The weirdest goddamn thing happened to me last week. I mean, weird goddamn things are always happening to me (such as: getting latex-gloved by the TSA), but this was the goddamn weirdest in a while.
An envelope arrived addressed to Chris. That was only a little odd; on a 1-10 scale of goddamn weirdness, it registered somewhere around a 5. I’m used to getting mail addressed to my late husband, but most of it belongs in one of three categories: 1) fundraising queries of the sort that involve adorably personalized labels; 2) letters from old friends who hadn’t yet heard he died, which often bring me to tears; and 3) promotions from car dealerships, which always annoy me (about a 7 on the 1-10 scale of goddamn annoyance) but don’t technically piss me off, except for that one time some smart-ass salesperson hand-wrote and addressed a promotional faux missive to my dead spouse that I mistook for Dead Letter Category No. 2 and, as such, brought me to tears before I realized I’d been had. And so I got pissed off, a 10+ on the relevant scale, and then I tore someone’s voicemail a new one.
The latest Dead Letter to plop on my porch was a bill for $15.16 — what’s left, after insurance, of the charge for an orthopedic office visit and knee X-ray performed in August. This August. On Chris. Who hadn’t visited a doctor of any kind, as far as I was aware, for a whole three years. But there it was, addressed to him, and no one else’s name was anywhere on it.
My first thought was, I kid you not: WTF? Chris is alive?
My second thought was: He had a knee X-ray?
My third thought was: WTF?
My fourth: He has a knee?
My fifth, and I am still kidding you not, was: SO WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME HE’S NOT DEAD?
Yes. I had these thoughts. No. They make no sense. But I had them. I’m really really serious. Of course, all of them zapped through the Clanging Campbell’s Mushroom Soup Can Known As Amy’s Head in roughly .0000017 seconds, and it wasn’t long after that, maybe another .0000026 seconds, that I collected myself, recognized the temporary breach in my sanity and accepted, again, that my husband leapt to his end in late September, 2011.
Then I sighed, and I thought: Yep. That really happened.
The mind is a piece of work, isn’t it? Mine is, anyway. Mine sometimes noodles along in its own reality, all la-de-dah like, following a path disconnected from the actual world with its actual rules outside my actual Mushroom Soup. It’s possible — and here, reaching wildly for an explanation, I slap right up against pseudo-Freudian psychobabble — that the horror of some traumas, including the suicide of a loved one, is so entirely Other and Wacky and Wrong that our brains never manage to adjust. It’s possible this is true of all loss. It’s possible, in every case, after every death, that some eensy sliver of the ever-rebellious mind simply refuses to go there.
Turned out the X-ray bill, while addressed to Chris, was actually for my daughter. I have no idea how her father got his name on it, as the insurance was mine; it’s possible he brought her there years ago for something else, and his name was etched into the system as the responsible party. I’d forgotten she’d visited the orthopedist for her knee before hoofing off to college this fall. I’d known about it. It just spilled out of the Soup Can somehow.
In any case, that’s one mystery solved. The other mystery, the bigger mystery, the neuro-psycho-spiritual-sci-fi-scenario that momentarily altered my reality and made me think, for just a split hair of a nanosecond, that my husband’s aching joints hadn’t been cremated with the rest of him: that remains a puzzle.