There was a pair of shoes at Nordstrom’s last week that Dave would have loved, but I didn’t buy them because I couldn’t remember his shoe size.
And, obviously, also because dead men do not need shoes.
Today he’s been gone for 1000 days.
That’s a big number. Four digits, even. But it hardly seems like enough time to start forgetting things.
I’m not a desperate person by nature, but I felt as if I started to drown a bit in that store. I began to remember every little thing about him, trying to grip the little grains of memory, praying that the effort didn’t let them slip through my fingers.
But it’s as an inevitable as death.
Life slips by.
I want to say my late husband wore a nine and a half, but I’m not sure. I didn’t get to keep any of his things.
He was particular and careful about his possessions. He’d shine his shoes at the end of the day. He never left his clothes on the floor, or left a pen uncapped, or dropped a plate. He never tried to hold something he didn’t care for, so everything he held was precious enough to hold on tight.
His hands were sleek and unbothered. They moved with the quick precision of a surgeon. It could seem too fluid at times– too feminine– and his friends would tease him about it sometimes. His hands were like his mom’s hands, he’d reply. And she was the strongest person he knew. There were worse things to inherit.
He had his father’s teeth. Small teeth, stained by a cigarette habit that started in his teens and lasted until I agreed to marry him. It was something he gave up so he could hold me with care. His teeth never really recovered but it didn’t bother him. He was never ashamed of his choices.
My teeth were easily twice the size of his, and he’d say that people had a lot in common with farm animals, and the size of my teeth is how he knew that I’d outlive him.
I hated that joke. It gave me nightmares.
I’d wake him up, and he’d pull us down to the floor. He’d hang a blanket over our heads and he’d hold me on his lap until I stopped crying. I’m not a small girl, but he never complained. He’d sing, but of course, he couldn’t sing. There wasn’t a single note he could reach with precision, but it never stopped him, and I never minded. Eventually I’d fall asleep. Then the next morning, I’d wake up in bed, somehow. Magically.
He was magic.
He loved me.
In my very worst moments, he loved me.
In my very best moments, he loved me.
I’m not sure he could tell the difference between the moments. As long as I was myself, as long as I was reaching for happiness or holding it, he was happy. That is literally all he ever asked of me.
In my head, now, that’s how I double check to see what he’d think of my choices. I bought a sequined dress because I love it even though it sheds sparkle everywhere. I agreed to a second date because the man ate sushi with his fingers when I said I didn’t know how to use chopsticks. I read my poetry to crowds of people before I considered it finished. I did all those things because they seemed like something I would do, something that my invisible insides wanted, and when I talk to him about it in my dreams, he approves.
He teases, but he approves.
He had a wicked and terrible sense of humor. I almost always laughed with my hands over my eyes, or over my mouth, in shock and childlike glee. He used to make strangers choke on their coffee, spit out their water, and snort-laugh. He always made people feel something, good or bad. All feelings were equal to Dave.
And I called him Gray because he chose a name for himself, and it fit as perfectly as the clothes he liked to wear. Tailored and trimmed to his edges. In his death, I switched him back to Dave for his family like he always said to do.
He didn’t believe in God. He didn’t believe death was the beginning of anything.
He believed in the sacredness of the now, and he believed that anything leftover of someone’s existence belonged to those who still existed.
He could hold the idea of death in his mind and still smile, thinking of it as part of life, and that life was what you made of it.
He was an artist. He could make anything beautiful or terrible with a few strokes of a pen or a brush. And, unlike most people, he could sit with that horror and gorgeousness and not be discomforted or weighed down by it.
You could never tell if he was listening, but he always was. It was difficult for him to not listen, to not feel, and that’s partially why he didn’t like crowds of people. That, and he was an introvert. An anti-social introvert. The first I ever met who wasn’t embarrassed by it, or shy about it.
And he was generous.
He would have never bought those shoes because someone else could have used the money, and his shoes were fine. That’s why he shined them every day.
I would have bought them for him, once upon a time, because luxuries make the world a kinder place, and it wasn’t always a kind place to Dave. The world is often a hard and jagged journey to a person who listens big and hopes for the best of things.
I would have bought the shoes for him, once upon a time, in hopes that I’d catch him looking down at them and smiling, but I didn’t because I couldn’t remember his shoe size,
Dead men don’t need shoes.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Ra Avis is the author of Sack Nasty: Prison Poetry and the girl behind the dinosaur at Rarasaur.com. She is a once-upon-a-time inmate, a reluctantly-optimistic widow, and an exponential storyteller.
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