Sometimes it gets hard to remember how it used to be.
The past takes on some semblance of dream half remembered, fading as the dawn’s light illuminates the present and turns the past into a morning mist that fades and is gone.
The mornings take on a routine again, not the same routine as it used to be, of course. Too much has changed for the old routines to return… too many pieces are missing.
It is strange how much of our lives, even when we are alone, still bears the imprint of others, where we intersect and connect… except when they are gone and all that remains is an absence.
He could have carried on pretending she was still there, that her life still flowed alongside and through his life, but Robert was not that kind of person.
She was gone and he had to live without her.
How that was possible after so many years, all the decades together, he didn’t know.
The last few years had been so close, after they’d both retired, spending all day together.
Robert had half expected that Sarah would grow irritated with him, having him always hanging around her and the house.
But she had not.
If anything, their years of retirement together were going fine. They got along really well, rarely argued and found each other as good company and good to be with as they had back all those years ago when they’d first met.
That was back before the children. Now the children had grown and gone off into their own lives. But the children always came back with their partners and then with their own children.
Everyone seemed happy enough, as happy as anyone ever can be in this imperfect world.
Robert and Sarah made plans for a long retirement, holidays and even cruises although Sarah said she didn’t like the sea, except as something to look at from the shore.
But that never happened.
Sarah came back from the routine check-up, sitting on the sofa in her coat, clutching her handbag on her lap, not speaking until Robert coaxed it from her.
They had six months, with Sarah fading away before his eyes. He tried to hide it from her, from the children and the rest of the world, but Robert was terrified.
He was so scared of a world without her in it. She had been there for so long, she felt a part of him and he felt a part of her.
He held onto her cooling hand as though he couldn’t believe she’d gone and left him behind.
He looked around the world as they took him from the hospital room and down the corridors back to his empty home.
How could the world still look the same without her? How could people carry on with their ordinary lives in this ordinary world when there was no more Sarah to fill it?
So in the end, after staring at the seat where she’d sat by his side in front of the TV, her seat at the dinner table and her cold empty side of the bed, he’d slowly learnt how to be alone… and he hated it.