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Scrub dirt from under your fingernails, dry your hands with stiff bleached towels, sit at the table staring at his unused coffee mug and weep. Breathe deeply when the neighbors ask how you’re doing. Try not to break down in the grocery store when you push the cart yourself. Avoid friends and phone calls and cards and holidays. Imagine he walks into the room and says he’s home, he couldn’t leave you like that, you won’t be alone anymore. Remind yourself that life was more than being with him; pretend you believe that. Evade the locked room accumulating boyhood trophies, sports equipment, and stuffed corpses. Panic as his phantom footsteps follow you, stiffen with shame for surviving.
Eat stale cereal out of the box, crumbs ashing your shirt. Taste nothing. Gulp hot tea until your tongue is numb. Trust you can live without him for a few more days, years, an eternity. Avoid washing his favorite sweatshirt, drown in the fading scent of him. Ignore the icy bathroom tiles along your back as your sobs echo through the steam. Wander from room to room. Forget your purpose, lose interest in breathing. Wish things were like before; know they shouldn’t be. Storm his room, recall his stalking in the darkness. Escape the shadows, bask in the light of the hallway.
Promise yourself you won’t cry. Stare out the kitchen window as scalding water leaves your hands raw and wounded. Busy yourself with tasks that don’t matter. Forget whether you’ve eaten today or yesterday or this week. Avoid looking at photos, lose sight of him in your mind; panic that his memory decided to wither too. Curse him for your loneliness, plead with him in the quiet staleness of the living room. Heap the donations on the curb, walk away a little lighter. Paint the walls, shampoo the carpets. Remember your worth, forgive yourself for your loss.