Early this morning, I stepped outside into the cold air to escape the house for a moment. A group of Canadian geese flew by in formation noisily announcing themselves to the world as they passed.
I stopped to watch them as they went. Each calling to each in their heavy voices. Goose conversation. No doubt one of them observed me and commented to his comrade, “Human! Human!” The thought made me smile.
It was a gray day. I searched my pockets for the box and lighter. I lit a cigarette and drew in the comfort- the same comfort which will surely kill me one of these days-but right then, it was good. I’ve been cheating, while trying to quit, but these days, that temporary sense of ease is hard to give up.
I puttered around as I smoked, in my flannel pajamas, moccasins and LL Bean down coat, examining the small details of the yard: small rocks, tufts of grass still green in the February freeze, bits of detritus from the construction crew who only left last spring when I bought this house.
This was supposed to be our new start. It was going to be a happy place for us where we could heal our wounds and find a way to salvage the marriage which foundered even as we’d carried on like good soldiers a year before. I had my knee replaced in June, weeks after we had moved in. The furniture would come later after the condo sold. Neither one of us had anticipated the ordeal that was ahead. We both thought it would be a few weeks, maybe even a month or two, and I would be up and running like before. We’d enjoy the new place. We’d enjoy each other.
It didn’t happen. And so went the dream of renewal between us. In its place came the agony of exquisitely slow and arduous recovery. He was gentle and dutiful. I was his burden, but he bore it with kindness, and for that, I will always be grateful. For me, it was a long series of landlocked days and months, awash with pain, with the tenuous relief of morphine, and nearly fruitless efforts to do even the simplest things with a leg I had nearly taken for granted until now. Seven months had passed, and the pain still woke me at night and made me catch my breath with the odd misplaced step. I was still struggling, and the surgery and its aftermath had shaken me hard. I felt my mortality as I never had before. It gave me the sensation of being buried alive inside myself, and wanting to reclaim and revive the hope and enthusiasm I’d had once. I found myself wanting to embrace my old self, my authentic self, in ways I had sadly abandoned when warmth, passion and unconditional love had somehow gone, replaced by a kind of quiet cordiality between us some time ago.
As I stood there, looking back at the house, I thought about it all, and wondered how it had happened. How did we come to this?
But it was cold, and tiny flakes were beginning to fall. I finished the cigarette, wrapping it carefully in a square of foil I’d brought with me, and carried the enfolded butt back inside to throw into the trash.
He was still asleep in the downstairs guest room. It was early, and he would not see me return to toss it away.