I wander from room to room, following the clean man-smell of his aftershave. It’s strongest in the bathroom we shared, so I crouch in the corner, calling his name. Some nights I even sleep on the bathroom floor, afraid to lose his scent. When that’s finally gone, what will become of me?
Friends and family offer to come round, but I can’t bear the thought of that sea of masks, the oceans of distance between each of us. The virus took my husband, and now it won’t even let us survivors hold each other close for solace. I can’t seem to stop shivering.
I finally pull myself away from the Martin-scented bathroom and crawl into my own bed. I dream of the old life, with him curled up beside me. I awake to tear-soaked pillows and a huge empty space.
I’m desperate for warmth so I order camellias, in colors of flame and hot pink. When they are delivered, I realize that they have no pulse; they do not breathe. They are cold to the touch. I throw them out.
“I’m sending you a ragdoll, Claire,” writes a friend. I don’t understand, but I am beyond curiosity, beyond caring. My heart is ice.
When the basket arrives, I bring it in without giving it a glance. We sit side by side in silence, gradually accepting each other. I begin to relax. No masks. Only inches between us. After what seems like hours, I turn to look at her. She stretches, yawns, and opens her eyes. They are the bright blue of a cloudless sky, a child’s balloon, a prayer answered. In one elegant motion, she leaps out of the basket and into my arms. I stroke her silky fur. Her heartbeat is strong and certain, her breathing warm and content. I rock back and forth, burying my face in her softness. Love and grief mingle and melt and merge.
“Thank you,” I whisper to Martin, to the beautiful ragdoll cat, and to my own strong heart which is breaking and mending, breaking and mending.