfettered, and plant rainbows in my front yard.
Every so often I need something in the office closet, so I poke around, sifting through photos or thumbing through the files I cleaned out last summer, in a fit of trying to make something right when so much was wrong. They’re organized now, no longer brimming with the clutter of two lives braided together. [A lover’s knot that became a frayed friendship bracelet and then a bow for remembrance and then nothing at all.] When I’m looking for a photo or a birth certificate or some insurance paperwork, my fingers stumble onto old Polaroids.
The one he took in his top bunk the day I lost my virginity. The one on the corner in the floor in his dorm room. I’m laughing, a blush hidden behind my hair. I know I’m supposed to feel something, that I do feel something, but it’s a nameless feeling, hollow and numb and sharp and tired.
I can’t bring myself to part with the box full of wedding favors and photos and my veil, so it gathers dust on the top shelf in the walk-in closet.
Looking for something, an activity I find myself doing often, I began cleaning, an activity I also find myself doing often. I found the workbooks from the Catholic pre-marriage retreat the church required for a big wedding on a big altar. I opened them, read a few lines, and decided to indulge in some old-fashioned, vindictive, jilted-lady behavior.
[I’ve been so good, you see.]
I burned the notebooks on my barbecue in the back yard, proud of my ability to light a small fire, and a little annoyed that the barbecue hasn’t been used in [six months, measured first in days I survived and then days when I could eat and then days I made it through without crying and then, little by little, just days, normal and beautiful and stressful and happy and mine, tears and all].
The edges of the paper curled inward, became a flower, glowed. It was lovely. Then I coughed and watched the embers swirl and thought oh my fuck, I’m going to burn the neighbor’s house down in the process of pettily setting fire to the earnest vows two 24-year-olds made eight years ago, and I got a pitcher of water and poured it over the remains.
The novelty had worn off.
The next day, I took some pictures of the mess, and tossed the rest of the papers in the trash. Sentimentality is overrated. It drags me down like mud around my ankles and if I’m not careful, I’ll trip, and it’ll grab me by the wrists and smother me.
And the thing is, I don’t have time for that. Not when I’m alive.
First published on Maria’s blog www.mariamelee.com