I’m supposed to be happier. I’m supposed to be getting “better.” I should be “grateful” for having such a great love in my life in the first place. Some people never experience such a love, you know. I was very lucky to end up in such a nice, new living situation – with a wonderful, genuine, new roommate. I need to be thankful.
At least – this is what everybody keeps telling me. Or implying to me. Or saying to me with their judgemental, no clue what they’re talking about because they haven’t ever lost a spouse, eyes.
So why the hell do I feel so sad? Ever since moving to my lovely, amazing apartment in the sky in Forest Hills, I feel this wave of nausea over me, like something desperately needs to get out. It feels like I will burst into tears at any second. But I never do. Don’t get me wrong. I was sad as hell in my old apartment in New Jersey. I was surrounded by our past, by “stuff”, and I felt like I was suffocating. Choking. I was miserable. But there was a certain, sick comfort in that horrible misery, because I was living in the place where my husband and I shared our life together. We ate there. Slept. Kissed. Napped. Laughed. Cooked. Had Christmas parties and get-togethers. Brought adopted, rescued kitties home. Cried and grieved over those kitties when they died. Tried again. Brought more pets home. Loved them deeply. Had talks about having children. Had minor arguments and discussions about what our future would hold, where we would live, would we ever have a family? We were a team in that apartment. We lived a life in that apartment. We had dreams in that apartment. We wanted out of that apartment. We breathed air in that apartment. It was dusty, unclean air – and it was an overcrowded, cramped, ancient, pain-in-the-ass place to live. But it was our pain-in-the-ass place, and it meant something to us. Sometimes, it meant everything.
Living in that apartment for the past 14 months since Don’s death, I have been overwhelmed and consumed by piles. Piles of our past. Piles of migraine-inducing emotions that left me heavy at night and unable to sleep. Piles of unpaid bills, unplayed guitars, unrealized dreams. Part of me didn’t want to ever leave. But I had to. If I didn’t, that apartment would have killed me. My spirit and my will to keep going would be gone. Too many ghosts in the corners. Too much dust had piled up. There were so many piles of our “stuff”, that there wasn’t any room in there to grow. If I had remained there any longer, I would have emotionally exploded from too much pain.
This new apartment brings with it a new kind of pain. It is different than what I felt before, but it is just as harsh and just as stabbing. Sometimes it feels worse because I feel guilty for feeling it at all. This is the neighborhood I wanted to live in. There is a beautiful sunset and a crazy-good view of NYC shining in lights at night from my bedroom window. The people here are friendly and say hello. My commute to work has been cut in half, and my stress levels are down some. My roommate is a wonderful human-being who cares about me and my kitties. Life feels lighter, and I can feel the breeze now. I am no longer suffocating in piles. And yet … I just want to cry. I just want to fall into a ball of fetal position, curl up forever, and cry.
I want to cry because my husband cannot see the glorious sunset. He cannot eat cupcakes with me at Martha’s Bakery on Austin Street. He can’t have a great burger at Bareburger, or get a beer and watch the Yankee game. My husband cannot see how happy our kitties are here, or how hard I’m trying to love them in the same, incredible, selfless way that he did. Can he see me brushing them? Can he hear me talking to them and telling them how much we miss him? Does he laugh when I sing our silly songs to them and annoy them? I don’t know. People say that he can feel these kinds of things, and maybe he can. But I don’t know. And even if he can feel them and see them and hear them, it’s not enough. It’s just not fucking fair and it’s not enough for me. I want to touch him. I want to hold his hand and look at that sunset together. I want to take long walks in my new neighborhood with him, and talk about how we finally made it out of that crappy Jersey place. I want to make dinners in this awesome kitchen, and sit at the dining room table with our friends and play board games and mock life. I want to make him all his favorites like chicken parmesan and Swedish meatballs and Shepherd’s Pie. I want him to be here, dammit! And it sucks that he isn’t. I don’t want to be alone. I was alone for decades before I met him. I struggled and paid bills alone and carried my own damn groceries and luggage and everything – alone before I met him. I got married so I wouldnt have to be alone ever again. So I could be part of a team. The best team in the world. Marriage. It’s not fair that he only got to be around for the struggling parts of our life. And it’s not fair that my teammate is just gone. He is gone and this place is beautiful and I just want to cry.
In our old Jersey neighborhood, there was nowhere to really walk to, no real life in the streets aside from a random little pharmacy or store here and there – so for the past year or so, I sat home a lot at night. Inside. Alone. In my new home, however, life is all around me. People are everywhere. They walk their dogs and they buy fresh fruit at the Farmer’s Market and they laugh as they stroll along the crowded streets that are filled with stores and cafes and bars. When I am busy with friends and I have plans, things are much more tolerable. The grief gets pushed down or at least distracted enough by good conversation, jokes, banter, fun. It is all that time in between working and having plans, that makes me want to jump out my 21-story window due to extreme loneliness and pounding pain.
Weekends. One of the many examples of “things I used to love that I now dread.” Friday nights are all about couples. Dating. Love. Saturdays and Sundays are made for families. Kids. Relaxation. Movies. Beaches. Malls. Time spent with those you share a home with, a life with. This weekend my roommate went away with some friends, and I was here alone for the first time. I had asked a bunch of people if anyone had plans, but it seemed as if everyone was busy. On Friday night I was sitting here at the computer, looking at Facebook to kill some time. My screen was filled with people talking about their wedding anniversaries, summer vacations, kids birthday parties, marriage issues, and general family life things. I couldn’t look at it for one more second. The words “Happy Anniversary!” sting in my chest, even in type. Sometimes it’s simply too much to cope with, and I have to just get away from everyone’s happiness and joy for awhile.
The Yankee game was on, and I started to watch it here in my room, when suddenly it felt extremely depressing to be watching a Yankee game alone in my room. So I went out. Walked around the neighborhood. Figured maybe sitting in a Sports Pub watching a Yankee game with other humans was a bit less pathetic than being alone.
I was so very wrong. From the second I left the safe, cozy, bubble of my apartment and entered into the world of humans outside – love attacked me and snuck up on me along every corner. Life was everywhere. Relationships. New ones. Old ones. Good ones and bad ones. Couples on first or second dates, having awkward conversations. Having no conversations. Making out and making plans and making “I want you now” eyes at one another. As I turned onto 72nd Avenue, a young male gay couple was lost in each other’s pupils. A block away, an obvious husband and wife well into their 80’s walked side by side extremely slowly in their matching walkers. Seconds later, I was struck by the force and energy of a Latin couple with their 4 children. They were standing outside of a frozen yogurt place, giving their complicated order to the woman standing in the walk-up window. The man was rubbing the woman’s back as she placed the order. He grabbed all the cones and handed them to each child, then instructed them in his heavy accent to sit on a nearby bench. They seemed overwhelmed but happy. He was very loving and patient with his little kids, the way that Don would have been if we had a family. My heart skipped a beat or seven as I turned the next corner and noticed a woman, desperately trying to get the attention of her man as she followed him, cursing loudly. He was ignoring her as he chatted away on his cell phone. She looked exhausted by life. He looked clueless and like he didn’t give a shit. Why the fuck do they get to be together when they clearly don’t even appreciate each other? Why do they get to have more time to continue to fuck up that relationship, when my husband and I had a perfectly awesome one and it was TAKEN away for no reason? It doesn’t make any sense.
Sitting there inside The Irish Tavern with my Diet Coke and my Yankee game – it hit me how alone I truly am. One couple in their 30’s or so was talking up another young couple. The husbands were laughing and joking around about their wives. The one guy was a Salsa-dance instructor for a local studio. “I can’t even get my wife to go dancing”, he said to the other, as he gave his wife a knowing and teasing glare. “She just wants to come here, have a drink, and watch the game.” “Well yeah”, she shot back. “Screw the dancing. I’m tired after a long day. I want margaritas.” They all smiled and talked about mutual restaurants and dance clubs they had all been to in the area, and then the one woman who didn’t like dancing said: “I can hardly see the game from here. What’s the score?”
The way that the tables were placed in the pub, it was apparently awkward for them to be able to see the Yankee game from where they were sitting. I could see it fine from the 4-person booth the hostess seated me in earlier. There was some chatter between them, and then one of the women came over and very nicely asked me if they could switch tables with me so they could watch the game. I don’t know why they assumed that I wasn’t watching the game also, but they did. Maybe it was because I was alone, by myself, and maybe people would never think that someone would have a reason to go to a sports bar alone on a Friday night to watch a Yankee game. But you do have a reason when the person you watched every single game with is dead, and when you can’t look at sunsets or foliage, or eat delicious food, or experience new and amazing things, without feeling a pain and a stab inside you each and everytime. There is nothing at all wrong with watching a baseball game alone. But when you have to watch a baseball game alone, because the other half of your team no longer breathes air, that is devastating.
Before I could even respond to her request, I quickly got up and walked out of the pub. I may have mumbled “sure” or something of that nature. I honestly can’t recall. I just know that I felt so lonely at that very moment, and I felt so lonely on the long walk back home. When I got into my bedroom, I sat in my husband’s recliner, pulled the quilt with the pictures of us and our life all over it into my body, and cried.
When I was living in our old place alone after his death, I felt suffocated inside the apartment. Now – I feel suffocated outside. A loner in a world filled with love. A single soul – trying to fill the space and time with cups of coffee and walks and drives around town. A widow in a booth for four.
This place is filled with beauty and life and joy.
Technically, it is “better” to be in this gorgeous environment, than in the stifling one I was in before. Making this move was something I had to do, and it was the right thing to do. But is it worse to be alone surrounded by the past you shared together – or alone surrounded by the future you will never share together?
Like I said before – it’s a different kind of pain. In this new world of “better things” for me, I feel so hollow, and I miss him more than ever.