I. You didn’t know why you thought of her but you did know that the image of her face hit you hard as you were pouring your coffee on that hot and sweaty July morning. It was the kind of day where everything hits hard and mercy is just a five letter word. You had been home for only two weeks and everything felt like a fist to the mouth. It hurt and you knew it would hurt and yet nothing anybody had said in the previous weeks had prepared you for just how much. In the days that followed you did everything but think about it. You sat on your bed and ate your food and tried to find things to do with your hands. But you had quit smoking two years prior and you had lost your appetite so you just sat on your bed and tried to make shapes with your fingers in the palms of your hands. She wasn’t the first person who you loved who had died. She was probably the fourth or fifth and yet her death made all the other deaths seem like nothing. You told all your neighbors lies as they came to your door bringing cakes and soups and pies. You told them, “I’m fine,” while your heart lit a fire that found its way down into your stomach. You closed your curtains to those who knocked and received no response. You stopped picking up your phone. Exhaustion seeped into everything you owned. Finally the house was still. The neighbors did not ring the bell anymore. The phone was silent. The house settled into an eerie calm. You found yourself sitting on the couch with a book in your lap, your eyes scanning the pages, but not picking up on the words.
II. Somehow after five weeks you leave the house. The neighborhood is changing and you notice a house for sale that a family you knew used to live in. The sidewalk seems to hold sadness the same way that your heart does and you don’t have the energy to push it down. So you walk the neighborhood with tears streaming down your face and you count the steps until you are home again. But the house is cold and the living room smells like sugar and you want more than anything for her to walk into the house and say, “Honey I’m home.” But it’s been years since she has spoken to you and you pretend nothing has changed and eat your dinner on the living room couch.
III. Twice a day you water the garden you planted after she left the second to last time. The roses are still making their way up the trellis and the lilacs lean against the front porch. The flowers are all you have left of a time when happiness lived in the palms of your hands and the dirt stains on your jeans. You had spent days out there. Weeding and raking and planting and hoping that whatever grew out of the dirt would be stronger and more beautiful then you could ever hope to be.