My dear, sweet man, my honey badger, my rock, the week you died was the hardest. Each room was too big, each breath an act of breaking.
Cooking breakfast was an unstoppable habit. I cracked four eggs, fried them. Snapping in the oil, they smelled like the past. There was no one to eat them, my appetite gone, so they slipped into the trash, together, unlike us. I would have done anything to bring you back. You left me alone, hollow. These were things I needed to tell you.
I wake at midnight, chilled, curling toward your side till I fall out of bed. I hit the floorboards hard, your slippers there to catch my face. I put them on. My thin nightdress is damp, the one you love, that clings to every part of me, leaving nothing unsaid. I ache for you. You’re already in your casket, underground. I walk to the kitchen, to the poison pills I managed to buy. I got a whole bottle, though I only needed one.
Hanging next to the door is Goldie’s collar. Goldie’s been dead five years now. Are you petting her? Is she happy? Will we all be together soon? Can we close this gap? I grab the collar, leash attached, my keys, and get in my car, drive to you.
At Saint Mary’s Cemetery, I try talking to the air, the soil, tell you I’m coming. Tell you how our show is unfolding. Tell you what your brother said at your funeral. Did you hear it?
I can’t feel you here. There’s more space than at the house, and it’s all closing in on me. My lungs are too small, I’m panicked, I run. I run over a mile to the VFW, your large slippers flapping the whole way, alarming the stars. My hair wild, my nightdress transparent, my heart a searchlight for your face.
I stop because I see you smoking outside. From behind, it’s you. I walk up, arms out, ready to fall into you. You turn, it’s not you, you’re confused, but excited. Where’s your dog? you say. You’re looking at the collar and leash in my hand. I lost her, I say, breath labored. You offer to help look for my lost dog. That isn’t the lost I meant, but it makes me feel like loss can be reversible.
We go to the cemetery. We look around mausoleums, pillars, gravestones with willows, urns, cherubs. I know there is nothing to find here, but I pretend. We give up on the dog, I say I’ll come back tomorrow, but I see how you’ve been eyeing my ass. We’re near my car now, we’re at your interment. I give you a blue pill from my one little pocket. I tell you you’ll be harder, last longer.
I call them by your name. I let them enter me like you wanted to. I close my eyes and see your face. I grab your headstone and bite into it so I won’t scream.
I told them they would be hard, now they’re stiff as a board. They lasted long enough, I guess. You never last long enough.
It’s important, while they’re still breathing, to tell them the things I have stored up that I wanted to share with you. I spill myself to them, as they gasp and shudder.
I hold them as they die, weeping, calling your name, beating my fists into the ground, grateful your plot is far from houses, far from the road. But you’re still too far from me. I drag them to the nearest freshly dug open grave. I drop them in, watch as they fall and crumple, as if asleep in the soil. I like seeing you that way. I sing you a lullaby before covering you with dirt.
I feel guilty after, for that poor, empty vessel, but I wanted you back, for a couple more moments. I keep thinking of more things to say to you. More follow, this template, my release. Some widows talk to the air, but it’s so much more satisfying to confess myself, during their death throes, to their wide, pleading eyes.
Melissa Saggerer has been a bellhop, a museum curator, and a library director. Her flash fiction is featured in Leopardskin & Limes and Milk Candy Review. Follow her on twitter @MelissaSaggerer.