How many times have I attempted this? How many hours, nights, weeks have I looked at the screen, typed a few inadequate words, and abandoned the effort?
I have engaged in a nightly cycle of near-creation as I tried to find the words to express what it is to be a supporting player in your own life when the main character dies.
Trey was the life in our life. A whirlwind of spontaneous action and wild emotion, he drove our existence while I supported his efforts. He was fascinating and exuberant, dangerous and fun. I am boring and plain, safe and disappointing. I was the steady line to his sine wave. I was the calming influence on his fire. I was the straight man in our routine.
He was everything. I was a passenger.
How to express that? I couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t express the loss of me as a person when he went. I couldn’t demonstrate being a non-entity without him.
Because it’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit.
I believed it all, with my entire being, throughout my entire life. I believed it after he died.
I believed it until I heard others say it. Until I realized that is what everyone believed. Heard from the mouths of others, the lie made itself known.
“So I guess you’ll be moving back to Oklahoma now.”
“Are the kids going to miss those spur of the moment trips to Portland?”
“Is it crazy to be stuck with that neon green Jeep? Are you selling it?”
Question after question, offhand comment after comment, all indicating our friends’ and families’ beliefs that everything notable about us was really just Trey. That I would shake off the trappings of interest and fun, and would live as the bore we all know me to be.
Bitch, I picked out that Jeep! I insisted on that color; Trey wanted black. We fought intenseley as we paid extra money for a rental car while we waited for this color to be available. I refused to drive a boring color while ‘hypergreen’ existed in the world. It did become Trey’s car. I told Trey I didn’t like to drive it. I told him I loved my truck too much. I did this so he could drive the new car. He didn’t like to drive the truck, and he had always wanted a Jeep. So I pretended that I was not interested much in it. The truth was that it was me who selected the car and waited for it and named it Herman. I bought nail polish to match it. I love it and have since the moment I saw it.
Every member of Trey’s family believes that Jeep is just another example of crazy awesome Trey doing something outlandish, and of how I’m such a good and supporting wife for indulging him.
Those trips? Those spontaneous trips? Trey didn’t know there was a replica of Stonehenge in northern Oregon. He didn’t know about the pirate landing. Or the sandcastle competition. I pushed these trips through when neither of us felt like doing anything, and we were the better for it.
Why would I move back to Oklahoma? I have no family of my own there. It is true I moved us back to Oklahoma when I was pregnant and my parents lived there. I panicked and needed comfort. I also moved us out of there as soon as I was ready to work again. I moved us. I found a job on the west coast, packed us up and moved us. I never wanted to raise our kids there. I grew up yearning for bigger places with more opportunities and the possibility of greater experiences. I wasn’t going to live my adulthood and my kids’ childhood in the place I always wanted to leave.
I wasn’t indulging or silently supporting my powerhouse of a husband. We were partners. I commanded the driver’s seat as often as he did, and actively navigated as a passenger.
It is true that he managed our social life. At events, he took the spotlight while I watched cozy from the background. He ensured we knew our neighbors and the other kids’ parents. He was the life of the party, the gracious host, the fun one. And he was welcome to it. That shit exhausts me.
As the years went by, however, he grew more reluctant to fill that role. He was content to binge watch Netflix and order takeout. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get him out of the house to do anything. He talked about his big regret – that he did not take me dancing anymore when we were younger.
-You could take me dancing now.
-No, we’re old and I’m too fat. It’s embarrassing. Let me get into better shape and then we’ll go.
Well, I guess that day never came. It would have been nice to go dancing. I don’t get embarrassed anymore.
That isn’t entirely accurate.
I don’t let embarrassment stop me from doing something that could make me happy. I got over that shit years ago. With Trey by my side it was easier to be spontaneous, to do mildly embarrassing things. Even if I had to push him. Even if he didn’t join in but would laugh at/with me. He would smile at my dorkiness and reinforce my belief that it is okay to be embarrassing.
He was my world. But he wasn’t the whole world.
I still exist. I am not a phantom. I am not useless, or plain, or dull. I am broken without my partner, yet I remain a whole person. I will remain in Washington, and will perhaps move to Florida later. I drive Herman and I walk the dog and I take the kids on trips to book signings and to watch a movie with a bunch of cats. I dance. I dance in my living room, and I also dance at the supermarket. I skin my knee trying to ride a bike. I meet the neighbors for game night.
And I cry. I cry and scream and beat the steering wheel and throw my phone. I’m lonely and forlorn and desperate and furious.
But I am not nothing, and it’s time I stop thinking of myself as nothing.