Unburied Dead

He woke up with a start and flailed wildly for her, again. She wasn’t there of course, she never was. Not that that ever stopped him from checking. It was a habit that even after two years he’d failed to break.

He dragged in the air with an almost indignant gulp and waited for reality to kick into gear and take over his half-asleep mind. Before long the room was slowly coming into focus and so did he. The empty spot beside him in the bed made more obvious by the fact that even now he didn’t dare stray into it for fear of her tired elbow driving him back. Part of the routine battle they’d fought for space, blankets and legroom before inevitably drifting back towards the centre and the warmth each provided the other.

People died. That’s what he needed to remind himself. People died, she’d died. That was the unavoidable end point of life. What use was it to mourn? None really. And in better moments he could half convince himself that he’d stopped and moved on. Certainly the painful gap in his thoughts, the one she had shaped around herself in life, had been covered over. Made hard and calloused, no longer the source of agony it had been but still a ragged ridge scarring him. Never fading any further and always there when his mind strayed.

That was to be expected though, right? There would always been something left in the wake of her passing, wreckage he couldn’t hope to avoid. Wreckage he wouldn’t want to.

Perhaps if she had died properly it might have been easier though. A call he could have understood. A reluctant doctor breaking the news of a tragic loss, a policeman at the door with hollow apologies and awkward reports of a crash or mugging gone wrong. Even a long, dark struggle against a meaningless lump of cancerous flesh, consuming the woman she’d been, seemed morbidly preferable from this distance. Those at least were proper deaths. Ones he could have been told about, ones shared with doctors or nurses or family, no matter how shallow and polite their sorrow.

But she hadn’t died properly. She had died alone, inches from him. With no one to tell him about it, no darkness to endure, nothing but an odd space with something that used to be alive lying leaden and inhuman. An aneurysm. In a space he still couldn’t move her from, because she’d never died properly.

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