On goodbyes & practicing resurrection.
My old roommates bought a house. They are taking the rest of their things out of the old apartment tonight & then the Misfit House will be gone. It will be nothing more than a memory. (I will always call it the Misfit House because that’s what we were. We were the most beautiful collection of misfits I’ve ever known, Michael & Leah & Mitchell & Drew & me.)
When we left last summer, I left a book behind. I came by yesterday to retrieve it. The Empathy Exams. How fitting. I got to see the place that had been home for a year emptying out, one box & one trash bag at a time. I swear, if I looked hard enough I could see the ghosts of the memories we had made here.
Michael led me upstairs to show me our old loft. I felt the emotional wave approaching, ready to break before I even hit the top step. I hadn’t thought coming here was going to make me cry, but here it was. The end of an era. I could hardly stand by the time we got upstairs. I saw & felt everything all at once. Even when we had left, the space had still been full of furniture & piles of books as it transitioned almost seamlessly from one set of occupants to the next. But now, with them leaving & no one waiting to take their place, with the walls bare & nothing on the floor but a few trash bags & some old coffee stains, the end felt all too real.
In the front of the apartment, there is an alcove with a tiny window. The perfect size for a queen sized bed, next to the one window in the whole space that actually opens. I curled up promptly in the corner. This used to be his side of the bed, I am realizing now. Had I come here earlier, I would have chosen it deliberately. Today, it is pure coincidence.
I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but that only lasted about 5 seconds.
“I’m glad it’s over, but I can’t believe it’s over” were the only words I could manage to get out.
It never felt over. I have known every day that it was over, but when you live with your ex for 10 months after telling them you can’t marry them… it never really feels over.
But now, sitting in the space where we had started really making a life together… seeing it empty… seeing that life finally gone, the last place where we were really happy devoid of any indication that we had ever been here save for the girl sobbing in the corner of the one space where a bed just naturally fit…
now it feels over.
I should get up from my corner, I think to myself. I should say what I need to say to these empty walls. I should say a prayer & leave.
But I never really gave myself time to sit with these feelings. Yes, I cried when it was over. I remember it all too well. I cried a little & I curled up in his bed once when he wasn’t home & I chain smoked & I didn’t eat for days & I asked myself (& him at one point) if we could ever maybe try again. Yes, I drowned in my grief for a little while. But I’m starting to believe, sitting here, that there is a difference between feeling something & sitting with the feeling.
The Jewish have a practice they call “sitting shiva.” When a person has passed, you sit with the person who is mourning them. You talk if they need to, but by & large it is a silent show of support for as long as they need it. Right now, I am sitting shiva with the girl who lived here, the ghost of myself. She has been stuck here since we left last summer. I have not visited her, or the house. I have wanted to, but I’ve been afraid. I think I’ve been afraid of this very moment, when the wave would break. I think I wanted to pretend that I could move on without having to come here, without having to feel this. I think I wanted to stay in a world where I didn’t have to watch our ghosts dance around me before I let them go.
But I couldn’t. I had to come here. I had to put on some music that the ghosts could dance to & I could write to. I had to be with them one last time before I said goodbye.
I probably won’t be done saying goodbye after tonight. Tonight is just the beginning of a series of goodbyes. He is moving out of the home we share this month. When he walks out the door for the last time with the last of his things, when the moment comes that we never have to see each other again if we don’t want to, that will be another hard goodbye. It might be harder than this one; I’m not really sure. But this… this is the biggest goodbye. This is the goodbye I have to say before all of the others. This is the goodbye to everything that was good between us. This is the goodbye to sitting together on hot, quiet summer nights. This is the goodbye to grilling in the backyard. This is the goodbye to curling up so tightly together that we were practically one person on nights when it was too damn cold. This is the goodbye to the year when we finally started buying furniture together because we had ourselves convinced that we were in this for the long haul. This is the goodbye to writing at my desk with a glass of wine while he cooked dinner across the room.
This is the goodbye to everything I miss, to everything I never really said goodbye to.
My ghost is sitting next to me — I can practically feel her leaning on my shoulder as I write this. She is overwhelmed. She never wanted it to end. She still doesn’t want it to end.
She knows that when I put down my pen, pack my bag again, & leave this room, it is finally over.
I don’t entirely know what to say to comfort her. I have never been good with silence, especially silence with myself. Even the end of the album that’s been keeping me writing this whole time, the silence that comes after the last now of the last track, is unbearable to me. Sitting in that silence with my own ghost… it’s deafening.
But right now, I need to sit shiva with her. If she wants to talk, we’ll talk.
The sunset light is almost gone, & they’ve had the power shut off. I’m running out of time. We both know I have to leave soon, & so she talks.
Do you miss him? she asks as I light a cigarette.
“Every damn day.”
“No. Just a little.”
What do you miss most?
Inhale. “I miss how safe I felt.” I exhale out the window & gaze out into the street. “I miss how well he knew me.” I smile a little. “But it’s better now. I think.”
Good. She cracks a tiny smile. You look happy. I know being here is a little sad, but you look happy.
You can go, you know. There’s nothing left here.
“I think I’ll stay a little longer.” I take a drag. “After all, after tonight… it’s all over.”
Are you ready for it to be over?
“Yeah. I really am.”
Her gaze follows mine out to the street. I curl up closer to the window in the very last of the evening light.
It’s like when they went to the tomb on Easter.
She keeps telling the story, trying to fill the silence, but I stopped listening after the first line.
It’s exactly like when they went to the tomb.
They expected to see the body of their Teacher, their Rabbi, their Lord.
Instead, they found the stone rolled away. The tomb empty. The Christ, risen.
I smile over at her. At the kitchen sink, I can almost see his ghost smiling too, nodding gently. I look down at the page again & catch a glimpse of my forearm, the tattoo up the whole length of it.
I take one last drag of my cigarette & stub it out on the outside of the window frame.
Tonight feels like as good a night as any to practice resurrection.