It is 4:30 in the morning as I write this. In a little over twelve hours, I will board a plane that will take me to San Diego. The last time I was there was December 22nd, the day after Tony died.
I am afraid of what going back there means. I am afraid of my own emotions, my own sorrow. What will it be like? I have been dreading this visit for weeks, even though it means seeing my co-workers, many of whom are now family to me; and my friends, whom I cherish and have missed so very much. The thing is, San Diego was home for nine years. It was the home Tony and I chose, together; the one we moved to from Boston. The one we drove 3,100 miles to reach. The one we discovered together.
When we first moved there, we were renting a room in a condo, sharing space with a college student and a guy who I think did some kind of sales. It was an uncomfortable situation in many ways. Living with people you don’t really know is weird. Yet the condo itself was beautiful, with murals painted by the woman who owned it, and a lemon tree in the back yard. That tree was magical to us, two people who grew up in Massachusetts. Nobody ever had a lemon tree in their back yard in Massachusetts.
Try as I might, I can’t think of going back there as going home. It doesn’t feel like home to me, not anymore. What made it home was Tony, and he’s not there. He’s not anywhere.
I think perhaps the thing that I fear the most is this: I will see him there. I will see him around every corner. When I get off the plane, I will see him waiting outside security, as he did when I came to Seattle last October. When I get to work on Monday, I will see his car parked in its usual spot, I will see him sitting in the guest chair in my office. He sat there so often.
When I meet my friends from our Spanish group, I will see him trying to dredge up his high school Spanish. I will hear him mingling Spanish and English. I will see the way his face lit up when we were getting ready to meet with our group, hear him telling me that going with me to UCSD, where we met, and getting coffee in the bookstore there, was, for him, the very definition of romance. I will hear him reciting this one beautiful sentence, his favorite, from a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
When I see our friends Cam and Amy, I will hear Tony asking Cam about his music, encouraging him not to give up on his dream. I will see the sunlight on his face when we went to the zoo with Amy. I will hear him talking about how much he loved the job where he worked with both of them, how he felt happy and accepted there.
When I see the San Diego sky, I will remember how Tony and I got up on the morning of our wedding, and how we got dressed in our apartment. I will remember how we were the first ones in line at the County Clerk’s office. I will see the picture of the two of us smiling outside, beforehand, and the ones taken afterwards at the beach. I will remember how we went back to the apartment afterwards, how we held each other and loved each other and smiled. I will remember watching When Harry Met Sally… that night because it seemed like the right movie for us to watch together. I will remember how I thought, that day, that if I could just have this man – if we could just have each other – I would never ask for anything more.
I will remember. I will always, always remember my home, and who it used to be.