At His Grave
She sat alone in the dark long after the sun had set and all the mourners had gone. She hid while they lowered him into the ground. She didn’t know any of them anyway. He was a closed book and had never brought her into his real life. She never knew whether that was her fault or his and she vacillated wildly between the two possibilities – like with all matter of things between them.
She could never tell if he was just being polite, just a nice guy, who didn’t have the heart to tell her to go away, because being impolite and creating awkward embarrassment was so distasteful to him, or if he felt something, anything, even a modicum of care beyond what most people would consider normal.
He did things above and beyond normal all the time, beautiful, utterly endearing things, and she tried to trust that. She felt it – deeply – but that’s because she wanted to, and she had to be very careful about thinking what she felt and what she wanted was reality. She had been down that road before – the road of delusion and madness. And his words were the clarion bell of reality. He always said nothing mattered and that there was no meaning in the things he did. She wanted to believe in the feeling, but she had to respect what he said. He didn’t want her, and he couldn’t accept how she felt. He wouldn’t allow her give anything, and she felt the madness closing in. It wasn’t fair to him.
She left because if he was just being nice, and she was a burden – if he cringed the way she sometimes suspected when he saw her number flash on his phone – it was more than worth facing hell alone to save him from her – from that moment of…disgust. Funny, she had never felt lonely until he was gone. And if, when she left, he felt something – anything – worth reaching for, she had to have faith that he would do something about it. When he didn’t, she knew she had made the right decision. She must have made the right decision. He must have been so relieved that she wouldn’t hound him anymore. He must have been so relieved to be free of her. If he had missed her, he would have done something about it. When things mattered to her, she was relentless and moved heaven and earth. Heaven and earth.
There was neither now.
She would sit by his grave all night just to be near his bones. She would endure the rain and the cold because at least they were something. Everywhere else, anywhere else, was nothing.
Why hadn’t she disregarded his defences? Why hadn’t she just forced herself in? It would have been rape. Not only a physical one but an emotional rape and at some point a person’s autonomy is sacred. Their boundaries are sacred. Even if you know those boundaries are wrong.
He had told her the stories of the love of his life. He had told her that she had just taken from him. She thought about doing the same on many occasions and there were times when she thought it would work, but at what expense? It would destroy him, and she wasn’t that selfish. To destroy him to get what she wanted was beyond futile, it was stupid…and cruel. It was one thing for him to take his own life, it was something entirely different for her to take it. But if he didn’t want it, why couldn’t she have taken it over and at least given him some comfort? At least he might still be alive. A grotesque version of life, but a life nonetheless. But it would have destroyed the part of him she loved the most. Better to let him die on his own terms and preserve the thing she loved, than destroy the love and keep the man. At least she did still love him.
But she had destroyed – or at least not saved. It was her fault that she was not strong enough to endure her own heartache and just be his friend. She had tried. It hadn’t actually made any difference to her pain. But the thought that she was so unattractive to him that he would rather be alone and lonely and in complete despair in his loneliness rather than even let her hold his hand was too much for her. It was a kind of rejection that she could not handle. She would have given him other women if she could have, she would have given endured the overwhelming jealousy she only felt with him, but she would have died saving him if she could have, but he wouldn’t accept it…and the laws of love don’t work that way.
She caressed the mud where his face lay 6 or 7 feet below. All she had ever wanted to do was to caress his cheek and tell him that he mattered even if he would never, ever believe her. She reached her hand deep into the mud and sat until the sunrise, imagining that she was holding his hand. She had done that sometimes while he was alive, in the hopes that the molecules of air between them would carry a current of electrical impulse to him that he might feel even if he never understood where it came from.
In a moment of deep despair, she screamed. What might have happened, if he had just let her in? Would it really have been worse than being alone and thinking no one cared. What might have happened if she had forced him? It couldn’t be worse than this. All it would have taken was a breath of air between them and the willingness to dare for something more.
In the morning, she let go. Even in death, she would never overstay her welcome. She would never smother or expect too much. Just enough to make it bearable. Just enough to make it okay to keep breathing.