After Susan died I spent a week at her house, mostly to facilitate preparations for her funeral. The day after her service I returned to my flat in Dorval, a suburb of Montreal. Returning to my apartment was a little bit like what I imagine people experience when they open their summer cottage for the first time in the spring. My apartment was stale and stuffy. I hadn’t really been there in months. But it was now my full time home. I left my belongings at Susan’s house. There wasn’t any pressure by her family to vacate and I didn’t have the energy to move.
I returned to work in November. I spent Thursday night at Susan’s as I taught an 8:45 class on Friday morning and it eliminated an early commute from the suburbs. As those few Thursdays came and went, the energy in Susan’s house changed. Each time I went and she was not there created a different feeling for me. I was particularly attentive to make sure I left the house exactly the way she like to. And so when I came back it looked the same, but her hand in things was missing. However, our bedroom and our bed felt the same. Somehow that energy and intimacy remained, and I cherished crawling into bed on those Thursday nights and sleeping on her side.
As my term ended, I felt a need to consolidate my things. I had kept all my analogue filmmaking equipment there as well as all my research and film processing apparatus, not to mention clothes and books and notes. With the school term over and the reason to sleep in the city over as well I returned to Susan’s late one afternoon. I spoke with Susan’s son, Oliver who was there. He was considering a move into the house while his apartment underwent some noisy and messy renovations. Plus, it would facilitate his task of sifting through and archiving Susan’s writing and belongings as he had promised her he would. Susan would be thrilled to know her son was moving in! I began mapping out my schedule to pack and then move my things. Oliver was very kind and reminded me there wasn’t any pressure to vacate. In my heart I felt it was time. With some idea of my schedule Oliver could now make his own plans to occupy the space.
I left Susan’s and walked toward the train station. Daylight was fading and I was tired from a busy week. However, I felt a calling to return to the house, to our bedroom. I had not changed the bedding since Susan died, not since we slept our last night together. I called Oliver and told him I was coming back. I entered the bedroom and paused to feel the space. The window, the blind, the wonderful antique wall light. Then I removed the pillows and began folding the top blankets. I trembled. Then I wept. Folding blankets and recalling nothing specific, but feelings of intimacy and tenderness, and Susan’s kindness and love, I enacted this final lover’s ritual. I became weak in my legs, and I knelt at Susan’s side of the bed and draped my body over the spot where she had lain. I cried and cried, wanting to feel her pass through the sheets and into my body. My sobbing subsided and at some point I rose and peeled away the last of the bedding. And then I cried some more as I folded everything. I left the naked bed and went to ask Oliver, who was cooking in the kitchen, to come up and we could lift the mattress. He came upstairs, took one look at me, put a hand on my shoulder and told me that he thought that was enough for today. Dismantling the bed could wait. He said that I didn’t need more hardship at the moment. I couldn’t argue.
I walked down to the train. Cold air brushed my face and I could feel the tightness at the side of my eyes where my tears had dried. I was happy that I had answered the calling to return to the bed. Yet, I am not content with my telling. The experience calls for a song, or a poem as my words seem so thin in comparison to the experience. But the only poet in the room who shared the experience with me, who could write it, has put down her pen.
This was written in December 2018 on or around the solstice.