“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.” – Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Sometimes, you might think you see him – walking down the street, walking toward you, and you almost forget. You almost forget and your pace quickens, your heart beating out of your chest. “Is this real?” you say. “Can it be?”
So startled are you by this copycat image, this lifelike impostor of what was, that you smile hugely and almost call out to him. And that’s when you remember. And the stranger passes you as you stand there, gingerly, so as not to disturb the crazy woman he just encountered.
It’s not too often now that you experience such jarring. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself blanketed, warm inside a cozy memory of the two of you, snuggled on the couch, watching TV. Occasionally, you’ll come across a letter that he wrote to you just because. Occasionally, you’ll open up your closet – when you bother to hang anything up – and you’ll see shirts of his that you still have. The ones you can’t throw away and will go to sleep in if you’re feeling particularly miserable.
Yet, these are just objects – reminders to fill the void. They don’t compare to a physical person. Even a text you get from a friend that gives you serious déjà vu, that renders you mentally dumbfounded, doesn’t compare.
And still, there are times when you are alone, that you whisper ever-so-quietly out to the atmosphere, hoping he will hear whatever you’re saying. You don’t know why you whisper; perhaps talking out loud would seem too crazy, or maybe you just took what the kid said in The Sixth Sense a little too much to heart. It doesn’t matter. You need him to hear, and you need to believe that he is hearing you. That somewhere within you, and around you, he still exists. Because that way, he is still alive… he may not just be walking down the street.