Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My phone is a time machine to where my husband is still alive.

My phone is my time machine, and the cool blue light that is undoubtedly destroying my circadian rhythms helps me slip easily into another life, the one where I’m 28 and recklessly, heedlessly in love with a man who makes me Robyn mix CDs and leaves them in my car. The one where I’m 29 again and pregnant with the baby the doctors told me not to have but who I knew would keep my husband alive a little bit longer. Or the one where I’m 31 again, carrying the man I love down the hallway to the bathroom, staying up at night to hear his breath, knowing someday I would miss that gentle sound.... Our son knows his father through my phone. Ralph was 22 months old when Aaron died, and any memories he has of him are all mixed up with stories he’s heard from me and photos and videos he can see whenever he’d like. His elegant toddler fingers carefully swipe their way through photos of his father in chemotherapy, on top of the colorful adobe murals of Salvation Mountain in the California desert, doing his favorite “tourist wave to the camera” in front of an explosion of paint and color. Ralph consumes videos of Aaron reading him bedtime stories the way other kids binge Curious George. He knows that Aaron is gone, and that he will not return, but death is a hard concept to grasp, even for me. It seems impossible that Aaron could be dead, even though I licked his ashes from my fingertips when we spread them in the Rum River. “Will he come back?” Ralph sometimes asks, and the answer I give him always shocks me. “No, he won’t,” I say heavily. Ralph nods silently and moves on. He is in the acceptance phase of grief, and I am jealous. Someday that truth will hurt him, but now, he only knows it should hurt, because he sees that it hurts me that we are both fatherless. “Damn it!” he says, “our dads are DEAD!” He shakes his head as he sits with me, holding my hand and marveling over the what-the-hellness of it all, then hits the play button again. It’s a way to pretend that when I say “my late husband” I mean that he is actually just chronically tardy.... Denial is one hell of a drug, and that’s what these digital caches provide me: a way to pretend that when I say “my late husband” I mean that he is actually just impolite and chronically tardy, and not dead of brain cancer at 35. My phone is a time machine to where my husband is still alive

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