A Space Between
“I’m okay.” Maisie said, for what felt like the hundred thousandth time, even though she definitely was not and never would be again. She smiled reassuringly at the questioner, someone she probably knew, maybe even well, who was just trying to help and be kind and understanding. Only Maisie didn’t want any of those things, she wanted to be left alone to scream and cry and tear her skin off if she felt like it, which she did, nearly every second after she woke up and remembered that she was still alive and Paul was dead.
There was a hole in her now, a gaping pit, and it could never be filled or eased. She had never known anything so cold and empty, so completely and utterly gone, as the space in her life where Paul used to be.
She was surrounded by family and friends, a sea of condolences, a stream of sorry’s, of painfully sincere advice offered with awkward hand pats and hugs…she despised them and envied them and wanted to spit in their little glasses of concern and cheap funeral wine and tell them she would have traded any and every single one of them for one more day, one more hour, one more fucking minute, with him. Their grieving black grayness blended, swam, and blurred into one face for her: Not Paul’s.
That was the truly hateful thing. She kept turning to him, to roll her eyes and catch his exasperated glance in return, like, can you believe these people? And then they would smile and sneak off and hide until it was all over. Only there was just the awful, stunning, lack of Paul, all around her, everywhere she looked, it wasn’t a nightmare, and she could not wake up because this was how things were now, Without Paul.
Maisie continued to smile reassuringly, her face feeling tight and grimacey, to comfort those who cried, who told her how unfair it was, how wonderful Paul had been. She did not need to be told these things, she knew them in her bones. The unfairness of it was something that, when she wasn’t paying enough attention, carved deep crescents of anger into her palms with her ragged fingernails and worried the inside of her cheek into a large and cankerous sore. She could feel it throbbing, bitterly, and she would tongue it obsessively, just to make it stab and bite.
Looking around the funeral, packed rather tightly into her in-laws house, she realized that she had somehow been left alone. Everyone was somberly talking to someone else, eating, drinking, or otherwise attempting to keep on living as though the world was not a worthless and shitty place without Paul. Somewhere, deep down, she knew these were “bad” thoughts, but didn’t care right then. She only cared that the air was too warm in here, too bright, and everywhere she looked she should have seen Paul. She quickly made her way to the back and slipped out of the door, pulling her coat and bag along with her. No one noticed.
Outside the air was cold, even for December, but Maisie stood in the dark driveway for a while without putting on her coat. She took deep, excruciating breaths, and only put her coat on when she started to shake uncontrollably. She’d worn black, of course, but had not bothered to dress up. She wore a thick black sweater, skinny black jeans, and thick, high boots. The sweater was Paul’s, still smelled like him, and she’d been wearing it for at least two days straight. The idea of taking it off was too abhorrent, too obscene, to be entertained. She knew she’d eventually have to, at least to shower, but right now that didn’t seem particularly important. Who cared if she was clean? Paul was dead and all she wanted to do was sleep because then she could not feel the place where he used to be in, in bed beside her, snoring and making too hot when he cuddled up against her back.
Looking around, Maisie was relieved to discover no one else outside. It was too cold and everyone wanted to be comforted and near lights and other people. Except her. Without Paul, other people seemed like dim shadows and grasping hands. The light seemed garish, heat suffocating. She stood outside, her breath puffing in the cold, and looked in at the lives that would, in a few days, go on Without Paul. But not hers. Maisie knew her life was over, it just might take awhile for her body to catch up.
To be continued...