The Goodbye

by Susan Brooks Fleming and Marcus Joe Prudhon is the other author

Little cubes of ice....hard, cold, unrelenting, the rain fell like little cubes of ice coating every thing it touched with thickened unfrozen water. The ground was soft, it had to be soft, it had to be churned up to make the place where he had been placed; the cold would make it hard again. Numbed fingers poked into the ground prompted by the insane notion that somehow she could reach the box where they had placed him before they put him in the ground. Funny how tears are still hot, even in the cold. The cemetery was deserted now, had been for hours, and this little place on the hill was hard to see from the road. At last there was privacy for her to say goodbye and be left alone by the well-meaning people who said that it would get better. Stretching out, she lay on the ground beside his place, finally falling asleep with the cold...having no intention of ever waking again. 

The warmth of the room and the pristine cleanness of the room provided her eyes with the information that she was in a hospital. Sluggishly, her mind wondered which part of the hospital housed her. She could move her arms and legs so they had not tied her in the bed. The window showed no evidence of bars or wire security closure. If she was careful how she answered questions, she might get out of here and move on with her objective. She did not intend to continue her existence without him. A nurse who possessed entirely too much happiness briskly walked into the room, humming cheerfully. Noticing opened eyes, she smiled and chirped, "Good Afternoon!" Standing by the bed the nurse's bright words seemed to turn to very real chirps as she turned the words she did not wish to hear to nothingness. 

The day she walked out of the hospital the sun was shining and the sky was a clear robin's egg blue. The day sounded happy and people were smiling. After three strangers nodded and smiled, she got out sun glasses and looked at the ground as she walked. She returned to her apartment because she had no where else to go. 

It smelled old, and had a dead look to it. It was clean, things were where they belonged, but it looked like an untouched museum exhibit. An exhibit of the life she lived before, and one she could not go back to because he was no longer there. She walked into the bedroom and sat staring at the room, rubbing her hand across the pillow, his pillow, stirred his scent, and she buried her face in the pillow allowing the light and the present to be removed from her consciousness. She fell asleep and slept until the next morning. 

She awakened from her troubled sleep with the first gray light before dawn. Walking to the window, she looked out and thought of all the mornings the two of them had greeted the dawn with love and sharing of words and thoughts. 

She looked forward to the seemingly endless progression of days before her, alone, without him.  She thought of his words again towards the end. " I will not leave thee."  Behind her she heard a faint sound as if the sheets on the bed were moved. Turning around, she saw nothing. Turning back to the window, the noise came again. Closing her eyes, she let her mind be as blank and receptive as her grief would allow. 

Then, as softly as a bit of down lands on a newly cleaned surface, she felt his presence and the gentle ethereal touch of unseen hands. 

Almost fainting, she thought to herself, ''If this be madness, then let it be so." 

She walked out of the room, knowing in her heart that while he could never be with her in the flesh again, he would forever be with her in heart, soul and spirit, and that reunion with him was not only possible, it was certain. 

She spent her time in the house as much as she could because it was the only place that held things that were his. A candle he had blown out seemed to hold his breath, a shirt on the back of that chair waiting there because he would wear it again. Sometimes she could make herself believe that he would walk back into the house with the "Hey, sweetie" he had started calling her. It made her smile because it had started as a joke. He had told her they would grow old and he'd lose his memory and call her sweetie because he couldn't remember her name. She held the shirt to her face as hot tears escaped from her eyelids. The smell of him filled her with such longing. Again, she could feel his touch, whisper light, but his touch still. 

Walking into the living room she noticed a book on the desk that she did not remember putting there. Reaching for it, she recognized it as one that he had really enjoyed reading, Born Fighting, she noticed a piece of yellow legal paper at the back cover. His favorite paper to write on, she thought as she opened the paper. It was a letter, in his distinctive all caps block printing. The letter began: 

Dear One,  
If you are reading this I did not survive and I know you are alone and have been that way for some time. You said one time that you could not go on without me. You cannot live your life in the past. You cannot do away with yourself. I am telling you that you are to go out and find someone else, go ahead and miss me for you always will. Don't close yourself away from the world and become someone else. You were joy to me and you gave me reason to celebrate each day. I cannot bear to think of you withdrawn and aching in our house all by yourself. Don't come visit my grave if you plan to kill yourself, I cannot bear the grief of you doing that. I am all right, you need not worry. The pain vanished and I am happy. We will meet again.  
I love you. 

The air in the house was still, nothing was moving, she was holding her breath. She felt the warmth of an invisible embrace and she could swear that she heard "goodbye." The paper began to tremble in her hand, and she knew that he was really gone and she was alone.