It occurred to me recently that I had half my closet and a full dresser empty, like I was waiting for someone to come and fill it with their stuff, that in all these months I have never slept on the left side nor in the middle of the bed, though I have been sleeping alone in a bed for many more months than the six it has been since my husband died.
One of the things you lose when someone you love dies is not just their presence, but in a very real way you are also losing a part of yourself, all the memories and secrets they held of yours. There is the loss too of a perspective—how someone else saw you differently than the way you see yourself, another facet or side to you that sometimes you briefly glimpsed through them. This perspective is at times both unwanted yet needed, at other times both startling and powerful, something that sometimes could make all the difference in the world. A reminder that you are not just an island any more than an island is just an island, but rather land constantly meeting the sea, always redefining itself, the way its coastlines are always evolving through water, through wear, through time.
The other morning I saw two deer bounding through the streets of my townhouse community. It was not yet light, and they looked startled to see my car as if until that moment nothing had existed but their legs working with precision, bodies running side by side, separate, but still a unit, a pair. I do not know what kinds of thoughts deer have, if anything, what lights or colors their eyes possess understanding for. I know they didn’t understand how I was sad to have startled apart their symmetry, their near-perfect unison of movement across the asphalt and off into the trees. I was an intruder there, something unexpected, unwanted, forcing them to diverge from their planned path, to run off into another direction.
In a way those deer might have been my husband and I, years before, when we orbited each other in our house. Bodies, too, have a language, and so there were days we spoke like the deer did, with movement, using the same shared spaces, making a meal together, clearing dishes, raking the leaves, all those other times when we instinctively knew each other’s patterns, could counter so that our own were in sync.
The other morning, their faces turned towards me, eyes and ears alert, I was reminded that even separate, the deer were still beautiful. And what may have been a loss to me, with my headlights forcing them apart, in no way predicted where from there they might go, how many paths those hooves would trace, whether together, or alone. They gave me only the briefest of glances, the barest of pauses, before their legs once again took flight and they disappeared into the early morning fog.