How I dealt with my wife’s death

Photo by Carmen Mitrotta

Photo by Carmen Mitrotta

When we finally find the person we want to share our lives with, we don’t immediately think of what to do if their lives end early. Read Isola’s experience of losing the person he discovered new places with and how he carries on seeing new places for the both of them:

On that rainy Wednesday night when I walked into the hospital room the brightest smile lit up your face like a thunderbolt as I sat on a wobbly chair next to the old bed. Yet I was upset because you had asked for a bagel and I didn’t feel like walking to the bakery. I was late too, because I had to stop by the mall to but a new jacket.

Planning yet another trip that December took up most of my thoughts for absolutely no reason other than feeding that insatiable need to travel, to race like a madman up and down the world. I was chasing the shadow of my own ego, wanting another stamp on my passport from beautiful countries that I will never really get to know. You were always there to listen

Travelers are a dangerous sort. We’re so used to the escape that we forget how to sit down enjoy life, we forget what grounds us and we never should.

I was there that Wednesday night in that hospital room, I felt every splinter in that chair, every oxygen mask hanging persistently from the wall, mocking the air we take for granted, every tube and pipe coming in and out of your weakened body – and yet all you did was listen to my incoherent ramblings about places you will never see, days you will never welcome and sunshine that will never burn your fragile skin again.

You were dying and I was bragging about life.
A picture next to your bed was inviting and it took us back to the day that we will never lose; the day when all was lost but felt exactly as it should. It wasn’t a journey; it was nothing but you and I on top of the world.

As you’re strolling down Unter den Linden holding on firmly to your husband’s hand, I wonder what the world must have looked like back then, no GPS, no phones and just a few custom officers at midnight holding you for hours as you were trying to enter West Berlin. You have a lot of faith in your newlywed spouse, and you know you will soon find a phone and call your family to let them know you safely reached your final destination. The car is filled with maps and books, empty paper coffee cups and cigarette buds and it smells of your Chanel perfume and so many stories waiting to be told.

The hotel itself was nothing much but what you had was everything – waking up in Berlin.

The city has that certain blasé charm that swipes you off your feet the second you smell alluringly heavy breakfast mixed with tobacco wafting across the streets of Kreuzberg.

After all, this is your Honeymoon and it’s going to be as carefree or laden as you want it. With boot-cut jeans happily dancing around the puddles on both sides of the wall, the city remains divided for far too long.

The girl sitting next to you was desperately trying to keep her head above the imaginary line between heavy cigarette smoke and oxygen; for a second it seemed like there was a line until it all blended together in a synchronizing cloud of smoke, blocking the view from the window. It was rainy and gloomy, as it so often is in the city on the shores of Spree but nothing ever silences the music and turmoil, after all it is never peace that creates art of any kind.

The girl’s name was Nina and she was as vibrant and enchanting as everyone should be when they’re turning 21; the crazy childhood rants are far behind and the world waits to be conquered by yet another fresh and bright mind full of ideas and creative drive. It makes you want to rub against her and catch it while it’s still there, and so you did as she took you on a free tour of the city. The streets rolled by one by one, all the seasons changed in one day as Nina was talking about her paintings; the attractive story of a busy street corner and a young girl with big dreams.

She owned a small gallery across the street from an old U-Bahn station and the two of you owned her heart.

You were curious and in love and she didn’t know what that was like. Her paintings took up most of her energy so that very little was left for romance. She diligently finished every single one she ever started but there was only one left unfinished because love dared to mettle with art- the one she started painting from a foggy window from the pew of an old bistro on Unter den Linden.

As Nina got to know a charming young man who approached her asking for light, she was too busy rushing off to explore yet unknown and daring part of her heart, leaving the painting in sketches and drafts; nothing but a few lines of blue and pink where the sky meets the blossoms of lime trees. Love, to which she gave so much, left her behind with so little. But watching you left her hopeful.

Your husband was taking long drags of fresh tobacco next to you and you never did as much as wave your hand in a disapproving motion. You didn’t mind, he had an old olive green car and a heart of gold. After a split second of looking into his eyes, you knew he would be there holding your hand till the very end and he did, never putting a single scratch on your fragile heart.

When you wake up tomorrow after the rain and all is quiet but the sound of your own soul, you will know the quiet around you won’t last forever either; music will start playing, feet walking, heels clicking in a gallop on hot city asphalt, kids will start yelling and neighbors chatting on a balcony over your head, and you will go quiet because strange voices silence the beating of your heart. And you will remember Nina and her reckless love affair that wrecked her art.

Suddenly everything feels right as you drive back home, decades of relentless time passing by and piling on top of each other; each as turbulent and alive as the next one.

I feel like you drove straight back into that hospital room as your eyes were slowly closing down, counting the ending flutters of eyelashes.

I promised myself I would find a way to fix things but I couldn’t.

You died on a Friday morning and I stayed under the lindens in Berlin.

Listening to you just like you always listened to me, waiting patiently to hear the rest of the stories stuck in the olive green car between the piles of crumbled city maps and broken ashtray, soaked in your Chanel No.5.

You made a promise that day and so did I, to never stop wandering no matter the circumstances and mundane, the reality and harshness and the river of tears you cry for someone. And I never will stop dreaming, telling you stories and crossing oceans.

From time to time I feel like I had already lived this life before because I know myself too well and even though I don’t know why some stories begin, I know why some never end.

Submitted to ArtParasites by Isola