Last year, I read a book where the narrator divided her life between two sections: the Before and the After.
It felt dramatic--capitalizing whole pieces of time into separate segments seemed irrational and obsessive.
But now I know. Because this is the After.
I've started teaching at a new school, and I have never been more aware of the After until the new subway route, the new walk, the new faces. New subway delays, new methods of getting lost, new coworkers. Slowly, all of this is becoming routine.
But these walks and people and places will never know the Before. In fact, no one new I will ever meet will know how I associate every single Toyota Corolla with my dad. They won't know about our texts, all of which ended in an "ok." And honestly, I don't want to tell them. Sometimes, it feels like no one new deserves to know because no story will do him justice.
I like to keep my memories safe, wrapping them tightly around myself. The only rule is this: these memories cannot be seen every day. It's not allowed. If ever tempted, you allow yourself to do anything else--clean dishes, write a card, choose a Netflix movie that doesn't have a premise based on death (are all movies about someone dying? I think so.), cook...rather, just think about cooking instead.
But every few days, like clockwork, I allow myself to open the door. I allow myself to get washed over completely with things that can't happen again. It can last a minute, sometimes an hour. On good days, it's over within 15 minutes. Then, gently, I shut the door, promising to return, not right away, but soon. In a few days.
I'm not sure if this is considered healing, but it's how I've managed to get to autumn. (Today, a friend mentioned making plans in January, and I caught my breath. January? Again? Wasn't the last one enough?)
It's a shitty realization: no matter who I meet in the future, they'll never be introduced to my dad. Never know his hospitality. Never get to see him be a good sport. (A man scared of heights agrees to take a gondola 2,000 feet high. How am I supposed to explain that to anyone?)
I'm terrified of ever having children who may grow up in a world without him. It's ridiculous that all of his things--briefcase, ID card, wrenches, gloves, turbans, snow shoes, pens, magnifying glass, colognes, can continue to exist without their owner.
I've found the sharp line between the Before and the After. The After is a few shades dull, a little out of focus, and severely crooked. It's not terrible, but it's barely acceptable. And it's all we have left.