I remember you just the same.
The day I walked in, I remember your tiny pale yellow flips flops sitting under your bed, as if you never left. All your clothes still in the closet. The photos of your family replaced by photos of you. Your bed untouched but pristine. I put your flip flops on and wept, sitting on the corner of the bed. I could never fit into them. You had these dainty little feet to match your dainty little self. I never wanted to leave that bed. The room, tucked away, bright when necessary, dark when needed. The walk in closet you hoarded up with memories for everyone, except yourself. I remember standing at the bottom of the stairs and looking up at the kitchen, the uneven worn out stone steps and running up and down them as a kid. I never expected to see you up there. I walked up, knowing there was just a large empty space and you weren’t crouching over in the corner somewhere churning butter. I knew you wouldn’t be there around the back, near the shower, ready for your hour long scrub down after a day of work. They put a table in the middle of the kitchen, trying to reclaim the space you left behind. An entire dining table and the six chairs around it obviously didn’t help. Your tiny little body loved that one edge by the stove, but your tiny little body was all over that kitchen, and you had left the imprints of your movements everywhere. No number of tables and chairs can remove the ghosts you left behind. All the tins and jars of sugar, salt and spices just sat there lazily, being ignored.
And that was it. I remember your movements around the kitchen. I could have stood there all day and envisioned your activities from sunrise to nightfall. The way you blindly added spices and salt with your hands. You owned one spoon, that sat next to the stove, ready to be used for when you tasted your food before you served it, which never happened. The spoon grew rust and the rust spread onto the white marble counter top and you got annoyed and threw away the spoon and complained that everyone just left spoons everywhere. I could have sat in your room just the same, and you’d be right there, talking away, growing tired and letting me chat away while you dozed. Then one day, you gave up being tired altogether and left. They burned your body and collected it in the form of ashes and freed you over the river, while I missed it all. We didn’t get to chatter away, but the last time I saw you, you let me pick up your tiny body and whirl you around and I remember thinking how your frail bones and thin skin coped. They didn’t. I remember you the same because I wasn’t there to witness you being any different.
The day I walked in, I remember her tiny pale yellow flips flops sitting under her bed, as if she never left. All her clothes still in the closet. The photos of her family replaced by photos of her. When I started to weep, you pulled me into your chest and we didn’t speak until I stopped weeping. I have been sitting here trying to remember you just the same, because I no longer want to have witnessed you being any different. I want to remember your wrinkles, your old songs, your disapproval of the world and everyone that inhabited it. Well, everyone but one. But I remember the day you stopped being the same. Now, no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember you anyhow else.
You just stood outside the doorframe, nodding solemnly while you accepted the hundreds of condolences that spilled out onto you. Hours later, when everyone had done their part, you wept and wept and wept for your love. You wept a storm that drenched your face and soul. When it passed, there was no physical damage, just a lingering disheartened understanding that you needed to continue surviving, for others. So, you recreated her room, pretending she was still there. But you couldn’t recreate her kitchen, because there was never anything but her little body and ungodly amounts of food on every counter, so you forced in a table and chairs that would never be used, not even by the dog. You spent your days in silence, awaiting death. You lost weight, probably because you stopped eating all that homemade butter. Counting down hours and days until you two could both be swimming together in the form of ashes in that river, starting a whole new love story.
Sometimes I think it might have been better for the both of us if I had managed to remember you just the same too.