I woke up this morning thinking about David. I woke up this morning, next to Graham, my sleeping husband, thinking about David. I woke up this morning, next to Graham, my sleeping cheating husband, thinking about David.
I don’t know if his name is David, but I imagine that it is. Yes, he looks like a David. His friends call him Dave. But, he has few friends, or I would guess he has few friends. Maybe he has more friends than me.
Graham smells like Freesia. I know the nights he’s spent with her because of the way he smells. It must be her soap, unless it’s her perfume and she has rubbed her body all over every inch of his. The smell makes me nauseous.
David lives in the park. His friends call him Dave, but I call him David. Every morning, before my sleeping cheating husband wakes up, I make a cup of coffee, stare in the mirror for far too long, searching for some sign of me. Then, I run. I run on the jogging path around the park, across from the apartment. The apartment is not my home. It’s the place that we moved after we lost the baby. Lost is the wrong word, we didn’t misplace him.
David lives along side the jogging path, near the southwest corner of the park. I have run past him every morning since we moved here. Every morning, I want to stop and say, “Hey, Dave, can I call you David? Let’s go, let’s leave, let’s be other people.” Instead, I slow my gait and watch.
David has never noticed me watching or running or thinking about him. Underneath the layers of sweat and dirt and loss and giving up, he is handsome. He reminds me of Jesus or Kurt Cobain. I’ve always been attracted to the wrong sort of men. And Jesus and Kurt Cobain fall into that category, but David is different. Sometimes, I think we could save each other. Then, I think I’ve gone mad, underneath layers of sweat and dirt and loss and giving up.
This morning, I woke up, thinking about David. Today will be the day that I speak to him. I think about his long blonde hair and his piercing blue eyes and all of the virtues I’ve given him. I want to stuff him in the space that Milo left inside me. I want to smother myself in his scent and block out the Freesia. Standing in front of the mirror, I search for some sign of me. I find none, but I can smell the Freesia all the way in the bathroom.
I sit down on the floor to put on my shoes. My hands are cold and I have trouble with my laces. Closing my eyes, I smell vanilla cupcakes, the way Milo’s breath smelled. It really did smell like vanilla cupcakes. Graham joked that my breast milk was too sweet. Then he would leave and then come home and smell of Freesia. Lost. Lost is the wrong word, we didn’t misplace him.
The circulation has returned to my hands and I tie my shoes. The morning is gray and damp. June gloom, they say. June gloom. I run. My mind races with the 96 mornings that have passed since we lost Milo. Every morning, for 96 days, I have run. I count the days like a prisoner.
The ground seems unsure beneath me and I prepare myself as I round the Southwest corner, David’s corner. I hold my breath and close my eyes and stop. I open them. David is not there. No one is there. There are some newspapers and a can and a comb and an empty shopping cart. I will not be saved and I will save no one. I run.
I search for some sign of me. I run. I run until I stop breathing. The grass is wet beneath me and I lie still. My clothes are soaked with grass and sweat and something new begins to fill the space left by Milo, the numb space carved by grief and singed with Freesia.
My ears ring and then the ringing is replaced with a song in my head. Nick Drake sings The River Man, “Betty said she prayed today/For the sky to blow away/Or maybe stay/She wasn’t sure.” I wonder about Betty and I wonder about David.
I lie there in the grass so long that people have started to stop and ask me if I’m okay. I’ve run past the man in the shiny pants before and he asks me if he can call someone. No, you can’t call anyone. Lost is the wrong word. Do you know David? No words come out.
An older woman, a Sikh, is kneeling beside me. She’s asks me my name. Her white turban and aged face soothe me and remind me of the baby yoga classes and Milo’s breath. I sit up and speak, “I’m not lost, lost is the wrong word.”
Before they can ask me anything else, I get up and I run. I run back to the apartment that is not my home. I find Graham there, still sleeping, smelling of Freesia. Quietly, I pack a small bag. I don’t need much, I don’t want any of this.
I take the bag into the bathroom and lock the door. The water has never felt better. The water has never felt worse. I lie on the floor of the shower and cry silently but strongly and let the water cover me and mix with my tears and I cry so long my skin is shriveled and I have nothing left.
I get out of the shower and stand in front of the mirror and I’m done searching. I take the first true breath I’ve taken in 96 days. I don’t tell Graham I’m leaving. I can smell the Freesia all the way to the car.
Erin Khar lives, loves, and writes in New York City, and sometimes other cities too. She was the recipient of a 2012 Eric Hoffer Editor’s Choice Prize for her story, “Last House at the End of the Street,” which was published in the Best New Writing 2012 anthology. Her work has appeared many places, including Marie Claire, Esquire, Sliver of Stone, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, The Manifest-Station, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Dr. Oz. The Good Life, and as a regular contributor for Ravishly. She is currently working on her first book, a memoir.