As soon as I heard the last creak of his front door closing behind me as I stepped into the house, the sorrow surrounded me in an all out war on my sense of being. At first, it was the suddenly silent echo of desperate laughter being snuffed like a cheap candle. Then, the tears. Not mine. They were the tears of everyone but me. Oh, how they flowed. They seemed to gather together into an unending river that flooded the room with questions. How? And why? And where do we go from here?
“We brought casserole…” I offer up the pan of potatoes as my eyes drift down to the floor. I can’t meet any of their despondent gazes. I wonder if that makes me a bad person.
“Oh, thank you, honey. That was so sweet of you. Go ahead and put it on the counter.” They say, between sniffles.
I make my mother proud by offering hugs, quiet support, and a shoulder to cry on. I continue making my mother proud until the tears of others have soaked through my new shirt into a mixture of saliva, mucous, and mascara. I try to muster up tears of my own. I would hate for my perfectly mascara’d eyes to bring attention to themselves, but nothing comes. I wish I brought eye drops. Trying to make myself feel enough to cry, I step into the haphazard circle of folding chairs and La-Z-Boy furniture and focus on the events of the last 12 hours. The faces of the others in the circle fade as dried up tears and snot begin to crust on my stained shoulders.
The next wave of attack is an ambush into my olfactory organs. Urine. Stale urine. Can anyone else smell that? I try to remain respectful and refrain from wrinkling my nose to rid the stink from my nostrils. Meanwhile, the whimpers subside and quiet conversation blossoms back into the room. Some stay within themselves and choose not to partake in the remember whens or the glossy eyed statements of shock at the sudden void in their lives. Others crack jokes because they don’t know any better. Some laugh. Others quietly leave the room.
Then there is me. Where is that smell coming from? I wonder if this whole night would be any easier if I could well up the tears and just cry already.
As if reading my mind, someone says, “It is ok to cry, sweety. Everyone grieves differently.”
Oh. She is talking to my nephew. Somewhat relieved, I excuse myself before I accidentally expose my emotionless side to the entire room. I make up some excuse about how I forgot the salad dressing in the car. As the door creaks behind me once more, I kick myself for my ridiculous excuse for an exit. Salad dressing? For casserole? So stupid sometimes… The crisp fall air interrupts my self loathing and welcomes me with open arms. Oh well. At least I’m free from that stench for a few more minutes.
I decide to run over to the store and buy the damn salad dressing and the salad to go with it. Maybe a drive by myself is what I need. Maybe I need time to process this. The fact that he isn’t coming back. Why didn’t he tell us he was planning on leaving so soon? No one could have been ready for this. The scent of stale urine is completely gone now. My brows furrow over a pair of dry eyes as I wonder why I still can’t bring myself to cry. I wasn’t ready for this. It was too early to say goodbye. Now he is gone. And he isn’t coming back.
Where do I go from here?