A Note from the Clean-Up Crew

by Carolin Messier


There’s more than one way to commit suicide.
Pointing a gun at your head
and pulling the trigger
is only one of them.
I’ll leave the other countless ways
to your imagination.
All of them
permanent solutions
to a temporary problem,
all of them.
All of them messy,
all of them.

Even if you take sleeping pills
or use a small caliber bullet
or your body is never found, swept away by the currents,
you’ll still leave a mess behind.
Even if you leave your affairs in order
and wash all your clothes
and leave a list of all your accounts
and passwords,
you’ll still leave a mess behind.

A mess for the person you said you loved
to clean up.
A mess for the person you said made you feel loved
cared for
and heard
to clean up.

All the accounts to be closed
back taxes to be filed
storage units to empty
and friends to inform, many of whom I’ve never met.

There will be your things, all the incidental things:
the mix-matched silverware
the camp stoves
neck pillows
report cards
and the hideous, cat-scratched recliner
that was so “you”
to be sifted through
packed up
given away
pitched in the bin
or kept.
Each one a task.
Each one a decision.
Each one a mess.

And the little intimate things,
the things that will make me cry
when I find them,
the hand-printed t-shirt I bought you
on the first trip to Hawaii,
the one with the gecko on it
that made you smile when I gave it to you,
and your phone
where I discovered the beginning
of your unsaid wedding vows to me
sketched out in notes.
I’m keeping those,
even though just thinking about them
still turns me into a snotty, crying mess
nearly ten months later.

Then there’s the messiness of shared places
and shared memories
and shared meaning
to clean up.
It took six months before I could drive by
the place I used to drop you off at work
without crying.
The restaurant where we had our first date
I managed to visit with a friend
the week after you died,
while I was in shock,
it used to be a favorite
even before I met you
but I haven’t been back.

Everywhere I look, I see you.
Not your ghost, but the vision
of what we shared,
dreamed of doing,
promises made,
or simply my wondering
what you’d think
or feel
or say
if you were there.

You’re everywhere,
I’ve washed the sheets and still
I feel you between them
and the emptiness
of your not being there with me.

A permanent solution to a temporary problem,
a withdrawal from pain
and suffering.
An end to pain
and suffering.
For you.

And that end
is only the beginning
of the mess
and the pain
and the suffering.
For me.