The night my husband left me, he packed all of his belongings into boxes, perhaps feeling as though he, himself, did not belong there anymore. He might have packed himself away if it were possible; by the end, he struggled to see the difference between his possessions and his reality. He had become, at least in his own mind, as meaningless as a pair of mustard yellow swim trunks, three sizes too small, which had somehow found its way into his possession on “Secret Santa Night” the previous year. Or, perhaps he felt as useless as a coconut bra - purchased not for me but for himself - that was jokingly worn around Bora Bora on our honeymoon. Yet, in spite of their inherent lack of utility, they were chosen to accompany his journey away from our home.
I was working in the diner while he prepared to leave me and while he decided what, besides himself, would be absent when I returned. While I was serving up hash browns and pan-fries, he was packing up the dozens of hats he’d never worn and that dumb old clock that never kept the time, yet kept us up at night with its errant chimes. He was obsessed with that clock. It held an importance that I never understood until he left.
Was the departure premeditated? Or, on a whim, was it decided that one more night with me would be too much for him to handle? I don’t know which of these I’d more prefer. I don’t think it really matters, either. When I walked through that stone-grey door on that stone-grey evening, I was met with the usual silence that greeted my late returns. Yet, I’d take that former silence - shared with the man I married - over the current silence, even though they are fundamentally the same. I suppose knowing that he wasn’t fast asleep on the couch in the den, or busy at work whittling in the loft above the garage made it all much more difficult to bear.
Sometimes, on quiet nights like these, I seem to force myself out of my dreams, straining for the sound of a faulty clock that is no longer there, eager to be woken up not out of panicked loneliness, but out of the playful frustration that nearly always turned to laughter. You would not have known he was unhappy. I certainly didn’t.
I could re-enact the life we had if I so desired. For, after packing up the souvenirs and meaningless trinkets all gathered across the many mundane ventures of our lives (he had left his more valuable items in a pile on our - my - bed), he didn’t bring them with him. He took the trouble to sort and organize into boxes the novelties that represented our aggregate time together, and yet he left them all behind, unsealed, untaken - a most peculiar decision. Each piece was a part of him, an individual component making up the collective and tangible memory of my husband, whom I never saw again. Even if I put these objects back into their now-dusty-places on the empty shelves and bookcases, would that restore my broken marriage or repair my broken heart? How many years must pass before the healing can begin? I feared I knew the answer already.
So, now they sit, all strewn about the otherwise-empty master bedroom, so numerous that they overlap into the master bath. I don’t go in there anymore. It serves as an unvisited shrine to not only what was, but to what could have been.
So, now they sit, in the back of a rented truck on the way to a thrift store three miles away from the home I, myself, would never again return to after that day.
So, now they sit, displaced and scattered so thoroughly through the process of second-hand retail - his eclectic tastes were sure to guarantee no two items from this collection would find the same new owner - that my restless nights are once more filled with some semblance of untroubled sleep.
I could say that I found closure in knowing that the last scraps of our happy home were now finding fulfillment in countless other ones hopefully as happy as ours once was. But that would be a lie. The truth is this: If I can never know what it’s like to be fully whole again, at least the physical reminders of him - the only aspects of our failed marriage that I can still control - will be like my peace of mind since he left me: impossible to recollect and reassemble.