I didn’t cry about Tim’s birthday until I thought about carrot cake. I was driving to Japanese class and thinking about carving pumpkins with my friends after, an event I pulled together so I wouldn’t be sitting at home alone. Building a mental checklist about what I needed to buy at the store, I thought about carrot cake.
Tim loved carrot cake. I hate it, because I hate cream cheese icing. I hate it, but I made it or bought it for him every year. Here was another birthday with no Tim and no carrot cake and everything was unfair. Sitting at a traffic light, I pulled up the blog post I wrote last year about ways people could celebrate him on his birthday. Did I do those things?
Go vegetarian for a meal or two. Want to get crazy? Go vegan.
I had steak fajitas for lunch.
Have a glass of nice whiskey.
Even to this day, whiskey makes my face scrunch up like I’d never tasted alcohol before.
I didn’t make it far down the list before I got to, “Study a foreign language for a little bit.” and the tears began to run down my cheeks from behind the dark lenses of my scratched up sunglasses. My Japanese homework wasn’t done from the week before and I certainly hadn’t spent any time trying to memorize currency numbers and hours of the clock, but I was trying… wasn’t I? Haven’t I been trying all this time?
As I parked my car in the parking lot of the high school where my class is held, the marching band played their tango “Moulin Rogue” set in the background while I wiped the moisture off my face. I turned off my radio to listen to their instruments bang behind my car as I checked my eyes in the mirror. They looked fine. I can go from crying about carrot cake to walking stoically into a classroom like it’s my job. My compartmentalizing is on point.
After class later that night, I greeted my friends who sat in my kitchen waiting for our pizza to arrive.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already cried today,” I said as I scooped the now cold queso they had made into a bowl. “Got it out of my system already.” I don’t know if I said this to reassure them or myself.
The food arrived and I shoved delicious refined carbs into my mouth, because at that moment I didn’t care about calories. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be normal again – who cares about a few extra pounds?
Four of us chattered outside as we dove into the pumpkins. We took the large, silver knives I brought in from the kitchen and plunged them deep into the orange rind of the vegetable. The knives came from Tim’s first marriage. I never bothered to replace them, but I don’t mention that to my friends. We scooped out the stringy flesh, dumping fistfuls of tan slime into the trashcan. Pascale and Eliot nibbled up stray seeds and innards from the ground around us.
I sipped rum while I carved my design, the Tardis from Doctor Who, which is something I picked out as a nod to Tim. As I mapped out the rectangles and lines that made up the police call box, I tried to think of him as my own Time Lord spinning around through space. Churning in and out of different galaxies to save the world. The fantasy doesn’t work – I know better than that. There is no eternal peace in a life of danger and traveling, at least not for Tim. I decide it is more realistic that he blows the acorns down off my oak tree for the dogs to eat in the back yard.
Eventually the pumpkins are carved and photographed. We filled the evening with light hearted conversation about Halloween costumes and the trouble with selling horses, and I drank enough rum to forget about carrot cake. My friends left, and I loaded the dishwasher with the knives from his first wedding, the plates from his real wedding and the cups from our time at Mardi Gras.
Not quite ready for bed, I scrolled through Facebook to kill time. Someone in my feed had liked a slam poetry video, and even though I usually loathe slam poetry – I opened the link. A man suffering from bipolar disorder wildly waved his hands through the air as he hammered his words out into a microphone. The rum in my cup slurred the quote for me, but he said something to the effect of “If I didn’t have the sadness, I would be boring.” I walked into my bedroom and thought, I am not boring.
Then, like every night, I took Tim’s wedding band off my right middle finger and placed it in the ceramic plate on my vanity table. I pulled on an oversized t-shirt that said, “This is my 2nd ‘Cotton’ Anniversary and All I Got Was This T-Shirt” and snuggled into my bed next to Pascale. In the dark listening to the hum of my sound machine, I held onto my sadness for a bit. Tim should have been 38, but he’s 36. I am almost 32, catching up. He’s not a Time Lord, but I lay in bed alone in the dark, lost in time.