Week 51 waiting for the guilt of a day when I don’t cry. It will come, it’s inevitable but I fear it. I will have to allow it though, when it comes, let it in and let it pass just like all the other elements.

The physical process has caught up with me recently, running on empty for so long. I’m tired of the aching ribs after a bad few days. Tired of thinking and feeling, of constantly churning it around in my mind. It’s always there running in the background like some antivirus software chugging away, slowing down the system.

He would do a ‘clean up’ once a month and fiddle about with programmes that were outside of my area. I wasn’t really bothered so long as I could use email and internet. It was what he did, his designated department like doing the BBQ, poking the fire while I arranged lettuce or being in charge of the TV reception in a holiday cottage – he checked the scarts, I unpacked the clothes. Those little parts of a relationship that build up over the years, that you carve out between you, that you grieve for in the new world, losses within loss, all needing to be looked at.

I was never entirely sure why it took so long to run these scans but it was built into the odd weekend and apparently improved the system. So into the new world it occurred to me there was no ‘cleaning up’ being done mid month or at any other time and I wondered just how long the computer would work without this input. It did slow down a little but nothing that another cup of green tea couldn’t wait for. Of course whenever I switched it on it screamed at me to update, install and upgrade but I tentatively then defiantly and more recently, irritatedly clicked out of them. I could get to my blog, that was enough, it was ok. But at some point when the window reminding me of the number of updates became so huge it needed its own update, I decided to do something about it. And it rattled away through the night and a through a worrying amount of the following morning but nothing exploded or combusted and my email was still there. Solved it, for now at least. Another aspect to bitterly take over, to stumble through and take on. To just about get away with it, (like existing.)

It took me back to an early moment from before we were even married. In the long pre parenthood evenings we became obsessed with a computer game (me, for a while. Him for…a little longer). I faffed about with it, complained at some of the imagery, but occasionally enjoyed blowing something up after an irritating day at work, plus it was great for bouts of PMT. He, naturally, took it more seriously and compared notes and techniques with his friend who’d introduced the blessed thing to us in the first place.

There was competition between us and of course I couldn’t keep up. It was silly and fun and I was many levels behind him. However… one evening while he was engrossed in some programme I decided to have a bit of a catch up. I tried my best but still couldn’t get beyond the train depot, I was stuck, couldn’t jump, couldn’t go back and couldn’t find the trick to get out (like a bad day now.) I saved it, gave up and thought just for a moment I’d have a look at where he ‘was’. I clicked on his last session, had a snoop around, was none the wiser and came out of it. I did save it properly, I’m sure I did. Honestly. But something made me look again and a horrible creeping coldness came over me (a different universe of coldness to the one sledgehammered around you when you’re taken into a private office and the soft gentle click of the door closing behind you is as loud as your heart banging in your ears.)

But back then in that simple free careless griefless lossless world, it was a bad feeling. I looked again at his session and, god help me, I’d overridden it with my own, mine from the ‘early girly baby ‘ levels that he’d gayly skipped over weeks ago. This wasn’t good. Not good at all. I thought about trying again but was well out of my depth so trudged guiltily down stairs to get his attention. I stood before him like a naughty child, my expression saying it all when I thought I had bad news for him (a universe away from when I approached the same settee thirteen years later to sit by our son. Then there was no expression, there was no face, I was nothingness, I was void.)

But back then he looked up as I jokingly offered him back the engagement ring to illustrate the depths to which I had fallen. To be honest, there was some swearing and he had a fantastic range, so creative and so many new words that I’d learnt over the years. Some of them came out then, as he went to survey the damage. We were never really quite sure how I did it but clearly now there was a job to be done so I replaced the ring and let him get on with it. He was still busy getting on with it when I went to bed later and like my recently updated system apparently he also chugged away through the night …just to catch up. And so a mere seven hours later and all was as it should have been. I did finish the game at some point and we emailed his friend to explain my ‘faux pas’. I remember his email back to us, it was very very long and made only one comment repeatedly ‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha’.

Years later I was pretty good on the computer but he was always a step ahead and was in charge of the background stuff, that suited me and it worked for both of us. But now I have to tinker and mess about with things I don’t really understand. I have to make mistakes, and get it wrong, I have to research if I don’t know, I have to google it and if all else fails ‘get a man in’. Like I had to recently about the boiler. But I make sure I know my angles, till I know enough or have some idea of what to say. I gird my loins, know my lines and hide my ring finger in my pocket. I get through it, feel stronger until he rings back later with figures and says ‘do you want to discuss it with your husband first?’

I say I’ll get back to him and drop the phone. The remains of the day are overridden.

But now I can’t go upstairs to catch up, I can’t do anything, I can’t change it, no amount of hours will erase this incomprehensible situation. And the whole grotesque programme is turned up loud, running, screaming at me in the foreground now. And all I can see are all the details in a neon garish close up counting down brightly pixilated all around me, in a continual strange loop, inescapable rushes ticking and ticking, watching me watching it, re living it second by second, frame by frame, atom by atom for the next week

until

Game over.

x

Epilogue

Sodden after snow, remaining clumps hang on to coldness. The thick mist pulls itself close into the hill. The air is saturated with bird calls. Ugly mud demanding its way. Fuzzy horizon, battered and damaged ground beaten by snow and little ice pools of mud strawed out the old grass.

Way too many dogs having to walk despite the cold.

Damp quelled people shuffle around me as though I’m not here. Standing oddly in the middle of nowhere typing with a purpose they don’t know.

Not so cold, but the day carries an odd heavy mysteriousness. Time to work this out at home, I think. Treading down the plants I stood by earlier, bashed and held back by frozen tears. None of this feels real today. The bird tapping through the mist, the careful steps, the tingling skin. I don’t think I’m here. I don’t understand this. Time for a slow descent, this isn’t working.

Heady anticipation

On the edge

Clinging

Tested the normal route but it was impassable, clung to branches and changed direction. Tripped, snagged by bramble, ignore and keep going. Needed to pick my way home by the steamed up traffic. Thrown back into the rush hour thoughts. Hurrying relentless. Glanced at woolied toddler safely shielded from this icy pain trundled by in designer wheels. Flipped back to the days of tantrums and tired achievements of getting out just to buy a sticker book. And it hurts too much and I have to stop.

And just by my drain I met the old lady, huddled years weighing her down. Taking care of herself in wool and nylon, smiling up at me with support of stick and terrier. And is that bedraggled matted guide her only company when she closes the door? Has she been through all of this near the end of her life? What agony has she lived with? How has she changed to accommodate the weight of loss? Creased and stripped by the hours but still out there in the cold, in the winter, hunching her way through the days.

I smile back. I want to hug her, I want to hold her tightly, this total stranger wet and wrinkled in navy. I want to take it all away, what ever it is. To comfort, to make better, to carry, to ease her pain and mine. It will be ok, it will be ok, it will stop. I want to cry in her arms as the dog pulls and yaps at our feet. His jingling collar shining through the darkness.

I hold the image. What does she know? What will I know by then?

Did I walk past myself?

Her persistence. Her pain.

One step in front of the other, following the scratch click of eager paws.

Hardened, but grace in her stoic fragility.

x

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