My lust for life died with her. There was one empty room in our home. We never decided what we were going to do with it. Her things… that’s what I’ll do. I’ll put all her things in the room. Piece by piece…only what I can handle. It had been a whole year, and I still couldn’t breathe when I thought about her.
The park we used to picnic in before… grass so lush you could sleep on it… so green that it was almost blue. Her eyes were crystal blue. Lilac bushes filled the air with a sweet aroma… reminded me of her delicate scent. The wrought iron fence that surrounded the park… as strong as our bond. Everything there made it impossible to forget her and move on.
I used to hoop here with my friends too, but it was getting harder and harder to go there. Too much work is what I told them when they’d ask me if I wanted to get together. All they wanted to talk about was her. They treated me differently after… like I was a child in need of sensitive love and attention. It made it impossible to forget her and move on. They stopped asking me to hang out with them.
I started eating again, but not too much. All my favorite foods were her favorite foods. A tomato sandwich with Vegenaise, pickles, light salt, and pepper, our favorite midday snack. I managed to get a single bite down, but cried when I picked up the kettle-cooked salt and vinegar chip… she introduced them to me. It made it impossible to forget her and move on. She would eat so many that it would tear up the roof of her mouth. I always had better willpower than she did.
The grass in my yard was probably half a foot tall… it was hard to get myself moving sometimes. She would bring me a sparkling glass of iced sun tea, unsweet of course because her presence was sweet enough. If it was hot enough outside, she would use her grandmother's kerchief to wipe the sweat from my brow, doing so with the biggest smile. A kiss on the forehead and she’d whisk off, back into the house to resume whatever it was she was doing. She was always thinking about me. It made it impossible to forget her and move on. But the grass had to be mown.
I managed to get all her clothes into the closet of the spare room. The violet dress was what she wore on our first date. The one with the ruffles. The other violet dress was the one she bought right before… She never got the chance to wear it. I was able to get her nightstand moved into the spare room as well. All the jewelry and perfumes were on top. I always told her she was so beautiful… that she was the accessory for the jewelry. Her smile… prettier than any diamond necklace. It made it impossible to forget her and move on. That’s why I put everything into that room. I couldn’t let go, but I only wanted the visual reminder on my terms.
I picked Daisy up from the animal shelter. Maybe another warm body around, and some more responsibility would take my mind off her. When I saw Daisy, one ear missing, completely bald… mange… wagging her tail vigorously… banging her cone into everything… it was love at first sight. She’ll need some toys, the best dog food, a leash, oh and a harness because a collar is too cruel for my new baby. Stephanie would have loved Daisy. I didn’t realize it until I got home, but Daisy was a Cocker Spaniel. Her childhood dog, Schöne Puppe, was a Cocker Spaniel. She said it meant beautiful doll in German. I called Steph a beautiful doll, as a pet name since the day she told me about it. I shouldn’t have picked Daisy. It made it impossible to forget her and move on.
My mother was pushing me to meet one of her friend’s daughters.
“It’s been long enough,” she told me. “You have to move on.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I told her. “I’ll give it a shot.”
One year later, Stephanie is still on my mind. I’d been dating Laura for an entire year, and I wasn’t able to move on. We fought constantly. Laura was a great girl, but she wasn’t Steph. I compared everything Laura did with what Steph would have done. She could never do anything as well as Steph in my eyes. It wasn’t fair to her that I just couldn’t let go of Steph. She tried to convince me to clear out the spare room and turn it into a home theatre since it was the darkest room in the house, but I snapped on her. No way was I going to get rid of Steph’s things. They were all I had that kept her alive in my head.
My mother, Laura, and my shrink all told me that I would be miserable forever if I didn’t move on. Keeping Steph’s things was a form of self-abuse since they were only associated with pain. I no longer looked upon her things with delight, only sorrow. Her memory had become a weight that I could no longer bear. I had to let go.
Laura was great but she became a caregiver for me more than a lover. I don’t even think she realized it. Day in and day out, she cared for me. She cooked, she cleaned, she even mowed the lawn. I sat in my study, consumed with my work, and never did much of anything for her. Yet, she stayed with me. I started to look at her differently over time.
Laura’s birthday was fast approaching, and I felt I had to do something great for her. I had been absent in the relationship, and it was time for a change. She had done so much for me, despite my terrible demeanor, and she never wavered. So, I started to clear out Steph’s room. I started with her nightstand. The smell of her perfume… made me think of Laura. Her jewelry… Laura doesn’t wear any jewelry, so she wouldn’t want any of it. Going through the closet felt more like rifling through the dress rack at the Salvation Army than taking a stroll down memory lane. Laura was more of a “jeans and tee-shirt” kind of gal. Maybe it wasn’t impossible to forget her and move on.
The pawnshop gave me enough for all of Steph’s jewelry to pay for a home theatre system and furniture. I convinced the guy at the home furniture store to get everything installed that day. Laura would be back from her business trip the following day and I wanted it to be ready for her.
Daisy managed to find one of Steph’s shoes that I missed while ridding the house of her memory. I didn’t feel anything. I let Daisy keep it. I knew nothing could ever fill the void that Steph left when she died, but a new chapter could indeed be created. It wasn’t possible to forget her, but it was possible to move on.