Frozen by Barbara Coe

The closet.  His closet.  Our whole life together reduced to things found in this wardrobe and the memories attached to them.  My arms are unable to fold, stack, or bag any of the clothes I stand in front of.  I have no thoughts, no feelings.  There is only an abyss.  This void has a temperature.  It is an unwelcome glacier eclipsing me, imposing itself over me, dense and uninhabitable.  The mass of the thing hidden beneath the surface.  A dangerous magnitude of what I cannot see or touch.  Impossible to navigate.

I’ve been through his desk, books, and pictures, but there is something profoundly different about the closet.  Here, I actually feel him.  I stare at the items in front of me.  A small crack leaks something warm and familiar through the ice—I tug at my favorite T- shirt of his.  It slides off the hanger and empties into my hand.  The weight of the cotton slight and supple from the years of weekly wash.  Black with red print from New York’s MOMA with the tag line Fear No Art.  The cut a perfect fit for his athletic shoulders.  He wore it on weekends.  Our days.  Stolen afternoons at films, at restaurants, and later in bed.  I pull it toward me, hold it close to my chest.

The warm trickle widens and a memory begins to flood my body.  Elevator dancing.  Long before his illness, whenever we were alone in an elevator, he would grab me, bring me close and begin to slow dance, gently humming into my ear.  The warmth deepens.  I feel his hand reach for my arm, pull me into his chest alongside this soft cotton.  I hear his heartbeat and feel the moistness of his breath along the curve of my neck.  When the elevator stopped for another passenger, he would release me and we’d stand side by side waiting for the intruder to leave so we could continue our waltz.

The memory ends.  The warmth recedes.  The crack seals.

My fingertips grip the shirt at the shoulders.  I silently fold back both sleeves, leaving an undersized silhouette of his form.  I drop the top half over my left forearm, the neck and shoulder lines now turned away.  My opposite hand slowly creases it in half once more, exposing only a small patch of abdomen.  I place the small square I have made on the rack above the hanging clothes.  Again, I am frozen.

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About the Author

Barbara Coe has worked as a Respiratory Therapist in intensive care and diagnostics for over twenty five years.  She teaches Pulmonary Function and is certified in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education K-12.  She has been writing for several years.  She strives to capture the small and poignant observations that add meaning to everyday life.  This is her first publication.