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A Lifetime

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Will timidly opened the door that lead into the attic as he held his breath as though if he ceased breathing then the moment would cease to be existent. He struggled with the cowardice in his legs that beckoned him to return down the narrow staircase and leave the room to its saddened memories. He fought the tightening in his throat as he perceived the racks of clothing aligned in ununiformed color schemes that resulted in a sea of vibrant rainbows of objects that was in obvious contrast to the dingy attic with sloped ceilings and a stench of moth balls. A pang of guilt ate at his stomach as he thought about locking all her possessions away – he was too weak to allow them to remain in his sight- and how it was almost as though he had confined her to this hollow and seemingly grave prison. His eyes welled up with tears as he glanced down to see that he had trodden on a photo of them together, leaving a black shoe print right across her face. His hand trembled as he knelt to retrieve the photo, the pair smiled up at him with eyes filled with bliss and health as they sat in the midst of wide sunlit rays on a picnic blanket. He remembered the day as though it was yesterday, although he knew it had been a good two years previous; they had both taken a sick leave from their work, on a whim, and decided to spend the day hiking the foothills just outside the city and had stopped to have a picnic -being that Lisa was a city girl and had never actually been on a picnic in all twenty-six years of her life. A smile crossed his otherwise tortured countenance as he remembered the sound of her laugh; he swore for just an instant that it reverberated along the hollow gray walls, but knew better. He tucked the photo in his pocket and walked further into the doorway as the worn wood paneled floor creaked in protest to his weight upon it.
This was what he had dreaded more than any other conceivable annoyance or inconvenience of moving away. He had severed most ties with friends and acquaintances after Lisa had “gone home”- as he had chosen to define her death- because everyone he knew seemed to morph into her face and when they spoke he was certain it was her voice that rang out from their throats; he simply couldn’t imagine enjoying anything without her there to enjoy it along with him. His only companion, of sorts, was his friend Scott, whom had been there throughout the ups and the downs since they were sophomores in high school; he had been with him the day that Lisa died and even checked in on him every day for two months subsequent to her burial to ensure his wellbeing. It was true that Scott had been an irreplaceable friend to Will, but he lacked compassion by this stage in his mourning. For Scott it seemed that it was far beyond the point of remaining a recluse in the confines of a dreary house that had “Lisa in every crevice”; as he expressed it.
Will had requested that Scott assist him in packing the reminder of Lisa’s belongings from the attic and Scott had said, “Will, are you serious right now? You can’t carry all that around with you to the new house; it’s unhealthy. I knew Lisa and I loved her –we all did Will, but everyone knows she would want you to continue you with your life; that’s what she told you. Quit trying to live in the past and undo the present, it’s a goose chase and devil’s dream.”
“I know you’re right Scott, but I can’t imagine leaving her behind; we were supposed to leave here together and if I don’t take her things it’s like I’m breaking my promise and abandoning her to this place we both vowed to leave,” Will had said while fighting the surge of emotions that threatened to burst through his chest.
How could everyone expect him to move on when part of his heart had been buried along with her? He glanced down at the cross he now always wore around his neck; he had never been a “religious” man but Lisa had taught him to have unremitting faith in God and his mighty works. She said that God had brought them together for a purpose far greater than they could both fathom; she often referred to Will as her angel because he “saved her,” she would say. Will could never understand such a statement because he was full of fault in comparison to her and her blameless being –if anyone was an angel, it was obviously she. They had only been married a year when Lisa was diagnosed with Leukemia and then it was only a brief three-months before the wretched disease had spread enough to kill her. She maintained her faith in opposition to her failing body as her dainty frame grew sluggish and weak; she stated that God had a reason for everything. If she hadn’t made him swear that he would begrudge God nothing after she was gone, Will would have promptly turned his sorrow into disdain for that heavenly being that steals love away and leaves people to suffer without any explanation of just cause. She said that she refused to allow her death to compromise the two of them being together in eternity and that he had to maintain his faith. “Eternity seems like a long way away right now; we were supposed to have the rest of our lives,” Will thought morosely to himself. This move was one they had planned before Lisa got sick and it seemed entirely wretched to go without her now, but the house had sold after a year on the market and he had to leave.
Will sighed contemptuously as he proceeded to rummage through her various items. He stumbled upon a blue button-up dress and it seemed to come alive in front of him with her bathed in sunlight and spinning in circles so that the dress flowed around her like a ballerina’s skirt. She inquired as to what he thought, “You look lovely, nothing short of amazing,” some distant form of himself replied. Will abruptly shook his head as if erasing the memory like an Etch-A-Sketch doodle he knew he couldn’t maintain these elaborate fantasies of her any longer; the movers were coming tomorrow and he needed to be ready, but being in this room that sang with her and everything they were together was a hideous tease to his wounded heart. As he opened boxes containing Lisa’s things, her perfume infiltrated the air and twirled about in the dust of the attic. It was a wonderful scent that reminded him of everything good between them; in a time before cancer was something that made residence in her beautiful body. Will remembered her wearing this perfume and all the occasions in which they spent together when this scent meant her immediate proximity; he closed his eyes and inhaled the fragrance with delight in the memory of her being near to him.
“Will, you can’t stop living your life once I’m gone,” she had said one night while propped up in her hospital bed. “It wouldn’t make sense because I’m not going to be unhappy where I am, I’ll be having the greatest time ever up in Heaven.” She smiled, “If anyone should feel bad it should be me –leaving you here alone and forlorn. We’ll be together again Will, but until then, I want us both to be happy.” She had stared at him with the deep intensity of her round chocolate colored eyes. “It’s just a lifetime Will.” He had only uselessly fought tears in this moment and insisted that she wasn’t going to go anywhere; that she was going to stay there with him for the rest of their lives. However, he was –and knew he would be- wrong. Only a week after this statement, Lisa had gone on into eternity and Will was left without his angel.
He sat on the floor and ran his fingers through his dust and sweat filled hair, “Lisa is happy in Heaven,” he thought contemplatively. “She doesn’t want me to live like this, she doesn’t feel at all like I’m abandoning her or leaving her behind because she’s not an object of the past, but rather of the future. We’ll be together again.”
“I miss you more than words could ever express my dear-” he spoke into the darkening room as the sun was beginning to set outside and cast towering shadows over his weary frame, “but I know you’re with me wherever I go and I will see you again soon.”
He packed a few reminders of her, the blue dress and other various knickknacks, but a great deal of it he knew he had to leave behind. The movers arrived in the morning and all the boxes were packed; the attic was emptied and swept clean as the sunlight filtered into the old house and brightened the empty walls and unfurnished floors ; the birds sang their joyous songs outside the window panes and Will walked through the old house taking one last glimpse of the place that had been their home, “A lifetime’s not too long when you have eternity on the other side of it,” Will thought as he closed the front door and stepped out into the morning dew and inhaled the fresh air. “Not too long at all.”




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