5 days ago. Oct 11, 2021, 12:22 PM
I almost feel guilty writing this morning.
Misty moody Monday morning greeted me today, not a “sense of foreboding” type of a day, just the type that let’s you listen. Even the dog was just a little more sluggish, but we still ventured out. Down the hill we wandered, no sniffing stops for a change but no great energy behind our steps.
I made it before him this morning, so had the advantage of silent observation for a change. His long loping strides seemed somehow off, out of sync with his own body. His hands were stuffed into his pockets which I found strange as the morning wasn’t cold enough for that. His eyes were down too, not raising from the road, not taking in the beauty of the glistening morning dew, not finding fantastic cobwebs lit up by droplets of water. He only glanced up just steps away from me, “morning, will we go?”
We took a gentler route, more roads than tracks, but the great advantage being one stunning spot that makes it seem flat-earth era are correct in their beliefs as the horizon just seems to encapsulate us in one huge bubble. The added bonus is a sturdy wall to plonk your ass too. He didn’t speak. He didn’t look up. He just walked. I’ve heard the expression “the silence was deafening” so many times in my life, and I thought I understood. I do today. That enormous roar in your ears from the situation, the awkwardness of not knowing what to say, the sound of your heart pounding in your ears from pure dread, the giant elephant in the room trumpeting and storming around - what was wrong. The indecision of it all - ask him what’s wrong - no, you don’t know him well enough to ask that - no, you should - no, it’d be rude. And then I remembered him asking me, and felt a little braver.
We stopped, we sat, eyes seaward I tried my hardest to ignore all the screaming arguing voices in my head and just enjoy the peace, and then my gorgeous pupper broke through to both of us. He jumped onto his lap, vocal as ever, and pushed himself into those strong arms. It was then I looked at his face properly and saw the trails from salty tears on that weathered face of his. And I found my words: “Do you want to talk about it?” I really struggled to stay looking at him and not hug him, but I did. His shoulders slumped and rounded, his arms and hands holding my dog close and burying them into his soft warm fur, one leg crossed over the other making a little nest for him to hold him. “I haven’t found the words for the last seven years, I don’t know if I can now either.” Fresh tears followed, just rivers of wetness following the wrinkles and lines etched into his skin and dripping down on the dog’s waiting body. “What happened seven years ago?” was all I could manage, my body feeling cuffed and bound by my own mind and not in a good way. “I lost my wife.” Wow, I never knew he was married. He only moved here a few years ago. “I’m sor…” I didn’t get to finish. “Fuck it, I didn’t lose her. She was stolen from me. The bastard should’ve taken me too.” And then he looked at me, the rage, the anguish, the emotion on his face terrified me. His eyes burned into mine, yet another expression I hadn’t understood before. “Drunk driver.”
The dog was licking his face, trying desperately to stop those tears from falling. I was frozen, numb, no idea what to say or what to do. But I couldn’t look away either. Brace for impact, MLP, this is going to go one of two ways: it’ll work, or he’ll walk off and not look back. “I straightened my back, crossed my legs, rested my hands in my lap, relaxed into the cold stone and took a breath: “Tell me about her, please.”
He stayed. He sighed. That giant body took on the persona of a small child, tears pouring so hard and fast I thought he’d surely run out soon. And then he told me about her.
We were late getting back, the divide in the road where we both headed home from seeming ominous, scary, empty as we approached it. I didn’t want to let him go home alone, but I had a school run to do. We stopped at the cross, silent again, my own hands shoved into my pockets this time staring down at my feet. “Same time tomorrow?”, the growl was back. I looked up, his back was rigid and straight, his posture alone almost challenging me to say no, arms crossed, defences enabled. Challenge accepted: “Can we go a little earlier so we can talk more?” I replied. He smiled, a few fresh tears started down his face. I gave up on stopping myself, broke the bounds of my mind, reached up and rubbed them away, then gave him a hug. He held on a little longer when I tried to pull away, bent double to bury his head against me and growled a “thank you” against my neck.
So I’m sitting here, school run done, a picture painted in my mind of the beautiful woman torn from him, stolen from him, wondering if he’s ok. I still don’t know what happened, I don’t know if I ever will. But he doesn’t seem as ominous as he did a couple of days ago. Those wrinkles and lines carved across his face are from pain. The endless physical work he does makes sense now. The silence exists because he just can’t find the words. Dammit, now I’m crying.
Hug your loved ones today, and hold on a little longer than usual please. Don’t do it for me, do it for yourself, and do it for him.