I thought about where Eve had gone. Where could she have gone? Was she still around? I still felt her. I never stopped feeling her presence. Do people really leave us? Or do they only leave their bodies and go walking around looking for new ones? Do they become new souls? Do they let go of their memories and go through a machine making them shiny and new like that Shel Silverstein poem? Babies and the elderly have much in common.
But Eve was not elderly. Eve was young. Eve had not yet done all that she could have in this life. Leaving a city, running away with a lover, making a new life. What did all that mean?
What did it mean for me? That was the biggest question. What did it mean to be alone here? How could she leave me alone? How could she allow me to come with her, knowing that this was possible? Knowing that I would be left here.
I smoked what felt like a hundred cigarettes the weeks after she left. A strange fog came over the city, thick with exhaust, forcing us to breathe in thickly what we thought the cars had released into the great blue yonder, never to touch us again. It would always come back, though we tried to believe that it wouldn’t.
Food lost meaning. I was too tired to chew. The texture of it in my mouth made me ill. I drank coffee with milk. Mel forced the milk into my mug because she knew that I would not eat. I took it. I wanted to work. I needed to work. I needed to do something that would take my mind off of the emptiness on the futon on the floor. I needed something to take my mind off of the collection of photos taped to the wall that had stopped growing. I needed something to take my mind off of the clothes in the closet that no longer belonged to anyone, except, I suppose, me.
I called Eve’s family. I had to tell them that their daughter had died quietly in a county hospital. They were not angry with me. They hardly reacted at all. It was strange. How I had envied Eve for her easy family, the way they accepted so much, they way they accepted her spirit and her whim. I did not imagine that they would take her leaving so well. As though they had long ago resigned themselves to her end. Or as though they had never thought much of her at all. I tried to recall what I had really seen between them. I tried to remember whether I saw love between them. I assumed it. I assumed the existence of love between them. I assumed that there was caring. But nothing can be assumed so easily, I suppose.
They were not angry with me for taking her away. They would mourn in their own way, back home. And I couldn’t bring myself to say I would return to be there. I couldn’t bring myself to return to the place that Eve had wanted so much to leave to talk about her. I couldn’t bring my memory of her back there with me. It would be too much.
Nights were quieter. There was no witching hour wandering. There were no more long talks by candlelight on the floor. There were no more showers struggling not to slip into the water. There was no more of Eve. There was no more of what had been there.
I wished she were a ghost. I wished she would appear to me. I wished that I would at least begin to have the wild hallucinations that happen to people after they have experienced great loss. I wished that I could forget that she was gone and keep talking to her, keep pretending she was there, keep seeing her here and there. See her leaning halfway out the window to look at the day. See her laughing down the street after work, giddy with freedom.
She always had so much energy after work. She never made sense. She was never weary. She always wanted to take our tips and blow it all at the local bar. Just one drink. Just one drink, she’d say, to make us feel like the hard-working working-class people we were.
It didn’t feel quite right, considering her family was never really struggling. They always seemed quite comfortable. Maybe that is why she had to leave it. She could not stand that she had not earned the life she had. She couldn’t accept that it was just hers. That she had been born with it. She had to feel like she had created something for herself. She had to feel like she was living the life she made, not simply the one that had been given to her.
I knew that she had a romantic view of what it would be like to live a bohemian life. To call it a bohemian life instead of calling it being broke and struggling was romantic in itself. But of course, the only difference is passion. Whether there is something that replaces the need for comfort, for luxury, for even simple amenities. That there is something for which a person is living that makes it easy to forget what everyone else has and what everyone else wants.
I wonder what would have happened if she had lived another five years, or ten, or twenty. I wondered where we would have gone, what we would have done. Who we would have become. Who we might have become to each other.
And I knew that I could only be thankful to have been able to have her for the time that I did. I knew that the anger was misplaced. I knew that I couldn’t change the fact that she had lived the way she wanted to and that I had been a part of that. And I was lucky to have been a part of that. It is simple. It is simple because there is simply no other way for it to be. Reality is. Reality will just be what it is, and we can look at it in different light, through different eyes, with different lenses, and we can think of it in different ways, an endless variety of ways, but somewhere, deep in the core of it, it simply is.
I began to leave the apartment less and less. I was quiet and somber at the diner. I couldn’t muster up a smile, and Mel did not expect me to. She knew that I could not work there any more. I could not be there without Eve.
I could not be anywhere without her. That’s what it felt like. That I couldn’t be anywhere with out her. So I left.