The Habit of You
It’s 10 pm when Nick calls. His voice, his tone, the silences, you know before he utters the words. Your first instinct is to throw the cellphone as if it’s turned into something rabid, something that will kill you, something that has delivered the worst possible news in your entire life that you were totally unprepared for.
The kids are asleep. Let them sleep. Let them dream for another night that their dad might be coming home. You pour a glass of bourbon, neat, although you haven’t had a drink in five years. You always supported him. You stopped drinking to get him to stop drinking. He cut back but you hadn’t had another sip. Until now. Until you realize you’ll never touch him alive again. No more kisses. No more sex on Sunday mornings with the sun spilling through the sheers and the sound of an awakening city distant and forgotten. No more smell of him, lemon, neroli, cardamom and black pepper. No more laughter, teasing, singing. Singing. No more delight. No more hugs. No more him convincing you that one more baby might be magical. No more bringing another part of him into the world. No more.
You don’t know what to do with yourself suddenly. Your legs are restless. You suck down the bourbon hoping that it will anesthetize you, but you need more and take it. Tears course down your face. You’ll let this happen because tomorrow you’ll have to be strong. There are three kids upstairs who will need every ounce of your being to survive because their dad was everything. He was larger than life. As you well know.
Suddenly you just want to hear him sing, listen to his voice, but you can’t. Can you? Is there someone to call? He was your best friend. He was your everything and you let that happen. You let his being devour your life. For the briefest of seconds, you feel bitterness of how wrong it was that he was everything, but then you remember why he was everything. He was kindness, gentleness and love when you thought you had none in your life. His smile, his laughter.
Your doorbell rings. Daisy huffs instead of barks because she’s getting old and it’s dark.
You look at the outdoor video feed, gulp. “Mom?”
“Nick called me, honey. I’m so sorry. Oh, baby.”
And you cry on your mother’s bosom more than you cried all the times you skinned your knee or broke up with boyfriends or had friends betray you. She pats your back. She doesn’t tell you that it will be alright because she’s been there, and she knows those words are a lie. And now, you think you can forgive her for being stoic when your dad died. She had to be as you’ll have to be tomorrow and for subsequent days so that your kids know there will be stability, that the world isn’t falling apart, although, right now, it is. It so fucking is.
“How?” you ask your mom.
“You just do every second as it comes. It doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. No, honey, never easier.”
You can’t fathom any of that now. Maybe tomorrow. And it’s the emptiness of tomorrow that makes you hold tightly to your mother and hope that when your dad died, she had someone to hold tightly but you can’t remember who and you feel worse for both of you.
Another day, maybe a few months away, when the kids aren’t crying every day, and you pretend you don’t cry every day, you’ll ask her, “How?” again and hope for wise words. She’ll hug you, pat your back. “Keep moving through every day until it’s habit.” And even through sadness, you figure that’s something you can do because, if nothing else, he’d want you to.