Elegy for Ray

Every day, I wait for Ray to come home.

I know that he’s dead, but my body doesn’t.

Thirty seven years of waiting:

for him to get home from work,

to finish sweeping the kitchen late at night,

and hardest of all,

for him to come back to bed most mornings, coffees in hand, that special smile that came after his first few sips, ready now to tackle the day, talk schedules or errands.

So many adjustments to each other over the years, such different people,

Bound deeply by passion and a never broken sense of belonging to one another- as family, through lifetimes and difficulties, passion and pain.

We were Earth and Sky to each other- hurting and wanting, fiercely protective and connected in ways that made no sense to me at times.

My easy-to-leave-men-self perpetually stunned by my unflagging devotion, and he, always and proudly, “as constant as the Northern Star. “

I miss the giggle I could invoke in him,

his warmth, his sweetness, the stubborn side that few could see.

I miss his eyes of love, his happiness to be my audience, the touch that never ceased to arouse my fire. His joy in being my man.

There was never a time that I didn’t love him, no matter what my feelings were at any given moment. He was my joy, my sorrow, “frustration on two legs walking.”

My sous chef and line cook, I even taught him to bake brownies, although he remained intimidated by baking. He lived to watch me make pies and loved the eating of them more. He learned to love gardening and walks, classical music, Thai coffee, volunteering, and the people that I brought into his life. My friends became the sisters he always wanted, and he loved making coffee or piña coladas for them, loved hearing us talk and laugh.

He loved being in community with people. He was a good neighbor and a sneaky look out, knowing everybody’s business and licenses. He was the guy you wanted when danger broke out- he knew the exits and every way to avoid any trouble. He was first to know that something was going to break out, and he’d quietly say “Time to go” and lead our little troupe to safety. Only love for me got him to join me at protests and picket lines. His distrust of police was intensified over the past few years and his outrage led him to volunteer to translate and help in any way he could. It was the first time I’d seen him offer to do something as overtly political (outside of voting, which he never missed) without being asked.

His desire was to be of service and he learned the importance of asking- finding out what was needed, not just what he wanted to give. That was hard. I put tasks before him that forced him to go deep- confront his fears, hurts, insecurities and doubts. He’d worked hard to wall that up and only Love could lead his way.

I knew who he was and loved him- a scenario he’d never imagined, couldn’t believe, and sometimes feared couldn’t be true. He thought he had secrets, but I knew his soul and all the ways that he was damaged. I knew him in ways that gave him strength and sometimes wings. I didn’t have to like all that he was, but I loved him beyond any person, place or thing outside of my son and his family.

And they were father and son in ways that drew me back to him when things threatened to tear us apart. He cared for my son and they bonded in ways I couldn’t, but that love reminded me that his devotion went beyond our mutual passion and other ties. And I think my love for his mother endeared me to him in unexpected ways. We met each other in places that no one else had ever reached.

So I wait: his death is unreal, impossible to “get”, an unacceptable reality that brings out the Cosmic Karen in me, wanting to speak to God about this mismanaged mistake.

He can’t be gone. It’s unacceptable and I won’t have it, pure and simple.

That’s how I feel. That’s the rage inside me.

Fuck everything I ever thought or believed in. No Ray? No fucks left to give.

I live because I don’t know how to die. I know too much about the risks of self annihilation, and hurting myself makes no good sense to me. I want him back: my Ray. I want to smack him for dying and leaving me to find his body- so cold, so clearly dead, a PTSD scene that reverberates as I hear my own screams and wailing- sounds my body had never made before.

I see it all sometimes- Now, sitting in my car, weeping and hurt and angry.

Bereft. A word I use- the only one that fits the tearing pain I feel where he was severed from me. It never wanes. Months pass, life appears to go on, but I am dead in that part of me. Not dead as in quelled, but dead like a constant, ripping, searing pain that screams inside my body, night and day, 24/7. Like having my heart and viscera ripped from my body, every waking minute of my day. Prometheus having his liver eaten by the eagle every day seems preferable or certainly comparable.

I sit here now- cold as fuck: haven’t eaten and have no appetite. I eat once every day because I promised I would. Because the body is strong despite the pain of walking and being, it continues to live. How long, I wonder? Will we be reunited then? What if he’s gone- reincarnated or otherwise oblivious to my pain? “What ifs” and other scenarios run through my head despite my current lack of belief in anything. He seems alive to me- I hear him all day long, as I would if he was here. I talk to him, fuss at him, laugh with him, and try to do the things he’d want of me. To live. I don’t know why, but I do.

And that’s part of the pain: that he’s so much with me, but not here to kiss, glare or roll my eyes at. He’s not here for me to love and I am full to overflowing with love for him. It could be frustrating when he was alive, and it’s unbearable now. He grounded me, allayed my fears, made the doing of things doable. He praised me in some way every day for 37 years, and I made it safe for him to be.

Two Geminis bringing our seesaws back to center.

So I wait. Until he comes home to me, I’ll wait.