Friday, October 5, 2012 (original post date)
Have you ever noticed how the weather never seems to coincide with your mood? In movies and books, thunder and lightning predicted the coming of something ominous, a steady rain meant grief and mourning, and a beautiful sunny day meant happiness and peace. But not in real life. Because you know what? In real life, the weather doesn’t give a damn about your mood.
On the worst day of my life, there was no steady rain, or fog, or giant, dark cumulonimbus clouds. Instead, the sun was out, the sky was a perfect uninterrupted stretch of blue, and the temperature couldn’t have been a more wonderful 72 degrees in the middle of August, one of the few below 90 days we’ve had. On any other day, I might have gone for a stroll in the city with Bruce, one of our favorite places to spend time together. We would share an ice cream cone and talk about someday living in the city, maybe hit up the comic shop or bookstore.
Because Bruce is gone.
And today is the worst day of my life.
I couldn’t remember most of happened after I woke up that morning. Maybe because I couldn’t have woken up, seeing as I didn’t get any sleep the night before. I must have looked terrible, but I didn’t bother with make up. My inevitable tears would only mess it up and make me look worse. But I did bother with my outfit. I wore a white and orange floral print dress that Bruce’s mother gave me on the first Christmas he and I celebrated as a couple. I’m not usually one to wear dresses, but Mrs. Brown had an eye for these things. The dress conformed to my curves perfectly, hiding my ugly knees but showing off my collarbone. When I slipped it on that morning, I noticed it felt a little big on me. Has my collarbone always been that noticeable?
The rest was a blur. The funeral procession, the sermon, the apologizing friends and relatives… I used to be a master at hiding pain and sadness. No matter what the situation, I could always muster a smile. It took Bruce a long time to know the difference between a genuine smile and a masking smile. He always used to tell me I should be an actress. “You’re so hard to read,” he’d say, and then peck my nose teasingly. I think I smiled at the memory. But it disappeared as soon as his cousins embraced me, tears in their eyes, and I was brought back to the service.
All I remember was that I was the only person not wearing black that day. Only Mrs. Brown understood why.
It wasn’t until we were back outside on that beautiful day, about to bury the casket by the tombstone that was already prepared, when I finally snapped. Everything I was unconsciously holding back since I got out of bed and slipped on the dress that was two sizes too big did I begin to scream and shout and beg and bawl. I’m not even sure what I was saying. Later, my father would tell me that it took four of Bruce’s cousins to prevent me from jumping into Bruce’s grave with him. He told me I was cursing Bruce out, cursing him for being dead and for leaving me, cursing him for making me love him too damn much.
I honestly don’t remember saying any of that.
When I was the only person left at Bruce’s grave, I was sitting on the freshly turned soil, not really caring that I was staining my dress and suddenly aware that my face was wet. Staring at the tombstone with Bruce’s name on it, I realized that’s the one thing it took for me to break my mask of calm. Even though I’ve heard his name being said over and over throughout the day, somehow, seeing his name engraved on that block of marble felt as if the tombstone itself had been dropped on me.
It seems silly, but I began to talk to the tombstone.
“I know you never believed in magic or ghosts or life after death… But it’s moments like this that make me realize why others believe in that stuff. We want to make excuses. We want to keep you around, so we make up lies and tell ourselves that you’re still with us, that you’re watching over us, that you’re in a better place. We need to keep you around. Because letting go, believing that you’re really gone is too painful. So we mask the pain with false hope.”
The tears started flowing again.
“But you’re not still around, are you, baby? You’re gone. You’re nothing but a body in box buried five feet under me.”
I felt the damp soil shift through my fingers and I could see my lap dotted with tiny wet spots.
“But… just in case you are still out there and you can somehow hear me, I want you to know…. That I really miss you.” I laughed before I could catch myself. “Oh the things you’d say to me if you could. You’d probably roll your eyes and pick me up off the ground and tell me to stop wasting my time.”
I chuckled. But the tears weren’t stopping.
“Oh Bruce. I used to ask myself what I’d do without you… I guess I’m about to find out, my love.”
I took a few deep breaths and threw my head back, towards the sky, eyes closed, and I let myself feel the cool breeze that was wafting through the cemetery. I stayed like that until the tears stop.
I kneeled beside the tombstone and kissed the top of the marble block. It was cold against my lips and no substitute for the warmth of Bruce’s, but it would have to do. “But don’t you worry, sweetie,” I whispered. “I’m going to be alright.”
I stood up and my eyes lingered on Bruce’s engraved name a moment longer before finally turning my back on it. I didn’t take two steps before I felt a rain drop land on my nose. Scanning the sky, I saw giant, dark cumulonimbus clouds hide that perfect stretch of blue and within seconds, steady rain showers began to cascade around me.
I laughed again, the rain mixing with my tears. I was right; the weather doesn’t give a damn about your mood….