I felt equally solitary as my environment as I struggled to move forward. After all, he had given me two weeks to move out, and my time had expired as much as our love.
I turned the tv on to play a random music channel to mask the emptiness each object left behind. But my hurt and anger anchored my determination to leave.
I’m not sure how many hours passed by the time I was almost done, but I gave in to my sore muscles and called it quit for the day. I threw my black coffin-size suitcase into the car, along with a couple of boxes shoved into the trunk as I pushed around hangers clinging onto my clothes. Both of the Maltese climbed to the front seat as they normally did, and waited for the turn of the ignition.
As we drove away, I breathed intermittently a sign of relief but confusion swirled my head.
I arrived at a friend’s place close to nightime. Around 8:00 pm my cell phone rang. For a second, I thought I’d left something behind, but it wasn’t him haunting me. It was the sound of an old, familiar voice. I began to smile in anticipation of a warm greeting, but what she was to say next was all but comforting. She quickly cut me off, and asked, can you talk?
I was a bit taken aback by her prologue, but replied, yes.
She continued, are you okay? are you in a place where you can sit down? I responded in a positive manner, but the lineup of questioning was making me uncomfortable. I felt my guard slowly rising, but not yet knowing what she was referring to, I played along and indulged her. Naturally, I asked, “what’s going on?” A light pause ensued. Her tone did not hint or forewarned of her jabbing, unhesitating news – “Sonja is dead.”
I stood motionless as if the pull of gravity had paralyzed me. I asked her to please repeat herself, but in my heart, I knew Beth would never joke so insensitively. My mind shielded me from taking in in her words.
Filled with disbelief I asked “how? when?” she continued – “she hung herself inside her closet and was found this morning.” Not knowing what to say next or how to think, I clung to the phone in silence.
Calmly, Beth asked me if I was okay to drive myself to a friend’s place. News of her death had spread quickly throughout the day, and a group of Sonja’s closest friends had gathered to support each other and offer their prayers. I made arrangements to get myself there. On my way out, before grabbing my purse and keys, I stopped myself in front my friend’s altar. She had been practicing Buddhism for over 15 years. I took a couple of steps toward the beautiful mahogany doors and respectfully pushed them apart. Like the sound of a violin that reels you in, without any resistance, I gravitated towards the scroll filled with Chinese characters. I pulled the chair that was already behind me and sat. I slowly lit two semi-melted candles, and grabbed a couple of sticks of floral incense to burn. I clasped my hands together, filled my lungs with air and expelled a broken down chant.
After a few minutes, my head felt clouded. I had stepped into a surreal moment where I was clueless of my whereabouts.
Teardrops flooded my eyes. I stopped, then attempted to mumble a syllable, but I’d choke with the bitter, salty discharge running from my cheeks into my mouth. I cupped my hands over my mouth out of fear of being heard, but the more I tried to compose myself, the more my repression betrayed me.
Memories of Sonja began to burst, and I with anger. I wanted to explode – take everything in sight and destroy it. God, I hated her in-between the love I felt. How could she? Why did she? When did she? Why couldn’t she have waited for me? I was only a week away.
My friend approached me and gently rested her hand over my shoulder. She stroked my hair a few times, and compassionately murmured, “Let it out.” She pulled a chair next to me and chorused me through my chant. I couldn’t finish a single word without experiencing an incomplete kaleidoscope of emotions: sadness, hurt, betrayal, guilt – and emptiness.
Sonja’s presence had already fused with the thin air I breathed. I felt abandoned and alone.