He leaves his imprint on me still, six years later.
Laundry for instance.
I still toss socks and underwear in a pile, to be folded last. I still tie long socks into a knot rather than roll them in a ball since rolling them in a ball stretches out the elastic.
I still wipe the bleach cap with a towel or sock. I still toss light-colored towels in with the whites even though they’re not white since they’re just towels, so what’s the difference.
I still chop vegetables the same way, moving my index finger from the top of the knife and leaning into my thumb. I still wash rice using my hand instead of a spatula, although it was my mother who taught me how to wash rice with a spatula. Hand, spatula, what’s the difference, but I still do it the way he preferred.
I still heat food till it’s piping hot. Not lukewarm or medium warm but so hot it burns your tongue. I still remember how he got so mad once when I didn’t heat some frozen pizza rolls enough, how he took a bite, spit it out, and spat, “It’s still cold inside.”
I still rinse out recyclables before throwing them out. I still tear open and fold cardboard boxes. I still crush plastic bottles to save space.
I still hang the toilet paper over, not under. I fix it if someone else hangs it under.
I still sometimes look down on myself for caring about celebrities, for keeping up on gossip, for gasping when celebrities split up/die/almost die. I’m still surprised when you find this amusing.
“You keep up with the gossip,” you say, “so I don’t have to.”
I still sometimes think the same things that bothered him will bother you. For instance: putting clothes away slightly damp, leaving shirts hanging in the shower, letting cooking smells get into his suits/shirts/ties, forgetting something, getting us lost, wasting his time, being late, making some small, unpredictable mistake.
Hanging the toilet paper the wrong way.
I’m still surprised when you don’t care about how you look, whether or not your suits are immaculate, ties pressed, shirts snowy white with perfect collars. I still think you’ll care about a collar that is slightly gray, that although the dry cleaner did this, it’s still somehow my fault.
Sometimes I still think you secretly don’t want to be with me, the way he secretly didn’t want to be with me, the way he stayed with me out of guilt, because he’d gone to the trouble of convincing his parents I was “the one,” and when he began to question this, it was too late, the caterer was booked, I had my dress, and I was walking out, late of course, as most brides are (though of course he didn’t understand this), and the first time he saw me, in my dress, right before I became his wife, he smiled.
He smiled for real.
One of the few times.
I still ask you if you’re sure you don’t mind that I don’t make much money now, that all I do is write. (You say you’re glad if I’m glad.) I still wonder sometimes if you’ll have a needy relative come out of nowhere, someone we’ll have to drop everything to take care of. I feel selfish for not wanting to drop everything to take care of someone else’s relative, someone else’s mother, the way he made me feel selfish for not wanting to take care of his.
I still sometimes think you’ll tell me something out of nowhere, something unexpected, the way he said one hot summer night, out of nowhere, “I did something bad,” not kiss someone else bad but fuck someone else bad. Fuck someone else and impregnate them bad.
Sometimes I take my fingernail and make crescent moon designs on my thigh, rows down and across, furrows in a field. I like running my finger down the inverted ridges.
They don’t hurt, I want to tell you. They’re just dents; they’ll disappear in just a minute.
See, they’re gone already.
I still dream of him sometimes.
In my dreams about him, we’re always back together though I never want to be.
In one I’ve gotten him out of the house, but somehow he’s able to get back in. Somehow I’ve taken him back. He’s very happy. He goes around smiling and laughing, which he only sometimes did in real life. I pretend to be glad but really I wonder how I can tell him without hurting him that I need him to leave.
In another he’s furious to find out that I’ve been dating someone (someone else, not you). “You’re in love with that guy?” he asks. Yes, I say, which makes him angrier. (But actually I’m not in love with this guy, though I very much want to be. I very much want to be in love again, but it will be some time before I find you.)
In another I tell him I know what he did and that I’ve known for some time, and at this moment, his face contorts into complete insanity.
“You fucking bitch,” he says to me, in my dream, which he never said to me in real life. In real life we never called each other names. “You fucking bitch,” he says again, and comes after me. I grab his wrists, trying to keep him away. I call first for my mother, then my brother, but they don’t come.
The night before he confessed to his affair, I dreamed that I had cheated on him and awoke relieved to discover that I hadn’t. I was beyond relieved to know it was just a dream.
Do you still dream of old hers? You must, if I dream of the old him. But you don’t believe in dreams.
“Dreams are just the result of your brain regurgitating the day’s events,” you say.
You’re a scientist. You know computers inside and out. You type type type, and lots of things happen on your screen, things with numbers, letters, and symbols, running in an electric waterfall. The stuff of robot dreams.
“Dreams mean nothing,” you say.
This is a relief because he believed dreams meant everything, like when I twice dreamt of fighting with his mother, and twice afterward, she fell, and he thought it was my dreams that caused her falling and not the Parkinson’s disease, not her brain cells dying and losing dopamine, surely it wasn’t that but something imaginary in my brain.
He leaves his imprint on me still.
I still think McDonald’s coffee is the best.
I still eat spicy Korean instant noodles with tofu and an egg. I still eat kim chee. I still grab sticky rice with strips of seaweed.
I still clean up after myself as I’m cooking so that there are fewer dishes in the end. I still make sure the sink is empty of dishes before I start so they don’t get covered in grease.
I still remember the names of all the fish in his reef tank. The algae blenny, the purple tang, the percula clowns and anemone. The pygmy angel, the chromis, the pseudochromis. The six line wrasse. The sea cucumber that exploded when it died. The dragon wrasse he had to flush because it kept eating the other fish.
I bet I could still feed an anemone. (Thaw a pinch of frozen brine shrimp with warm tap water, suck into turkey baster, squirt into anemone.)
I still remember him tap dancing in the shower. I still remember him making funny faces while I was on the phone with my mom.
I still remember when we first met, how easy it was. I still remember thinking, This is how it should be.
“Aren’t there some days you can’t stop remembering?” a friend asked me once. “Aren’t there certain days that are just terrible because you remember?”
I know there should be. Our anniversary, his birthday, the day we met. But these days just pass me by, though sometimes I remember afterward.
It’s not the days I remember but the everyday. The laundry, the vegetables. A sentence out of nowhere, a look. They’re still there, but they don’t hurt (not anymore). Once mistakes, they’re now only the illusion of mistakes; once fear, now only the illusion of fear. They are dreams. They mean something (not nothing) but not everything either. They fade, like the crescent moons on my skin.