Effigy

What you do when someone leaves you behind is, you dig a hole, you line it with rocks.

You take the bricks left over from when you built that flower bed by the side of the house, you lay them out around the hole.  You don’t think about the flowers, you don’t think about how they died, how they didn’t get enough sun where you built the bed, how they withered and wasted away.

You go inside and you gather all the things, the tiny hurtful things, the hair clip from between the cushions of the couch, the sock from behind the hamper, the scribbled grocery list.

You grab the afghan from off the back of the couch.  You don’t think about how it smells like her, like the expensive shampoo that she used.  You don’t think about the fights, about how it was her little luxury that you could never quite afford.  You take all these things and you throw them into the hole.  You take all the letters, the postcards that she wrote you when she traveled, you ignore the stupid puns, the lame tourist jokes.  You ignore where she wrote always, where she wrote love, where she wrote forever.  You take the letters and you throw them into the hole.

What you do when someone leaves you behind is, you go through everything, you grab the shirt of yours that she liked to wear, the stuffed bear that you bought her for cliche Valentine’s, the magazine she left on the side table, the wineglass still stained with her lipstick.  You take all these things and you throw them into the hole.

You go and get the pictures from behind the smashed glass of the frames, you take them out of the frames, you brush the broken glass away, you absently suck the blood when you get cut.  You ignore the images there, the two of you with your faces pressed together in the couple’s selfie pose, the grinning faces so clearly happy and warm and together, you two standing in front of the giant statue of Babe the Blue Ox, holding hands, a stranger behind the camera, pressed into service so the two of you could be in the picture together, just so happy to be alive. You ignore the image of her in the field, arms spread, absorbing the sun like a flower, you don’t look, you don’t think, you just take the pictures and you go and you drop them into the hole one by one.

You take something flammable, lighter fluid or diesel, or gas, and you pour it over everything in the hole.

Then what you do when you are left behind is, you stare into the hole, you think that this sad small pile of things looks like garbage, forgotten and used up.  You wonder if this is it, everything that was you, is this the whole of your lives together, everything that can hurt you, that can cut you apart, that can crush you, all these tiny little secrets, when this is gone will there be anything left, when this burns into ash, will you be okay then?  When the heat rises, and the smoke pours into the sky, is that when you will be able to move on?  This whole part of your life, all the time and laughter and tears, all the stupid forever words, all the touches, all the absent thoughts.  You look in the hole, and you think, is this everything that you were, is this all that there was?

And then you light a match.  And you drop that into the hole too.

And as the fire bursts and the heat pushes you back, you realize it isn’t enough, there was more that needs to go into the fire.

When someone leaves you behind, what you do is, you have a fire, and you get it as hot as you can stand, and then you reach into your own chest, you find all the pieces of your heart that you can, and you stand there with bloody hands, and you drop the pieces one by one into the hole where they wither and curl into ash.  You reach inside and you pull out all the memories you can find, and you feed those too, into the fire, and watch as they are consumed.  You reach into that place in your very being that was reserved just for her, that you set apart, you pull that out too and you watch as the flames take it.

And then you stand there, empty and blank, as the fire burns all traces of her away and you watch the fire burn it all up, you watch it flicker and burn itself out.

What you do when you are left behind is

You have a fire.

One thought on “Effigy

  1. Steven Simonetti

    For someone who’s happily married, you sure do write a lot about heartbreak.
    I thought your other piece, “Heat,” was particularly empathic: http://ralphpullins.com/heat/

    Is this a sequel?

    Curious about how you come to find yourself in that headspace. Memories perhaps? Can a healthy relationship leave a person nostalgic for gut wrenching loss?

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