16 February 2016


I'm having a minor crisis because I got my carpet cleaned today.

I needed that gap here, that white space, to send myself the message about how ridiculous that sounds. But as I touch my toes to the still-wet carpet, I cannot help but think that this was what I expected all along. I knew that I would get my carpet cleaned. And I knew that I would feel empty and lost because of it.

Here is the thing about grief that seems obvious but that people don't tell you: It lurks in corners, beneath couches, and under rugs. It wafts upwards like skeins of smoke, from candles that have sat unlit for months. It involves one step forward, then three steps back, then another four steps back because you feel guilty about the initial step forward. And also, because grief is so personal, being around other people often makes you feel preemptively misunderstood, even before you have tried. It isn't rational, and because of that, it is hard to share. It is easier to hibernate, memorize the knots in the floorboards and scratches on the door, the afterimages that linger under chairs and tables, and yes, the spots on the carpet that were so omnipresent that I could play connect-the-dots with them.

These were not happy stains. These were not like a ring of red wine from a party. These stains were marks of illness, fear, pain, and loneliness. These stains told the story of our year of sickness, stains that became so much a part of our fabric that it was difficult to see where they ended and the rest of the carpet began. It was difficult to tell whether a mark was, in fact, a shadow or a more ominous penumbra: vomited bile, for instance. These stains represented so much suffering, from me and from little Pip; so why am I paralyzed now that they're gone?

This new, clean, ever-damp carpet seems to suggest that a clean slate is possible, and I resent that. I don't want to wipe Pip away, like he never existed. He saved me in so many ways. Literally, we saved each other, escaping from rubble and fire that resulted in a carpet far more stained than this one. We survived that. I don't want to have to face a world where nobody else can see the ghosts that still haunt me, the memories that rise out of this room despite its pristine ivory covering the floor. That mismatch between what is observable and all of the memories I harbor is excruciating.

In an effort to force myself to be social, I just got together with a friend of a friend of a friend and her girlfriends, and while they were lovely and a nice distraction, I still felt like they had a cleanliness that I lack. They were young and innocent, while I felt prematurely old. They walked in wearing their yoga pants and ponytails, faces scrubbed clean and earnest, and I, in my black dress that could probably use a washing, felt this great divide between us that went beyond age or experience, although that was a factor as well. (I probably have about seven years on these girls, at least.) And I was reminded why right now I don't want to connect with anyone who didn't know Pip. I don't want to have to explain why the clean carpet is ill-fitting, or what was lost when my carpet was scrubbed within an inch of its life. I want even less to have to explain the strange identification I felt with the carpet that looked like a relic from a crime scene. Yet so it goes, and so it is.

The ground is still wet, and because of that, I have furniture and knick-knacks piled Jenga-style in the other rooms of my tiny apartment. I have a tower of record albums in my bedroom and a booby-trap of floor lamps in my kitchen. Who knows how long it will be until something falls, something cracks, or I get caught in the tangle. Who knows?

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