It was a typical April evening. I came home, opened the door and looked around.
Nope, he’s still not back. Where is my Black Lives Matter shirt? I didn’t eat today.
I decided to make a grilled cheese. Everything was looking good, so I turned down the burner and went to the closet to find my shirt. I forgot all about the sandwich while furiously searching each of the drawers.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I jumped out of the closet and reached to hit the button on the smoke detector. The grilled cheese was burnt beyond repair. I took a picture of the charred sandwich and began to send it to him. He was my person. He would have cared. Spatula in hand, I sunk into the rug in front of the oven and cried. I repeatedly asked God, “Why did you leave me alone? Will you bring him back?” I cried myself to sleep.
Around 5:00AM, I woke up on the rug in front of the oven. Wide awake, I decided to get a jumpstart on the day.
I was out the door before 8:00AM, headed to the bus stop. To my surprise, I boarded an empty bus, which is highly unusual during morning rush hour. After a few minutes, I looked up from the paper and realized the bus was traveling uptown. I yelled to the driver, “Sir are we still going downtown?” He made eye contact with me from the rearview mirror, “Oh no baby, you’re on the wrong bus.”
…And all I could do was laugh. I laughed at myself for burning a grilled cheese. I laughed at the thought of my love laughing at the look on my face when I woke up on the floor. I laughed because why would a bus going downtown be empty at 8:00AM. I laughed because no matter how much I pray for my old life, it’s never going to be the same. I laughed because I was tired of crying.
Once I got off the bus, I looked to the sky and said, “I know that was you.”
A number of people reminded me, “He’s always with you,” but I had to come to that realization on my own terms. For about 6 months, I forcefully asked God to bring him back because I was alone. Instead of welcoming and believing in his spirit, I was fixated on a makeshift miracle of a second coming. The night of the burnt grilled cheese melodrama was the last time I asked God to bring him back to life.
The next night I asked God to bring me back to life, because I was slipping away.
After he died, everyone wanted to know about my well being (well not everyone, some people never asked). After about five months passed, folks understandably returned to their routines. The phone calls and texts dwindled because everyone’s lives were moving forward. It seemed like life milestones were happening for everyone too. Engagements, marriages and babies. Nothing like that is happening for me, and maybe it never will. I isolated myself to avoid putting on a charade. Sometimes I ask myself, “What can I even do?” If I become a hermit, people will say, “She went off the deep end.” If I move to Paris with Idris Elba next month they’ll whisper, “She never really cared.” Even though it doesn’t matter what others think, I was stuck.
Then things changed.
Last month, I visited his resting place. On the way, I drove through the city towards uptown, then onto the county. I thought back to the windy December day when he was buried. I remember the tent, the flowers and the row of cars leading up to the site. It was a new day. The air was balmy. There were leaves on all the trees. As I navigated the cemetery’s winding road, I saw others visiting their loved ones with food and flowers. I got out of the car and looked on where he lays. “It’s nice to see you,” I said. He always said that to me when we got together.
Following the visit, I had one of the most remarkable days of my entire life. It was like a movie. My loved ones and I had random, good, old-fashioned fun for 24 hours, just like the two of us used to enjoy.
When I returned, I consulted our pastor who described us as yin and yang. He said, “Everyone saw the chemistry and the balance, I know I did. The two of you are friendly and lovable in different ways. Try to channel his way. You’re allowed to have fun. He always did.”
He always did.
He once asked me, “Rion when will you really enjoy life?”
Since visiting him, I decided the answer is now. Enjoying the moment doesn’t require bells and whistles, a team of people, money, a husband or kids. Enjoying the moment doesn’t mean that I have to jump out of a plane. Sometimes I find joy in talking to the old man who owns the health store, Blue Nile, on Georgia Avenue and I don’t even think he likes talking to me. I enjoyed supporting my friend at her art show, for only an hour, before she moved to another part of the country. The little things matter. Casual interactions go a long way.
In fact, the more I try to enjoy life, the more he manifests. Maybe it’s a song on the radio or a really beautiful flower. It’s not quite the same as that big smile or the voice you can hear from a mile away. Nevertheless, I will take it. He was a believer. He said, “The Lord sent you to me, Rion.” Now it’s the reverse. Each day I conquer something that I thought I would never be able to do without him, even though it’s not really without him. He is Heaven sent.
I strolled through Malcolm X Park the other day and found the bench where we once sat together. Sadness ensued. I was reverting back to the loneliness. I rummaged through my bag looking for sunscreen and pulled out a plastic covered spoon. The last time I was in the park with him, I found myself with yogurt and no spoon. He pulled a plastic covered spoon from his pocket. As I held the container, he devoured a huge spoonful, and said, “You’re so quick to throw things away Rion, this is why I hold onto my stuff.” Finding the spoon was a reminder that I shouldn’t feel lonely; it made me smile from ear to ear.
When I walk down the street, he’s walking with me.
When I laugh really hard, I know he is laughing with me.
Even still, he makes sure that I pay attention to my surroundings. Earlier this week, I was walking down the stairs in the metro with my head buried in my phone, adjusting my music. As I approached the bottom of the stairs a man motioned for me to take out my headphones, which I normally wouldn’t do. He said, “Perhaps you shouldn’t text and walk down stairs. I would hate to see you fall.” He walked away by the time I said thanks. I know that was my baby telling me, “Keep your eyes open Rion.”
Welcoming his spirit does not equate to closure, moving on or getting over it. By the way, it’s rude to say, “You’ll get over it.” It’s only been 7 months. I am still struggling with depression. There are times when it feels like his spirit is not enough. His death is wildly unfair to me. I am processing trauma from a different kind of love and a different kind of loss that many people my age have not experienced. The first person I saw waking up and the last person I spoke with before going to sleep is not physically here. God decided that earthly time was up for the one man who thought the world of me. I will never understand why. However, I am grateful to have loved and lost than to have never loved.
Although he’s not on this Earth anymore, I trust that if I enjoy life Our Planet will never die.
I am never alone. That’s my blessing.