Seashells

I had just died when I got the card from that woman. I don’t remember her name or the nice things she said to me. Her words seemed recited from a practiced script. She was an actress pushed out onto the stage to hold my hand repeat words, words she’d said so many times they’d lost all meaning to her.

The card was for a psychiatrist who would help me through all of this. Anger management. Addiction. Grief. Psychiatrists only deal in negativity. You would have told me to go. You would’ve said it was important. You would have encouraged me to face this all and deal with it. So I went home.

I took Sasha down to that little inlet between the jetties–the one where you thought the earth should end. You said on clear days you could take your glasses off and the ocean would melt into the sky without so much as a seam. It was your glasses and their clarity that made the scene less breathtaking, you said.  I always hated how poetically you viewed the world. How you chose to rationalize flaws into serendipitous grace. It’s like you were forcing meaning onto nothing, just so you’d have something to call ‘beautiful.’ I’m surprised you didn’t request rose-colored lenses in your prescription.

Sasha found a shell in the surf and carried it up to me, but she got anxious when she realized I wasn’t the one who used to collect them. If she remembers the shells, then she remembers you were here one day and not another. It breaks my heart for really selfish reasons–I don’t want to hear her whine and fret about what to do with the shell. It’ll bother her until we get home and she can curl up at the foot of the bed like before. Then she’ll stop worrying because that’s when you’re supposed to come home. She’ll be asleep before you don’t.

Dogs have good memories, but they’re easily distracted. People are more likely to dwell. And it feels like I dwell on your absence more than is healthy. I know you’re just across town, but it’s not that simple, and you’d tell me that if you could. We’re living in different times now. You’ve started somewhere else, and I’m left to continue holding on to an old life and an old dog who still brings you seashells.
I’d like to pull you back from when everything fell apart and tell you I told you so. I told you it would end like this. I told you to take these things more seriously. But you’d put on that knowing smile and feign ignorance. And you’d blame it all on something stupid, like the fact that we’d kept too many promises.
I kept that little shelf you started. The one you put the seashells on. It’s still just as out of place and awkward as it was when you were here, but I’ve been too busy to do anything about it, especially now that I have to look after Sasha all by myself. Do you know how frustrating it is to have to keep up a tradition you never wanted in the first place? It’s like being forced to dress up as Santa every December, even though the kids have all grown up and moved out. It’s just sad now. Sad and inconvenient.

And I hate to admit that I’ve started collecting the seashells. It’s for Sasha. She seems so lost without someone to appreciate them. She doesn’t understand that they’re worthless and that you’re not coming back for them. I’ve started another shelf to sate her naively hopeful compulsion–to humor her and let her pretend that you’ve come back. She loves those stupid trinkets. Little bits of mineral poetry and beautiful nothing.

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