I remember sleeping through the night.
I remember when I didn’t wake up at 3:17 am and lay awake for hours and hours trying not to remember.
I remember when I didn’t lock my doors. Or keep my car in the garage. Or pull the curtains at night so no one could see in.
I remember in the before, when I didn’t shop in a different town in a different store at odd hours, mask and sunglasses not able to hide enough of me.
I remember when I didn’t cry myself to sleep.
I remember when nightmares were tequila-induced and not terror-induced.
I remember waking up crying, the pillow wet, tissues all over the floor, not from sex but from snot.
I remember tan skin and curly blonde arm and leg hair bleached white by the sun.
I remember his eyes smiled.
I remember hand-holding.
I remember slow dancing.
I remember coffee in bed.
I remember camping and waking up to smell of coffee and bacon and sunshine.
I remember loud parties and quiet clean ups.
I remember ice fishing and kayaking and the size of his hands on a newborn.
I remember late-night popcorn.
I remember him sleeping in the hospital bed with me and a baby, wanting to get closer.
I remember believing it would get better.
I remember us.
I remember never being alone.
I remember family picnics with water balloons thrown from the roof.
I remember elevator rides and eye contact and comfortable confidence.
I remember wanting to be loved.
I remember sleeping alone.
I remember moving kids to college then moving bedrooms.
I remember my husband not missing me.
I remember him sleeping on the couch.
I remember being embarrassed.
I remember driving away from loneliness.
I remember silent car rides up the turnpike. The thruway. The mass pike. Nothing but silence.
I remember turning up the music loud then louder, trying to drown out the silence.
I remember thinking I’d rather be alone alone, then alone together.
I remember waiting.
I remember pride and compliments at parties and protests and games.
I remember silence when the audience dispersed.
I remember begging to be seen to be heard to be touched.
I remember being alone on the beach in hotels in commuter lots in state parks.
I remember not being able to find a bathroom.
I remember sitting in my car in the Target parking lot watching women shopping alone and wondering if they too were lonely or just alone.
I remember thinking maybe they just needed a candle or diapers or sunscreen and were hurrying home to someone who missed them.
I remember believing him when he said he would fix this.
Don’t give up on me.
My life is nothing without you.
I remember he said that.
Or did I dream it?
I remember waiting.
I remember counting down: three years, two years, one year, nine months. Waiting. I remember time was irrelevant.
I remember leaving.
I remember being scared and alone and calling him saying I’m scared and alone and I remember he said I know, I’m sorry.
I remember him texting me a picture of a coffee cup.
I remember that made me cry happy tears.
I remember coming home to see the dogs and hearing music playing and chicken thawing on the counter and he did not even care that I was gone.
I remember this hurt more than almost anything.
I dream of driving off the GWB the Tappen Zee the Newburgh-Beacon, plummeting into the Hudson below and unable to break the windows and the water rushing and car sinking and I can’t escape or get my kids out of their car seats.
I wish I couldn’t remember.
I remember thinking he’ll miss me.
I remember he did not.
I remember he lost his job and ran away from me and not toward. Never toward. I remember even in crisis I was not disposable. Not needed. In the way.
I remember he moved to Florida.
I was not consulted. Invited. Included.
I remember nightmares.
I remember looking for him in endless corridors: trying to unlock doors in hotels in hospitals in highway rest stops.
I remember the doors all locked I can’t get in and no one is looking for me.
I remember loneliness.
I remember kids being home and trying to talk to him on the phone and crying quietly because he had nothing to say but getting loud then louder then my son taking coming upstairs and taking the phone away and my daughter saying don’t cry Mom it’s going to be okay, like I’m the kid and they the parent and they should not be consoling me.
But I remember that felt good.
I remember thinking this is not okay.
I remember thinking maybe she’s right.
I remember moving a kid to Denver. Flying home alone.
Another to Brooklyn. Driving home alone.
I remember the National Guard and hospitals overflowing and freezer trucks for bodies and mass graves in Staten Island and calling him, scared, people are dying, I cried.
I remember his saying, I don’t know what you want me to do.
Another to North Carolina. Driving home alone.
I remember him not calling. Or texting. Or emailing. Or responding.
I remember his saying, I don’t know what to say.
I remember how much I hate to clean the fish tank but I have to keep the fish alive.
I remember drinking too much and calling crying.
I remember him moving away: we need the money.
But what about me, I remember thinking. Do you need me?
I remember sleeping in the guest room. The couch. The hotels. The apartment.
He didn’t miss me.
I remember dogs and aunts and trees dying.
I remember paying people to touch me.
I remember crying when the hairstylist combed my hair.
I remember YouTubing how to start the generator, how to fix a modem, how to check for carbon dioxide poisoning, can wood-burrowing bees eat your house are stink bugs poisonous can a person run out of tears.
I remember thinking I can do this, then sitting on the garage floor crying because actually, I can’t.
I met my son’s girlfriend last week, and his face lit up like the sunrise when she walked in and she was funny and easy to talk to and he was joyful and I remember thinking she loves him and he loves her.
I remember being so happy but also sad because I wanted to share this with his dad.
I remember wanting to tell his dad how nice that was, how lonely I was to do this alone, sad and embarrassed because I remember when he used to look at me that same way, or at least I him, and now all I remember is the years of waiting to make new memories, so when we would look back at this bad sad lonely time in our lives we would be grateful we survived and he too would remember, and say I’m so sorry, Kate, I remember how good it was and I will make it so again, but
this is a false memory because all I remember now is
checking my phone 100 times a day and in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning,
which is often 3:17 am
no missed calls.
Not this week, not last. Not this month or year, but yesterday his name popped up on my phone and I remember immediate butterflies in my stomach and I actually screenshot his name because because because what if this is it finally, he’s calling to talk, to explain, to come home, and I have hopeful butterflies on my insides, the good kind, not the car accident kind or look at someone’s open wound kind, and I rush home to call back asap, as soon as I get home, alone, so ready to hear his voice, I can not wait and am convinced he too now remembers who I am, who we were, and now is the beginning —
But I remember the text.
I’m filing, you’ll get papers this week. I told the kids. They understand.
I remember sobbing little kid sobs, unable to catch my breath to get spit in my mouth the words sticking and I called and remember asking him but what but how but why and humiliating myself yet again asking begging pleading why didn’t you try and
it was then
I heard him laugh and I remember the bad butterflies came fast, watching a car accident butterflies and I sobbed
did you just laugh at me
and no response, nothing but dead air.
I hung up. And I remember throwing the phone across the room and the dog was scared and so was I and
I remember blood in my ears, roaring like a flash flood, the storm drains unable to keep up, so much water turning roads into rivers, my car skimming like a stone across the pond, trying desperately to hold it together but unable to keep on the road and the good butterflies turn immediately morbid and evil, fear flooding my bloodstream, my heart and brain unable to keep up not enough storm drains in the world and I am flooded, drowning with grief.
The butterflies on my insides aren’t nice, not anymore, but raw and naked and thrashing, smashed by the blunt force of reality, the windshield stunning them but they’re not dead, not yet, just battered, bouncing off the vehicle, wings tattered and torn, bodies broken, landing bruised and breathless on the pavement, so the next car, and the next, and the next, drive over it, oblivious to what it once was, never having seen it fly.
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