Digital traces haunt our every memory now. Pictures are snapped of the saddest of moments, photos taken of funerals, portraits of sadness splattered everywhere. She had avoided computers and the Internet for a long time after having the news of his death delivered to her by messages carried in long winding wires, wires that snaked their way through the earth burrowing deep and flying high contradicting themselves in their purpose of bringing humanity closer.
She could still remember that day, just another lazy workday, she had taken the opportunity to surf the Internet and look at news stories. She clicked on the link and a sense of foreboding came over her, don't look she had thought but had been unable to resist and had read the post about a man who had flung himself off a building falling to his death, falling faster than the fluttering stub of a cigarette that had followed him down. That more than anything had told her it was him. The small details. How was it possible to know someone so much that the manner of their suicide seems immediately familiar?
She couldn't help blaming herself. Who can? She suspected it already, his letter had read too sad but that wasn’t his note. That had been found later, well a fragment of it. a haunting digital trace. Another blow from the cyber age we all live in. there had been investigations into his act and a forensic cyber expert had been hired by his family(she had never been able to consider her in-laws part of her family, her ex-in-laws actually.) and trudging through troves of material, files hidden and deleted this gem had been found, a pearl somewhere in the memory of his computer which like an elephant never really forgets
“i really haven't been able to sleep for a while. I get in bed and toss and turn. I get in bed and think too much. Too. Much. It's always already 3 am and there's always a cloud of smoke surrounding my room a symbol of the bad spirits and evil thoughts that come to me with every memory of you. then I blink and the sun is outside checking in on me. Making sure I still live. And that's when i get scared. Because I have no idea who put out the cigarette. That's not even really it, I get scared because I do the same thing over and over again. It's like my waking life is this dream I can't get out of, a hell that I have to relieve over and over again”
She could imagine him lying in bed thinking and thinking. He had loved to think, maybe that’s why he smoked so much it gave him an excuse to pause. She could remember in the earlier days of their married life how he would keep himself awake when something bothered him and smoke it to little ashes. How the puffs he took would be representative of the thoughts he thought. So on the nights he was writing about she was sure he loosed heavy puffs. Clouds of smoke that moved ever so slowly. Carrying the weight of his thoughts on them unable to fly away. Thoughts that were killing him just as surely as every puff was. In the end the thoughts won the battle for his body. Taking it away in a manner just as dramatic as cancer though swifter. A fall from the sky. He would never smoke again, he would never think again. And when she sat there and thought those two thoughts she held back sobs.
She hated computers now. Sometimes she hated herself. It's partly my fault she couldn’t help thinking. She had been a contributor to the feelings that led a man to jump off a building. She loved this man and so she hated him. She hated him because he obviously hated her. They knew each other though they couldn’t live together and love, she had no illusions on that account. But they knew each other. As intimately and fully as humanly possible and so he had to know what this suicide would do to her. He had to know she would blame herself, he had to know she wouldn’t be able to sleep for weeks, in fact the only consequence he couldn’t have foreseen was that she would hate computers so much. Even the place he had chosen to jump off of was a slap to the face, designed to bring her to her knees in sorrow. This place was sacred she could imagine him thinking as sacred as the marriage bed you defiled. He had proposed here. They had laughed here and he came here to end his life. She couldn’t help finding the symbolism in this marrying her had killed him. She hated him sometimes.
The wise ones say life must go on. Only grief can bring wisdom. The wisest words are steeped in sorrow and born of loss. So she listened to the wise.
Moving on is a private affair, utterly atomistic and individual. Lose yourself in something first, drugs, work, sex. Let your soul put itself back together as you keep your mind too busy to dwell on the pain. Pain can kill as surely as a fall from a building or falling for the wrong woman she thought wryly. And she hated him all over again. She had printed out the letter and brought it to this place, where he had decided to hurt her in the worst way possible. She reached in her pocket and took out a cigarette.
It was cold today, the nerves in her face needed rubbing just so she wasn’t scared it would fall off. Her fingers shook and the tears were icy by the time they reached her cheeks. They fell on the letter she had printed out. She lit the cigarette in memoriam. And she took a deep drag. As with most non-smokers the head-rush was immediate and overwhelming. The cigarette packed a kick, a kick that reached down her back. In between puffs she thought.
She thought about their life together she remembered the night they discussed children. He had been so full of life and wanted them so much. He talked about teaching them to ride their bikes, he wanted to embarrass them, to love them in the most unconditional way possible. If only love was enough. By the time they had that conversation she already knew he wasn’t the type of man she wanted to raise children with. This had been a hard thing to admit to herself, it was still hard to admit it now. But something in her knew he was the type to throw himself off of sacred grounds. But it hurt and she wished she had children with him now. She wished there was a chance of hearing his smile in a young girl's voice or seeing his stride in a small boy’s walk. She wished she had spent time better with him. She wished that she could read the desperation in the letter he had sent, sensed it in the meeting they had had, felt it in the whispers of his soul. She wished she hadn’t met him, how she wished for that.
The wise say you must move on. She didn’t smoke the cigarette down to its last, that was too much like something he would have done, instead she took it and very carefully pressed it to the printed version of his letter. She watched it smolder and begin to smoke. She watched it catch fire and saw the fire spread. All paper burns and turns to ashes in the end just like all love turns to grief. The ashes were carried away by the wind and still she cried. Then she hugged herself and walked away.