When the police officers arrive at the house, you’re in your dressing gown, just about to climb into bed. You hear their words, but you know it’s a mistake. They’ve got the wrong house, or the wrong registration plate, or it’s a practical joke in poor taste.
After they leave, you check your phone for messages. You wait for him to call, to explain what’s going on, until you fall asleep with the phone in your hand. In the morning, you set two places at the breakfast table, but you drop one of the cereal bowls. It smashes into pieces.
At the morgue they show you the body, saying it needs to be identified. You still don’t believe it, can’t grasp the truth lying on a slab in front of you. But you touch his skin, and it’s the coldest thing you’ve ever felt.
These burning coals are yours to grasp, and yours alone. People leave flowers and notes, pour out their commiserations in indulgent messages on the answering machine. They elbow in on your space, plant their own flags in the mountain of your grief.
But they will go back to their lives, their families, their homes that don’t feel thick with emptiness. And you will remain. So you shout at the walls, you leave the phone ringing, you find his pictures and turn them over so you don’t have to look at his face.
You can’t stop thinking of the bastard who was driving the other car, who thought he could handle his drink. You imagine standing by his hospital bed explaining to him the insult, the pure injustice that left him only with broken bones. You picture your hands, wrapped around his neck, squeezing, squeezing.
You walk to the shops, but when you get there you turn back, because you’ve forgotten what you were going for.
You leave the mail on the floor by the front door, slowly rising piles of white envelopes.
In the evening you realise you haven’t eaten anything all day.
Everything in the house is imprinted with him. The cushions on the sofa bear the shaped outline of his body. The bed smells like him. The grass in the garden grows longer each day, because he was the one who mowed it. You find yourself sitting in the corner of the shower, your knees drawn to your chest. All you can hear, or see, or smell, or feel, is the hot water, pounding.
When you wake up in the morning, you tell him to turn the alarm off. It keeps ringing.
When you return from work you call his name to let him know you’re home.
You talk to people about your husband, and it’s only later you realise you were speaking about him in the present tense.
You find the overturned pictures and put them back in their place. You study them every day, because it’s the only way you’ll be able to remember his face.