The way the dishwasher sounds at night. The way the light from the microwave illuminates the room just enough, as if sharing a secret just for me. The way the papers on the fridge are eight years deep. The way I can’t tell if it’s the streetlight outside or the moon streaming in. The way the book is laid out, mid-page, belly to the table. The spine creased in that manner just so. The way there are three pieces of popcorn left in the bowl. The way I think I can just hear the hollow deep sounds of klezmer from the radio, even though the dial is dark. The way I look out the window and the frost on the ground emits steam. The way I look up and down the street and see no one. The way I look again and see a coyote trotting across our urban street like it belongs to him. It does.
I wander to the back of the house and look out the office window. The way these padded wool socks feel on my feet. The way I have to manually pull up the blinds because you never got around to fixing it. Outside the plastic kiddie pool is filled with dirty rainwater from autumn, from before. The way two leaves spin around each other in a dance they’re choreographing with the wind.
The way the shrouds are still on the mirrors. The way your laptop is still open, screen black. The way the pen cap isn’t on. The way those three coffee drips on the floor still lead to the stairs.
The way the other pillow still holds the ghostly indentation of your head. The way I sleep only on my half even now, four months later. The way I still put the pillow over my head so I don’t hear your snoring. The way I don’t sleep. The way the bar of soap has a tendril of your long hair clinging to the underside. The way your towel has grown mildewy on its hook. The way a smattering of tiny beard hairs confetti the sink and counter.
The way the grocery list says: ketchup, lox, seltzer, dishwasher soap, Nilla wafers, and something to go with the cheese. The way you used ellipses. The way I go to the store with this list and wander the aisles for two hours wondering what was meant to follow those three dots. What did you want? The way I get back in the car and I douse my hands in sanitizer. The way it burns the paper cuts on my fingers. The way I will still use a collection of old postage stamps instead of the sticker ones. The floral way those stamps taste, the sticky residue on my fingertips. The way my hand aches after thanking everyone for their kindness during this time.
The way your khaki pants are pooled on the floor as if you just stepped out of them. The way the mug sits on the bedside table, a muddy circle of dried out old coffee at the bottom. The way your electric bike is parked in the garage, your helmet dangling. The way I will charge your bike’s battery to ensure it has full power.
The way we have that special bank account for that one big trip to Europe. The way your name is still listed, the font meant to be impersonal but isn’t. The way we chose not to go paperless for those statements and they keep coming.
The way the sun goes up and the way the sun goes down and the way I wake and the way I go to bed reminds me of you.
Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer whose writing has appeared in F(r)iction, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, and elsewhere, including the 2019 Best Short Fiction anthology. She can be found on Twitter at @writesforlife or via her website, www.jenniferflisscreative.com.