The night my husband died, I lay sleepless in my daughter's bed listening to her breathe. I won't go into the massive fear that shook my body every millisecond it took for her small chest to rise again. Or the sandbag of anxiety sitting on my chest. The burning eyes, crater where my heart used to be, and horrifying flashbacks every time I blinked. It was a living hell, and I clung to sanity with mental fingernails.
What I remember most from that night, however, was the ceiling. Dark. And the fifteen words that cycled ad infinitum through my mind. Hours and hours of the same words. An implied question. A ridiculous answer. Words. Just some words. But they kept me in bed with my daughter, and even allowed me a few hours of sleep.
To give a little backstory, in the months before I met my husband, I was going through yet another breakup. This particular relationship was a mental and emotional turning point in my life. Baffling and painful in the midst of it, empowering in hindsight. I finally knew what I wanted and didn't want from a partner, and I wasn't willing to settle ever again.
I was also twenty-seven and homeless. So I moved back in with my parents (bless their hearts). With the foundation of my family to brace my feet on, I found the energy to create. At that time, I wasn't writing. Hadn't written in years, really. But suddenly, there were words in my head. Short sentences. Idle thoughts. Some of them serious. Some dramatic. Mostly a bit tongue-in-cheek. I called these little bubbles of expression Bastard Poetry. And I wrote a lot of it. I was still writing it when I met my husband.
And that's what came back that night in my daughter's bed. The first coping mechanism that I could hold onto after the world ended. After life ended. Not the urge to create, but one of those bastard poems written more than a decade before.
I'm still chewing on it months later. Mulling its meaning. Its purpose. It pops into my head at random times, often right when I wake in the morning. Another dozen times throughout the day. My favorite song, stuck on a loop.
I asked you for news on the weather. You said it was too dark to tell.
A few days ago, I finally remembered the origin of the poem. Him. Donnie. All along, it was his. When I realized it, I had to sit down. My muscles were taffy. My brain struck dumb. How could I have forgotten? Well, turns out I didn't. I tucked it away, close but just out of reach, until I was ready.
One of our strongest connections was our humor. And one night, early in our relationship, as we readied ourselves to leave his place to meet some friends, I asked, "What's the weather like?" and he answered me, deadpan: "Dark."
I'm sure I rolled my eyes as he smirked and said something like, "Bring a jacket. You're always cold, anyway." He was right. So I grabbed a jacket and we went wherever we were going, and the moment passed but also stayed, because I jotted down the poem above and brought it with me eleven years into the future, where it would play like a broken record in my head the first night of his absence and in the days and weeks after.
I think one day - not today, but soon - I'll hear a different poem. Or at least consider another version. One in alignment with my heart. And maybe it will be:
I asked you for news on the weather. You said it was too bright to see.