About Grief

I have been trying to explain grief for some time. Last night I think I finally found a way.

Here is how grief works: You go to a movie theater you have avoided, not deliberately but conveniently, for two years. It's a good movie, and you enjoy it, whatever it was. Afterwards you go to the car, and walking across the dark parking lot, you remember that the last time you were here was when the two of you saw Wolf. That, of course, is why you've stayed away. She looked, you used to tell her, like Michelle Pfeiffer, 'only prettier.' A bad thing to remember.

It's the same car, the one you unlock. You never parked at that spot in the lot before, but it's the same car. It starts just fine, and as you pull out, you turn right. Before the two of you lived in Sugarhouse, for the ten years you lived in Salt Lake before she came back into your life, you would always turn left. Tonight, left or right is just as easy. You turn right without thinking, the way you turned with her that night, the night you saw Wolf together, and there is State Street. And she is there, in the passenger seat, beside you, her voice physical sonics in your ear arguing that the wolf that bit him was really Pfeiffer. She is there. Not a ghost, but a metaphysical presence, as real as your own intangible self. And she won't go away. Never forever, but neither will she ever be there palpable, physical, real.

You drive to the empty house, pretending she is not there, with your mind in the car. She is there, in the passenger seat, her thigh a foot away real as sculpture, and utterly absent. You can see her there, as clearly as you see the other things that move away from the periphery of vision, and you want ice picks, shards of glass, foolishly thinking that blinding will make her invisible. You will see her still, through a scrim of blood. You will hear her still, deafened by your own hands, her voice merely passing more easily through the perforated, destroyed eardrum. She is there always, the ghost in the empty house, holograms of recollection saying this, standing so, her very smell, like distant roses and yet salty, in the car again after two gone years.

That is how grief works. There is no ghost to point at, no dagger that I see before me. There is the real she, real as memory and hollow as the vacated heart. It is melodrama to say, "I want to die." But sometimes melodrama, like paranoia, is still true.

I spent months driving her ghost from the house. I took other women through the rooms, so their afterimages would compete with hers when I stepped alone into that room a day later. I moved the bed to the opposite side of the room. I gave away everything. Everything: Her silverware. The last bar of soap. The gifts. A scrap of paper with her old address from before her address and mine were the same. I refused to drive by the KFC where we got takeout, that last week. Memory Grove is off limits. I don't go near Park City. Her ghost owns the Stone Lions at Bandelier now; by going there with me, she possessed the place. I don't know how I'll ever see them again.

It is not you, of course, it is me, the self I don't want any more.

That is how grief works.

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