I open her email. Her password hasn’t changed, it’s one of the frozen things. Time is somatic, it eats and digests, but her email sits collecting. I check her email, over and over, all day. I check it and close it, and check it again. I watch my name move further down the inbox, now 1287 as other emails pile on top. I see library notices, playgroup updates, museum calendars. An amassing of things they did together. I might come along, but she was the one on the mailing lists. She was the first contact.
I am not the only UNREAD. Many friends have sent condolences and check-ins, languid in her inbox. I get these emails too, subject lines like: “Thinking of you…” or “hey,” sometimes blank. It must be hard, coming up with a subject line. I don’t fault the attempts. Emails are humane, everything else, an affront. A text implies conversation, someone waiting for reply. Cards are vile, evil shit. I have plenty of these unopened. Right in the trash they go. I hate them. I told everyone, don’t get me a fucking card. Just don’t do it. I could have been nicer about this. I’m not the only one suffering, I’ve been gently reminded. And people have to do something, they go mad doing nothing.
Emails, I can keep checking. 1294 UNREAD. I wait for that moment when she reads it. I want to know exactly when she is clicking on the email, opening my message and reading my words. If I am sitting at my computer when it happens, watching the status change from NEW to READ, it’s almost like talking. She’s the only one I want to talk to.
She quit talking. Not immediately. Immediately she stood in the streets and screamed his name. She clutched every human she passed with a cell phone picture shoved into their line of vision. “This is my son, he’s five, he’s missing. He’s wearing a green shirt and blue shorts and orange sneakers. He has brown hair and brown eyes and a birthmark on his forearm, like this, like a heart, like an anatomical heart.” She did all the good, important work, the responsible, arduous work of talking to media and investigators. And when they found him, when they found HIM and arrested HIM and took HIM to trial, she kept talking, to authorities, to the community, to make sure we saw it all the way from beginning to end.
And it was generously fast.
When it was over, she sunk.
The usefulness of details, the evidence, the timelines, all exhausted, and a terrible certainty arose. All those people at the school, the ones who let him out of their sight. All the eviscerated specifics of trial. She wanted to talk about all of it, but mostly she wanted to die. She wanted us both dead. We sent him to kindergarten and now he’s alone. We could still find him. She asked me to do it. I said I couldn’t, and when she said “He must have been so scared,” I wouldn’t let her say it again. I couldn’t hear it, the thought circling my mind, waiting to infest. I was loud. I said shut up, just shut up.
So she did. She stopped talking. She left all her stuff, flew home to her mother, rewound to a time where she could be held and helpless, and done.
Her mother still calls me, maybe too much. It’s been a long time, nearly a year. I could tell you to the second, the last second I saw him, but I won’t. Because when I start counting, I never stop. People have to do something. I don’t want to count.
She has begun moving. Begun doing things again, like eat and sleep. Her mother tells me. I’ve been doing these things all along, even work. I go, I work, and I check her email. 1306. I wait for her to want to talk to me. Because in the end, there are two of us in this whole world. Only two, who know how this is. Two of us, witness to our son. Without her, I am none.