By Brianna Sinder
Everyday I gaze into the eyes of a dead man, my dead man. I listen to his concerns for the day and kiss him goodbye as he walks out into the world. I have watched him die somewhere between half the times he’s walked through that door and twice as many times as he has left to train in another time zone. He is my dead man, and he walks in his dying suit. Or rather a uniform that changes print every few years depending on which land threatens to steal him.
“I only want to die one of two ways,” he teases, “Peacefully as an old man or on the battlefield. You know,” he says.
I know. I know, and I honor your wishes by imagining your death as a fierce warrior, sacrificing yourself so that others can live. When I gaze at your face, you are satisfied that you did your best, even when others around you have failed. And then the cruel part of my imagination takes over. I imagine my aftermath. That’s when the tears come, but only quietly when I find myself tucked away in an empty room, forgotten for the moment by you and the children.
While my hands have dripped with foam and my fingernails ache from scraping the dishes, I have listened to the laughter of you and the children in the other room. A different death scenario plays through my mind—the movie that I don’t want to watch.
“Why don’t you want to watch military movies with me?” you ask. Because I watch one every day. You are the star. And everyone knows the hero dies.
I imagine that I remarry and wonder whether the man that follows you can fill your shoes, offer any joy to our little loves. Then I find myself angry because what if they forget who you are? How could I possibly keep your memory alive if there is someone else there trying to do your job? Will they forget how well you filled those shoes yourself?
Then I am angry at him, this guy that thinks he can come anywhere close to being what you were to us. Who does he think he is, this imposter? He does not walk through life with the same dedication to doing the best possible, changing the world. He tries too hard to please me, and so he fails miserably. He knows nothing of my personal disdain for extravagance. He is wasteful. I am not a woman to be wooed. I need less nonsense. You would know that. It’s a shame he isn’t more like you. It’s not fair to him that he’s not more like you.
When I am driving alone in the car stewing in possibilities, I consider moving to be closer to your father, so that the children can have a man in their life that might hold some semblance to their father. I watch him with the kids, day-in, day-out through this lens in my mind that peaks into the future. He is like you just enough that his imagined presence pulls at my heart daily in this time lapse. I’m wearied by having something so like you that isn’t you. A not-you that can’t hold me. Over time, the children notice it too. They miss Daddy, and Granpapa reminds them of Daddy. His house has so many pictures of Daddy. But no Daddy.