black coffee, one sugar

by martha gatt ~

2016 was the year I whole heartedly collapsed into freefall when a girl broke my heart. And the strangest part of it all – while all of this was happening, the rest of the world just kept moving forward.

I once read that the only worse thing than grieving someone who passed away is grieving someone who still walks among the living. They are somewhere else in the world at this very moment, living and breathing, without you. People who once were your people, but are no longer your people. They wake up in the morning and have their coffee in a mug just the way they like it: a splash of milk, no sugar. Life resumes as normal. When it came knocking, I welcomed grief in like an old friend. I took its jacket and hung it gently over the kitchen chair, while it took off its shoes and made itself comfortable on the sofa. I poured it a glass of wine, the expensive kind too. I fed it, bathed it and gave it room to breathe on its own. I completely shatter at the thought of another someone who is not me, making her laugh. Briefly, I considered the old adage of getting under someone new, a shiny ill-suited distraction as an impermanent fix. But I couldn’t bear to think of another’s hands in mine, lips on mine. It felt like I was cheating, it made me physically sick. It would be years before I let another lover in.

When I am awakened at two a.m., I toss and turn and count backwards from four hundred trying to choose sleep over you. I wake up for the second time to the sound of dogs barking at six in the morning and stretch my toes to the edge of the bed, holding on to those fleeting few seconds of bliss where I momentarily forget. I pour my own coffee – black, one sugar, and wonder if you are awake yet. It takes forty minutes of driving in almost static traffic to get to work, the sweltering July heat scorches the back of my neck. The radio hosts flirt and make inappropriate jokes that make me cringe but I don’t turn it off. They play happy loud music, one song after another, almost like they do not know of the grief which sat buckled in the passenger seat next to me. When they ask me about you at work, I shrug to stop myself from crying, because I know there is little to do except wait this part out. After the first few weeks, the questions are replaced by half smiles and a small pat on the back. A gesture of solidarity.

Count back from two hundred.

That morning grief engulfed me in all its might and glory but I again acknowledge it, respect its existence. I sleep more than I ever have slept before in my life although somehow, I am constantly tired. During the day I become acutely aware of the passing of time and I am dazed that it is both stubborn and painfully slow. It seeps through small fragments of ordinary day things, like not buying your favourite chocolate when I am shopping for food, or spending hours at our beach spot by myself on a sunny day in the fall. The crying decelerates over the months, the solitude becomes comfortable. Under the strangest of circumstances, the grief somehow begins to make sense and I allow myself to fully indulge in it. I discover that the more I do this, the faster I fall asleep. Sorrow and tolerance finally holding hands. I watch the sun descend back home, its temporary replacement beckoning the stars as the sky grows darker. The show is about to begin. I feel a sense of nostalgia wash over me. Two lovers unable to meet in real time, something inside me softens. Life resumes as normal, but little stays the same.