What it means is that every decision is rife with loss: not always because of what was, but because of what would have been if Natalya had lived. It’s there more painfully in the small decisions, although there are few here. But there are enough. If I go to the shops for a snack, I don’t get something to share. I don’t even get two snacks because we don’t like the same things. Mostly, I get nothing. I look at the snacks and leave again, and probably that is why. It’s a small thing, but it hurts.
When I buy clothes (And I need to do that. I have four shirts and two of them have holes. I have two National Dress tops, and one of them is now badly faded), I want to think not only of what I like but of what she would like to see on me. Mostly, I don’t buy anything, and the holes have hidden all winter long under jackets. I’m buying a National dress bottom though—I’ve never seen it and don’t even know what colour it is.
It’s a joy that is gone from my life, and it’s a joy that feels gone forever. Maybe it is.
It’s that joy of companionship that continues on in your head when the person is not there: The joy of knowing we are alike in this way and in this other way we are different. It’s the joy of saying we disagree about this thing and so we cannot do it together, or we disagree and we must do it together and so must compromise about this one. Or we are alike and can enjoy doing it together. It’s the joy of a connection to someone else’s mind that is always in some ways alike and in some ways different. It’s the joy of talking things over.
I didn’t really have this as a child. The impulse was there, but I had to suppress it. She was not allowed into the rest of my life. And so what is gone is the hope of having the freedom to do that.
Now, it seems to me either I still think in this way without realizing it or I avoid the decision altogether or I make the decision without thinking much about even my own feelings because what I feel is the pain of her absence from the process of consideration.
I know not everyone approaches relationships this way, and probably you don’t need to. I know from experience that it’s a disaster when one person does and the other doesn’t. But we would have. We would have thought in this way, automatically, effortlessly, as if it were the only possible way to think. And it terrible to lose this. It is like having a part of my head ripped out.
It’s part of the reason, too, that her death was such a betrayal to me. She didn’t do this. She made the decision alone and then never even told me she’d done it. But maybe there hadn’t been time. Maybe she had her reasons for doing it that way. Maybe, in that one instance, she could not share the decision with me, because she loved me too much to let me share in the burden of it.
I never would have let her do it.
I suppose she knew that.