Readying for another late night of work and writing he looks at me from across the room, contemplative, and says softly out of nowhere it wasn’t your fault, you know.
I stop typing to look at him. He’s about to go to bed for the night and I’m just hitting my usual stride, not likely to slip next to him for at least another four hours yet.
You have to let go of it, the guilt. You have to stop punishing yourself and running away. It’s not healthy. I'm worried about you. I miss you.
Funny how you can think and think and think and think and wish your brain would just shut the hell down for a while and yet, 18 months later, never have considered something so elemental.
I know it’s not my fault, I reply. I know it cerebrally, but not in my gut.
Why can’t you let it go? he says. He wants his wife back.
It’s not like I wake up every morning and choose it, I reply. I’m not even really aware of it, but I think you’re probably right that it’s there.
He looks at me and I try to explain, learning as I go.
Imagine you’re driving through a blizzard and you cross the centre line and crash and I am killed, or one of the kids. And imagine that for the rest of your life, they make you walk around with the wreck of the car fused to you so you can hardly fit through doors and everyone stares at you and everyone knows and for the rest of your life you ARE that wreck, stuck behind that wheel. You’ll be that damned driver forever. You’ll eat and walk and sleep and do everything until the end of your days surrounded by all this twisted metal, the seat next to you browned with dried-up blood. You know it was the black ice, not you, that did it. But you’re still the driver. You were the one behind the wheel, and you’ll never forget it.
He nods silently.
I made peace with the absence of Liam long ago, but have not yet made peace with this body. It’s some kind of muscle memory, something instinctual and ancient, this shroud. Peter Ustinov said love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit and Voltaire said no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
We’ve all been buried by a force of nature, by undeniable randomness. What lends strength to the rescuing shovel is the dogged practice of not only admitting to the randomness but believing it as our heart’s truth. Because I'm getting the sense that it's not just a matter of time. It's an act of defiance, a matter of robbing the blackness to take back what belongs to us.
Have you shed your wreck, or are you still behind the wheel? What keeps you where you are, and how does that manifest itself in your everyday life?