Today is the first anniversary of your death. 366 days since you’ve gone. A whole year plus an extra day in February, the 29th, your first birthday since you’ve been gone. I’m writing you this letter because I have yet to be able to say goodbye, my sweet love. I have yet to be able to pack away your things, give away your clothes, put away our memories.
I know what people have been saying all around me. I’ve heard the whispering, I’ve caught the paternalistic, patronizing, nerve-grating comments that they think I don’t hear. People don’t die at 22. They die at 92. When their significant-others are almost deaf and can’t hear the falsely overprotective, annoyingly yet unwillingly condescending observations. But you didn’t wait till I was old and deaf, daft and impotent to leave me. You died when we still had everything to look forward to. You died without giving me any notice. You died without giving me fair warning. You died on that beloved board you couldn’t get enough of.
Because they want me to feel better, because they want me to put the grieving behind me, people tell me you died doing what you loved most. I know. Snowboarding was your life, they say. Was it? There’s nothing in the world you loved more, they say. Nothing? There’s nowhere you would rather have been than on a snowy mountain? Nowhere?
But where was I, my sweet love? What was I doing while you were on your board, swooping down your treasured snowy mountain? Why wasn’t I with you that day? Why wasn’t I right by your side, like I had been the day before? Why wasn’t it you and me, hamming it up with Raff and Will, naked on our boards, throwing caution to the wind – among other things – as we had done the day before? Why did you need to get that extra shot of adrenaline on the expert slope? Why did you have to shut me out by hitting that daredevil peak? Why did you have to show off and turn our beautiful mutual dream into a sad, solo nightmare?
The bed is so empty, my love. The bed is so cold. In the apartment, your delicious scent is fading. I can still close my eyes and remember the feel of your breath on my cheek, the smell of your cinnamon gum in my nose, the taste of your mouth, your sweat, your seed on my tongue. But those memories are fading, my love, and it scares me. You have been gone 366 excruciating days and now, you have started to fade. My fingers are forgetting the fuzz of your buttocks, the stubble on your chiseled jaw, the mist of perspiration on the delicate skin covering your luscious body.
How could you really be gone? How could this not be a prolonged downhill competition like the one you won in Switzerland a few weeks before you died? Why would this Vermont mountain take you from me when the much more treacherous Swiss one returned you to me? It just doesn’t make sense, my sweet love. How could the board you loved so much, the board I have put back on the rack I bought for you because I couldn’t stand seeing it lying around in the middle of the hallway for one more day, how could that board be so cruel and steal you away from me?
Will is having a memorial tonight for the anniversary of your death. I know it’s not because he wants to celebrate your leaving. I know it’s because he feels the need to commemorate your life, the existence of a dear friend. But how can I commemorate your life and celebrate your zest for life when I have yet to even really acknowledge that your absence is permanent?
How can I say goodbye when I still need to say ‘I love you’ ten times a day? How can I smile at Simon’s shy grin when I haven’t let go of yours?
I miss you terribly, my love. I wonder if I will ever be able to go on without you. I am merely a shell of my former self. I am a shadow, a silhouette, a ghost. I am invisible and don’t see myself anymore when I pass a mirror. You used to laugh at the minutes I spent in front of the full-length glass reflector. I haven’t seen myself in it since you’ve gone.
When will I be me again? Will I ever? How can I be me without you? Can I really? Why would I want to be? Where can I be myself without you? How can I move on and forgive that board for taking you from me?
You have no doubt moved on, my love. You’re probably still snowboarding on the most beautiful mountains. You’ve never stopped being you. When will I be me again?
I must let you go. I must let myself be me again.
And yet I can’t.
© 2016, Tristan LeMay. This work must not be copied, transmitted or used in any way, either in part or in full, without the expressed written consent of the author.