Walking into the gym for parent orientation, I find a sea of parents, and I wonder if I belong. I am one of the youngest and poorest mothers, also one of the only people there alone. After the first session, when we separate into smaller groups, I discover that The Philosopher has come, with his fiancee and B. Taking me by surprise, Jack’s absence crushes me for the first time in a long while, just as I thought I was over that hump.
Part of it is having milestones without him. He never knew that W got into this high school, only that we’d applied and hoped. And he won’t see B move along in life, or W graduate, or me celebrate any birthdays. The only way he’s here is in his not being here, a fact underscored by other people having partners and lovers and fiancees and whatever they have. I know I am not the only person alone — unpartnered, single, emotionally widowed — and yet I am the only person who is without the man I loved, the man I wanted to marry, the man I walked away from to save myself.
This past weekend, for various reasons, I stayed with my friend K, the first night by myself and the second with B (whom I normally have on Saturdays). The first night, we watched Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn movies on AMC while cuddling on his couch. It wasn’t sexual, just comforting. I wish I had more of that in my life, more affection, more comfort, more care. I just also don’t have the energy to seek it out.
On Thursday, I’m leaving for New York City, my annual August trip. Four years ago it was my first real trip to NYC. Two years ago, it was a treat after getting out of my first sober relationship. Last year, it was a breather from Jack, a choice instrumental not only to his relapse but also to my cutting ties with him. In some ways, this trip is coming full circle with my loss. In others, it’s just the beginning of really addressing it.
Regardless, when I come back it will have been one more thing I’ve done without Jack. The day after I return, W starts high school, and that will be another. There are big things, there are little things, there are things in between. There are things I think will be difficult and aren’t, others I think will be easy but are the very hardest. I have no way of knowing what it will be like, going to New York City and Fire Island and Brooklyn and wherever. Without Jack. Right now, I just know that I wish he were here, and coming to terms with that never, ever being an option is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to process.