When I wake up
I begin my search for you
Although I found you years ago
When I wasn’t searching high
Nor was I searching low
Do you wake up?
Do you rise, and wait for me?
It’s you that found me years ago
With those golden eyes
How could I be so slow?
My fingers lightly held the pen between my fingers, adding the last question mark. I glanced down at my hands, a tiny rose tattoo on my thumb reminded me of Harvey every day. It was these hands that spilled out words meant for him that I would never get to say. I handed the sheet of paper over to the blonde lady comfortably sitting across from me in her chair. I was supposed to be talking about my feelings with her, but sometimes they were hard to verbally get out. I was used to writing them. Her eyes scanned the words on the page as I fiddled with the strings of my hoodie. She sighed, pursing her lips together.
“This is good, Maeve,” she began, “but you’re here because we need to get you closure. The idea of searching for him- that he’s still out there- is harming you. You know that,” she added gently. It wasn’t the first time she’d said that.
I wasn’t the kind of person to let anyone see me cry- I had a sort of pride about it- but in the last few months I hadn’t really a choice in the matter. I felt tears pricking in my eyes again and forced myself to blink them away. Going to therapy wasn’t my choice at first. After everything happened, my mom, Sam and Milo were really there for me. I hadn’t let myself be so vulnerable with anyone but Harvey before so I tried to hold it all in for a while. Sam checked on me constantly even though she and Milo lived a few hours away. For the first few months, I felt nothing. I stayed in that house- our house- and it began to eat at me emotions more and more every day. Going to work at the same place every day without him was torture. Not seeing him in places he used to constantly be was one of the worst feelings in the world. Picturing him there, feeling the presence that would normally be beside me every night in bed, smelling his cigarette smoke at the office. It wasn’t good for me, but that wasn’t the worst part.
When he died, for whatever reason, I felt like he wasn’t actually gone. He was still out there somewhere. I didn’t dare say this out loud for the longest time because everyone would think I had gone insane. I didn’t know why I felt this way, but I did. It was that same intuition telling me that something was wrong before. And it was right then. I had to find him. I didn’t know where he was and I didn’t know what to do to find him, but I was desperate. When I did finally tell Sam all of this on the phone, she told me that it was normal. When experiencing a loss like this, the first stage of grief is denial right? That’s what I’d been told in psychology so I’d heard it before. But, this was different than denial. There was solid proof that someone else had been in our house that day. The door was open, the vase was knocked over and upon further inspection, someone had clearly gone through our desk leaving papers everywhere. The police turned a blind eye to everything. They invalidated everything I brought up. Every piece of solid evidence I could find. They told me he died of “natural causes”. What naturally causes a healthy twenty-six year old man to die so suddenly? I refused to believe it. They treated me like I was a stupid child that enjoyed making things up.
My life was consumed with continuing to search for what Harvey was looking for before he died. I wouldn’t stop. It was the one thing I could do to feel any type of control in the situation. I would stay up for days in a row, just like he did. I could hear my own voice telling me to go to sleep or take care of myself just like I used to tell him, but I didn’t listen. Every minute was valuable. The more I read Harvey’s words and looked through his massive collection of evidence, I knew he’d been onto something all along. And it got him killed. I don’t know who was behind it or how it was getting covered up but I was going to figure it out. It made my blood boil. At this point, I didn’t care about myself. I knew that I was putting myself in danger, but I’d rather die and know what happened to him. I wanted to know if there was a chance he’d be out there as crazy as it seemed, but it wasn’t good for my mental health or physical health for that matter.
Everything finally collapsed on me when I had been so dehydrated and sleep deprived that I passed out at work one day. That’s when my mom forced me to go to therapy, sitting in the emergency room looking at me with worried looks I recognized as the same I used to give Harvey. So I’ve been in therapy for a few months now. It helps. I’m feeling better I guess. As good as I can after everything that’s happened. I’ve been writing a lot more. I stopped for a while, but my therapist encouraged me to start again. To write what I felt, what I wanted to say to him. She said that the point of the sessions were to bring some sense of closure to me, but I was fighting it. I still wasn’t ready to believe it was real. I knew I was only hurting myself but it was more painful to accept that he was gone.
“Maeve, you deserve to move on. Just because he lost his life doesn’t mean you have to lose yours. He wouldn’t want you to... and I think you know that,” she folded up the sheet of paper I’d handed her and placed it on the table between us, sliding it back to me.
“I know,” I muttered, not quite believing myself. I took the paper from the table and shoved it in the pocket of my hoodie.
“What’s something you could do to begin this process?”
“I-I don’t know,” I stuttered.
“What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? What’s a dream you’ve had that doesn’t involve him,” she gazed back at me with kind and questioning eyes.
I thought for a while, looking up at the white popcorn ceiling and chewing on my bottom lip. I know it wasn’t, but it felt selfish to dream.
“I guess I’ve always wanted to work at this big poetry magazine, The Poetry Review. It’s in the UK. I was trying to write submissions while working at the Harold at first, but we kind of got settled here and I never applied.”
“Maeve, I think that sounds like a wonderful idea,” she smiled, clasping her hands together in her lap. “Part of the reason you’ve had trouble moving on is because you’re living the same life. You’re living a life you made for you and Harvey. You live in the same house. You work at the same office. Maybe this could be a step in reclaiming your life.”
“I don’t know... that’s so far away,” I commented uneasily, regretting saying the idea out loud.
“Maybe far away what you need.”
We sat in silence as I pondered it over. Nothing was keeping me here anymore. It was painful to stay but would leaving my life here feel like leaving memories of him behind. I could never do that. It wouldn’t be possible for me to forget him. I didn’t want to, no matter how painful it was.
I left that therapy session knowing that after the countless hours of searching for answers, it was time to give up. Time to stop obsessing. Harvey would want this. There was a way to move on keeping his love close in my chest, but doing what I knew had to be done. A part of me still felt his presence out there, but that was a piece of this whole grief process, right? And maybe he is there. I want to believe he’s watching out for me in some way, no matter how cheesy it sounds. It was time to let go. In the coming weeks, I put together a portfolio of all the work I’d done in the last few years. A lot of it was from the past five months. Those words were the most vulnerable I’d ever written. Of course they were about him. About us and how our lives had so beautifully intertwined. What I’d written in this time could be my best work because it was so real. It took me a long time to finally decide that leaving was the right thing to do. I sat on the idea for a few more months until it was a year since he’d been gone. That was when I really realized what I needed to do. I laid in bed all day, the same bed he used to share with me, and let the loneliness and grief hold me for one last time before I picked myself up. He’d be proud of me for doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing. So, I finally sent everything in for the job application and for the first time I wasn’t scared of rejection at all. I had nothing left to lose here.
I heard back rather quickly, within two weeks. I’d gotten an interview. I thought it would be a long process, but they seemed to really like me and offered me the job by the end of it. It took me aback at first and I asked myself more than a few times if this was what I needed to do. I talked it over with both Sam and my mom. Was I sure I was ready to move to a whole different country? I’d been trying to decide for more than a year now, but it seemed right now. Leaving everything that was familiar to me would be scary, but necessary. On the inside, I knew I needed it.
So, I packed everything up. That was an emotional day. I hadn’t touched any of Harvey’s things for over a year and I didn’t know what to do with all of it. My fingers grazed over linen button ups and sweaters that were still hung carefully in the closet. I put some things away, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of anything yet so I packed some items in boxes to keep at my mother’s house. I finally got to a little trunk I knew Harvey kept his important things in. He was disgustingly sentimental sometimes. His favorite books, old notes written by Rosalie, a Polaroid of him and Milo and a few of my poems he loved were packed tightly in the box. I looked down at everything and knew I didn’t want to get rid of anything here. It reminded me of him too much. It was him in all of the good ways. Thoughtful and in love with the little things that made him happy. I never wanted to forget that part of him. I picked up one of the books, The Year of Magical Thinking, and flipped through the pages, taking note of the phrases he’d underlined. I looked through the trunk a little more, smiling to myself at the things he’d kept, and began to close it when something unfamiliar caught my eye under the layers of paper.
A tiny little box sat untouched among the chaos. I let out a small gasp, holding my hands to my chest. Somehow this little box taunted me without even being opened. I reached in cautiously, treating it like it could have been a bomb or something. My fingertips rubbed against the soft blue velvet before bringing it closer. I took a deep breath and opened it. My body froze and I felt my eyes well up with tears for the tenth time that day, but this time I let them out. It was almost like the little object was laughing at me. The sunlight coming through the window bounced beautifully off the diamond, creating little rainbows on the walls. It was perfect. Just what I’d expect Harvey to pick out. I’d been dreaming of seeing this ring for five years now and here it was in front of me except he wasn’t the one holding it. Part of me wished I hadn’t found it. It hurt to think of the forever with him that I would never have. I couldn’t bring myself to even try it on. It was immaculate, but it made me nauseous. I shut the tiny box and wiped the tears from my eyes before putting it back in the trunk.
That little ring sat in the back of my mind as I continued to pack and get my things together for the rest of the week. Finally it was time to go to the airport. As my mom drove us into the terminal, a little voice inside of my head kept telling me it was okay to turn back. It was okay to want to pretend some more. Home was sad, but home was comfortable. Home smelled like him still. Would I forget that somewhere else? I didn’t have to move on just yet if I wasn’t ready. But I knew I was and I’d known it was time for a while now. Arriving at the airport was terrifying. It meant I was actually doing something. I was taking action in my life for the first time in a while, which I knew was good, but fuck it was terrifying. I felt alone. My mother was there, wiping her tears away and hugging me as I left, but after that I was really truly alone. I wasn’t used to doing things like this by myself. My heart was beating fast and my hands were trembling as I let go of my mom and walked through the sliding glass doors of the bustling airport, turning around to give her one last wave.
This was it. I took a deep breath as I felt my heart rate slow down a little. My feet stuck to the floor. I looked back at my suitcase, packed tightly with all of the clothes I could fit. This was the last time I could go back. It was all or nothing. I brought my hand up to my face, looking at the small rose tattoo on my thumb like it would say something to me. I looked up at all of the people hurriedly walking past. I was leaving where we used to live- our house. That was it. He was where I belonged and he’d always be with me. I had to know that. I began to step forward, looking up at all of the letters, numbers and arrows telling me where to go and the farther I got from the exit, the more I began to be able to breathe. I felt it being left behind. For the first time in a while, I felt as light as a feather. I felt free.