I remember everything, or at least the things that matter. I remember every pore of his skin, the encysted bump he had on the back of his head, the way he looked like a droll rabbi when he steepled his fingers. I remember the smell of his skin. I remember the lopsided grin he’d get, so wolfish and calculating and triumphant, when he’d won an argument.
I remember the weary look he’d get when we argued. I’d insist on staying up half the night so we wouldn’t go to bed angry. I remember the feel of his arms around me when I had my period,when I’d cry, and he’d bring me hot water bottles. I remember his laugh, his anger, his joy.
I remember how his colorblindness led to some odd clothing choices. I remember him growing a bit heavier on my cooking, and liking it. I remember the plans we made, the places we went and what it was like to be mistaken for his mistress, or a maid, because we were different colors. I remember asking him to marry me, and I remember how, after spending years of saying no, he turned to me out of the blue and casually proposed.
I remember leaving my mother’s house to be with him, and him going into his office for hours while I unpacked, as he got used to the idea of a woman sharing his home. I remember he said it was temporary, and it lasted nearly eight years. I remember the flowers that were everywhere in the living room, waiting for me and silently greeting me.
I remember worrying that if he was an atheist we might not see each other after death. I remember deciding that God could not be that cruel, and if he was, I didn’t want to believe anymore. I remember accepting that we’d have no children, and I remember convincing myself that between my asthma and his age, we’d die at the same time. I remember being happier than I’d ever been before or since. I remember the taste of him.
I remember turning 36, and thinking we had everything before us. I remember finding his body, and screaming for what seemed like hours.
I remember how I bargained with God to take me instead, and I remember that it was then I realized how much he meant to me. I remember the black dress I wore to the memorial service. I remember all the people who came. I remember the empty bed, and my heart breaking. I remember telling my mother I was a widow. I remember telling his mother that he was gone. I remember feeling like a ghost haunting a house. I remember dating again and making a botch of it.
I remember losing most of my friends. I remember the drinking, and the suicide calls, and the despair, and the self-absorption. I remember not being able to leave the house during daylight hours, and not being able to remember where I lived or where I was going. I remember limiting myself to an hour a day of crying, and then a half hour, and eventually five minutes. I remember being poor. I remember hating couples on Valentine’s Day. I remember no longer crying, but simply praying for death. I remember making myself finish the degree he’d helped me start, and finding work, and wishing he could be there. I remember sleeping with everything that moved so I could forget his taste and smell, and finally realizing I didn’t want to.
I remember meeting a man online whose fiancée had died, and he’d hated dating, too. I remember calmly noting, when we met in person, that my hand seemed to fit perfectly into his. I remember how he said he wished he’d known my husband. I remember letting myself feel slightly happy again. I remember how hard it is when he goes back home, and how I long for him.
And I remember the taste of him, too.
Michele Buchanan has been a writer, an adjunct professor of anthropology, an executive recruiter and a marketing specialist. She lives in New Jersey, and blogs at The Cocktail Hour.