I have no way of knowing what Tony was thinking before he killed himself. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t tell anyone. I wonder if he thought that the only thing he was taking from me was himself? I know he must have been caught up in his own pain, but I wish that he had thought, for just a moment, about mine.
I never knew before that when your spouse dies, a part of you dies with them. A few days ago, I wrote about “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” In the film, the doctor who invented the memory erasure procedure claims that, “the procedure is brain damage, but nothing you’ll miss. It’s on par with a night of heavy drinking.” I always wondered how, even in the film’s fictional world, that statement could be true. Any relationship, but especially a long-term one, works its way into your body in a way that can’t simply be erased. Thinking about that, before Tony died, always made me remember Paul Simon’s lyrics to “Hearts and Bones.” The song is about his divorce from Carrie Fisher:
“You take two bodies and you twirl them into one/ Their hearts and their bones / And they won’t come undone.”
I think that’s true of any love. The relationship may end, in break-up or divorce or death, but the person you loved has become a part of you. Part of your bones, your flesh, your blood. It’s not easy to put yourself back together after losing a love. So many parts are missing. Countless holes to fill. It feels especially true to me right now because so much of my life, up until three months ago, was intertwined with Tony’s. We were husband and wife. We were lovers. We were friends. We were writing partners. And because his mental illness was what it was, we spent a huge majority of our time together, alone together. Tony was not a particularly social person. I don’t think I ever realized, until I could look back with the benefit of hindsight and therapy, how very scared he was. How terrifying and alien the world felt to him.
If he thought of me, Tony may have thought that I would grieve him but that the only thing I was losing was a husband. Maybe he thought about our writing partnership. Maybe not. I doubt he thought that I would have to give up our two beloved cats, Audrey and Katie, for adoption, because I didn’t feel they could endure a long flight and living in a house with two big dogs. I doubt he thought that I would be living with my sister, or working remotely, or without so many of the things that were part of our lives: our furniture, our apartment. I feel as if every cell in my body has changed.
I have a trip planned back to San Diego later this month, for work. I feel so utterly different, so completely transformed, that I find myself half-wondering if my coworkers will recognize me. I am not the same person I was before Tony died. In some ways, that is (as I have said before) a relief. I am no longer worrying, every day, that the person I’m sharing my life with is going to slip over the edge. He’s gone, and he took parts of me with him. Living without that terror is a good change. Living without the man whom I vowed to love forever is a change that was forced upon me. Not everything about our relationship was good, but it was ours. It was his, and mine, and unlike the stories we wrote together, I had no say in its ending.