widow's memoir

March 15

After a slump in the afternoon I hit a peak of productivity in the early evening, which was super nice. I was finally able to track down a file that I was searching for, and started making plans for its extraction.

Maybe I should explain what exactly I’m doing. A few weeks after the whole Sokovia Accords incident, I found out that I had a shadow. Lyanne, that one new agent who had arrived a few years ago, was following me. I slipped out of the country but she tracked me down and found me two days later in Tuscany. I was able to shake her off after a wild goose chase, but it was difficult. It’s only a matter of time before she tracks me down again.

Now I’m [redacted] with a new alias, trying to find out exactly who she is, because she is good. Infiltrating SHIELD for multiple years, having a nearly flawless alias and then being able to track me for this long… but I think I know where she comes from.

NR

#AusYAChallenge August Book Photo Challenge:

Day 4: Long Term TBR.

So these are the books that I hardly ever feature in my photos because they’re stored in a storage box I have under my desk. I keep forgetting about them because of where they’re kept, haha. But I will get to them…Sometime…. 😂❤️📚👏🏻📖😍👍🏻

March 10

It’s been a year since I last posted anything here and honestly, so much has changed… The Sokovia Accords divided us, something that I don’t want to see ever again because the result was truly…

I can’t think about that right now…  After everything happened I needed to go somewhere where I could work on my own, so I’m now stationed in [redacted] on a an undercover long-term mission. All I can tell you at the moment is that it’s solely intel (at least for now) and completely personal. I’m keeping a low profile, dying my hair and running with a new alias, and the time I have now is really proving to be good for me.

I hope Clint’s ok…

NR

March 13

Today was not a good day. The weekend had gone pretty well - I was able to run some errands and even went out Sunday afternoon. I stumbled upon this amazing Vietnamese place for lunch and ordered too much on accident so I just sat on my bed and ate cold phó and spring rolls for dinner while watching old Russian soaps. I though that I’d be prepared and well rested for the week ahead. Cut to not even one day in and shit’s already hit the fan.

I lost one of my potentially major leads today, which is important because I’m running an intel mission here and they were taken out before I could get to them. Basically my entire multi-year plan has been fucked up and I’m not sure if my plan B is actually going to work. I’m also having second guesses if this was the best course of action. Maybe I should have just layed low and taken the time off to try and live a normal, civilian life instead of chasing nearly invisible threads all over the place. I guess I could still try and do that, but I’ve already poured so much effort into this personal mission of mine that I feel like it would just be a waste to quit now. Right?

Had some memories come up today, but I’ll discuss them when I’m in a better state of mind.

NR

In Other News, I Met A Painter.

Two months ago, the Wedding Date was entertaining clients in a Times Square hotel bar and asked me to join him.

It would’ve been our second date.

If I’d actually met up with him.

I arrived at the address of a slightly seedy hotel with a very closed lobby bar just as he texted me his room number.

Um, not what I signed up for.

I replied with a dismissive text—enjoy the minibar but I’m out like trout—before jumping on the downtown E train.

On the subway, the intercom announced that, due to construction, there would be no 23rd Street stop: passengers have to transfer to the C train at Penn Station.

I do as I’m told but as usual, the signage for the A*C*E in Penn is a practical joke: sure, go ahead and follow the arrows to the C Downtown but when you arrive on the platform—surprise!—it’s actually the C Uptown.

Last summer, I spent 10 minutes in this same maze, hauling a suitcase up one flight of stairs and down another only to give the fuck up and take a cab.

So tonight, when I find myself—again!—on the uptown C platform, I scoff and turn on my heel in disgust.

And nearly bump into a handsome, 6-foot-twelve tall man with a shaved head and sport jacket.

A man who’s asking me if this is the downtown train?

Not so much, I answer. You followed those stupid signs too?

We laugh and fall into step together, bonding over the lameness of post-midnight transit.

It occurs to me that at 1am in Penn, it’s not such a bad idea to keep walking with someone who’s tall enough to scare away the riff-raff.

We find ourselves exchanging names and following the same exit signs.

When we reach the sidewalk, I announce that I’m walking home.

Where you headed? he asks.

Chelsea.

Me too.

Well then, I say.

He starts walking east on 34th Street.

Hey Six Foot Twelve, I say. Chelsea’s the other way…sure you actually live there?

He laughs, mumbles something about having a few drinks and a bad sense of direction.

Five blocks later, I learn that he’s a 30-something painter from the West Coast who once toured apartments in my building with an ex-girlfriend. He learns that I’m a writer living in her late husband’s place.

Three blocks later, we part with a handshake and a card exchange.

A day later, he Facebooks me.

Five days later, we meet for a drink.

Three dates and dinners later, he surprises me with a shockingly aggressive kiss.  

A bite-my-lips-pull-my-hair-kind-of-kiss.

I say yes to the fourth date.

And the fifth date.

After which he walks me to my lobby door and lifts me into an embrace that makes me not care if any of Alberto’s neighbors—technically, my neighbors—see us.

Inconveniently, I am scheduled to spend the next month in California.

Conveniently, The Painter texts me a week before I return to New York.

Books me for the Thursday after I return.

After wine and gallery-hopping on our sixth date, we go to his place.

Where he whips up homemade pizza.

And shows me his art.

His incredibly technical, beautiful art.

Until 2pm the next day.

Over brunch in bed, we survey the damage:

A chair is broken.

My socks are MIA.

Tufts of my blond hair are strewn across his studio floor like souvenirs.

We laugh and eat and kick our brunch plates off the bed.

Work up an appetite for dinner.

Or whatever the next meal might be.  

When I finally find my jacket and exit his building, the air is as brisk and lamp-lit as it was when we arrived last night.

My Walk of Fame is just three non-avenue blocks.

No train required.

No Penn Station.

The walk is just long enough to keep me smiling.

Not long enough to dwell on other shaved heads or sport jackets or chance meetings.

4

Here’s a look at this week’s paperback releases …

Six Hundred Days

The gutwrenching void.

It’s starting to recede.

Six hundred days of living without.

Six hundred days of living within.

Alberto: you are still here, still near, but you’re sharing space with the 22 months of living I’ve done since you died.

My present tense has a new cell number and renewed passport and different business cards.

It’s learned to discover other countries and new friends and different men and restaurants we never got the chance to try.

It’s bought new shoes and rearranged furniture and re-purposed closets.

Four thousand photos of my present tense have been added to your 4000 in our iPhoto library.

I will always consider it our iPhoto library.

But it’s inside what I’m finally starting to call my apartment.

To the Wolves...Um, Or Not

On the road back to Semi-Normality, there were a few stops I knew I’d have to make: bike-riding to Brooklyn, our favorite Manhattan restaurants, Miami Beach. All of these places hurt like hell the first time but a little less the second and third time around.

Twenty-two months later, there are more items checked off than not. One thing I haven’t yet done is attend a party filled with Alberto’s friends—not alone, not with a girlfriend, but with a date. I’ve been in no rush to accomplish this because frankly, it requires me to be in a certain place—highly comfortable in my own skin—and will require a certain caliber of fellow at my side.

Tonight I will be crossing this off The List.

I have no preconceived ideas of how it will go—not crying in public is pretty much my only goal—nor have I told The Painter much more than it’s a birthday party for one of Alberto’s friends.

Oh and also, I might be throwing you to the wolves.

Awesome, he says.

The laugh in his voice gives me the sense that there will probably be no wolves tonight.

Throwback Thursday: Dreams + Do-Overs

I did not kiss Alberto goodbye.

He was lying dead on the living room floor and in my haste to leave our apartment before the coroner arrived, I forgot to remember to kiss him.

An hour or two later, it was too late. My only consolation was that I could kiss him goodbye at the viewing and that at least I’d remembered to remove his wedding ring.

Last night in Lake George, I dreamed I was in the foyer of a crowded venue.

I was there with someone new when I saw Alberto a few steps away, with his own someone new.

My Someone New acknowledged the presence of my late husband by saying if you want to kiss him goodbye, it’s okay with me.

Alberto and I walked into each other’s arms and embrace like there really is no tomorrow.

The foyer disappears and it’s just us and the sound that lips and fabric and skin make when they have one shot to say everything.

As the kiss ends, Alberto passes something into my hand.

It’s the remote control for our bedroom light.

I smile, kiss him one last time and return to the side of Someone New, who says he wishes that hadn’t been quite so passionate.

As I awaken, my hand flies to my chin, half-expecting the skin to be chafed from Alberto’s rough whiskers.

Stunned on a Sidewalk


I envy you so much, says the banker with whom I share a cigarette and a mutual friend.

Me? Why? I ask.

You have no idea what you have…what you embody.

Why? I laugh. Because I quit my job? To write a book?

All of it. Your life is the envy of all of us.

Why would you envy my life?

You represent the real life. The one we all want to live.

You met me two hours ago. How do you know how I live?

You gave me your card. My phone has Internet.

So, you don’t want to be married anymore? Or you hate your job?

He ignores me, continues.

You have more in this moment than I’ve had in 10 years.

He meets my eyes.

Live for us who can’t.

What?

Live. Just live. And write. Just write.

And with that, he gives me a two-cheek kiss and hails a cab.

Goes home to his wife.

And leaves me stunned on a sidewalk in the Lower East Side.

Widow Waltz

Might be the snow-turned-rain or my decision to change a few of our photos in frames or the chore of taking down the Christmas tree, but today just feels like a maudlin Coldplay song is on repeat.

(Oh wait, it is.)

This kind of day is not news: it usually arrives a day or three after some major milestone. The last one was Saturday—introducing The Painter to Alberto’s friends went swimmingly, by the way—so the funk is right on time.

As I like to say, this ain’t my first rodeo.

So, five waltz steps forward.

And two back.

But still dancing.  

Dreams of You From Budapest

It was your last night on earth and we were speaking in the same practical vein of our conversation over sushi on March 6, 2009.

In the dream, you were packing a suitcase.

In the dream, I knew you were taking a trip.

But the sequence suddenly switched from our bedroom to me at Revolución…and I couldn’t get back to us.

After realizing I had just relived your last night for a second time, I vowed to recognize the signs next time around.

If you come to me for a third last night, I promise we will not waste it packing a suitcase.

Missing you like the summer sun,

Tré

(In Sickness + In Health)

“I’ve been reading White Elephant in the Room since the get-go. And last week, my father passed away. It wasn’t sudden. He was diagnosed with cirrhosis last August and for the remaining months of his life, my mom took care of him. My parents had been estranged for 17 years but they came full circle and forgave all past wrongs, even renewing their vows privately. It was so bittersweet to see them find love and friendship again and to realize in the end, it really is all about ‘in sickness and in health.’  Having followed your blog, I felt more prepared to handle the inevitable. Not to say I was desensitized or less devastated, but I have allowed myself to be open to the wave of emotions that followed. I can cry myself to sleep and know that it’s OK. I can buy stamps in tears without having any self-pity or shame. Without even knowing it, you have been a pillar of support for me. Thank you.” — Eliza, Maui

Throwback Thursday: Clichés Can Come True

In an archived episode of This American Life, the theme revolves around a challenge among the radio producers: from all the ridiculous show ideas your families have pitched you over the years, find one that’s actually viable and produce it.

One of the producers pursues an idea her mom once pitched after attending “a hilarious funeral.” But now the mother can’t remember why the service was funny: she only knows that she “nearly busted a gut.” The producer gives up on her mom and calls the National Funeral Directors Association of America, hoping to find someone with “a few funny stories about death.”

The anecdotes range from a funeral director stealing a tie from the deceased before cremation—and getting caught—and a fellow who wanted “Silent Night” played at his service.

These are not funny stories.

WBEZ Chicago should’ve called me.

I’d have told them the one about Alberto being late to his own funeral.

Literally.

I play out the story in my head: the set-up, the build-up, the punchline.

But all I can hear arecricket sounds.

I’d punctuate the awkward silence with something equally awkward like you-had-to-be-there.

Hell, maybe you do have to be there.

Maybe you have to be right smack in the center of the most morbid week of your life to appreciate the relief brought by moments of lightness, of absurdity, of humor.

And maybe afterward, when the story doesn’t translate to anything remotely funny, you can be content that the joke was meant just for you, at a moment when you needed it most.

 

March 21, 2009, 1:53pm: I exit my taxi on Bleecker and Sixth, walking the quarter block to the funeral home. Alberto’s family is meeting me here at 2pm for a private viewing before we leave for the service.

In the lobby, I’m informed by the ever-tactful director that you are the first of your party to arrive.

As if this were a dinner reservation.

I shake my head in disgust and head toward the viewing room. Amelie, the only civilized person who works here, stops me.

Why don’t you wait a few minutes so I can turn on the memorial video? she says. All his flowers are already at the church and it might be too sad in there without the music and his pictures.

Bless you, Amelie, I say, and head back to the lobby.

When I call my sister-in-law, she tells me their car service was late and they’re sitting in traffic.

Where are you, I ask.

Tré, we’re still in Jersey. We’re not even in the tunnel yet. 

Okay, I say, so I’ll wait for you guys.

I go outside for a cigarette, reply to a few Facemails from California friends who say they’ve left me messages. I haven’t checked voicemail since this happened because I’m hoping that Alberto left me a message last week and I don’t think I can handle it if he didn’t.

I’m imagining what a voicemail from Alberto would sound like when his sister Barby calls.

We’re still in traffic. I don’t think we’ll make it there in time. The driver is taking us directly to the church. 

I stand up, horrified.

Are you saying I have to do this alone, Barby? I have to say good-bye to him alone, take his glasses off, put the croquetas in the coffin—alone?

Tré, I don’t know what to do. We’re barely going to make it to the service by 3pm— 

Who cares about 3pm, I hear myself saying. Fuck 3pm. It can start late. It’s not like it can start without us. Or without him.

We’re gonna have to meet you at the church— 

Barby, can you pass the phone to Hilda? Please?

A pause.

My mother says she’ll meet you at the church. 

Fine, I say, then you’re gonna to stay on the phone with me while I go back there and say goodbye to him. Because I can’t do this alone, Barby. And I can’t believe you’re telling me I have to. So hang on, I say, I have to grab the croquetas.

I ditch my coat, pick up the bag and head toward the viewing room. Are you with me, I ask.

I hear muffled voices before Barby, in a determined voice, says you don’t have to do this alone. We’ll be there.

I stop walking: Seriously?

Seriously, she says.

Thank God, I say, and ask her to call when they’re a few minutes away.

I leave the croquetas with Amelie, tell her that the family is running late and to please hold everything until they get here. And I mean everything, I say, nodding toward the viewing room.

 

March 21, 2009, 2:31pm: I have 20 minutes to kill—ugh, wrong word—20 minutes to have a drink before I have to say goodbye.

At this moment, 20 minutes feels like a get-outta-hell-free card.

I practically skip to Da Silvano and order a Peroni and Chivas neat. I set the Chivas next to me, where Alberto would be sitting if he were drinking on a Saturday afternoon, and check the time: 2:36pm.

I’m gonna be late for my husband’s funeral.

Holy. Shit.

Alberto, who was late for everything, Alberto is gonna to be late for his own funeral?

A cliché I’ve heard all my life is actually happening?

It’s so fucking apropos that I laugh out loud.

Alberto would appreciate this moment more than anything else we’ve arranged: more than the suit we chose, more than the piano hymns or the four-hour iPod playlist with his music. 

I gotta share this with someone so I call my parents. It goes to voicemail. Ditto for Nikki and Fico. And our friend Naumann. I nearly post it on Facebook but worry that people might take it as a cue to show up late too.

Me and my cliché drink our beer until Barby calls to say they’re pulling up to the funeral home. I throw cash on the bar and run a quarter block to meet them.

We embrace in the lobby, link arms and, for the third time today, I head toward the viewing room. 

No one stops me this time.

Fly Away (But Not On Christmas Day)

We always boarded a plane on December 25th.

All the festive stuff—family dinner, gift exchanges, church—would happen the night before, on Noche Buena.

Apparently, it’s a Latino thing.

(A Latino thing that this Irish-Portuguese-German-Scottish girl embraced at the ass crack of dawn every Christmas.)

The first two years we went to Miami.

The next two were spent in Quebec.

Last year I cringed at the idea of the holidays without him.

So I opted out of Noche Buena.

Opted out of the country.

Got a rush-order visa and spent Christmas alone in the Brasilian jungle.

For tradition’s sake, I got on a plane last December 25th.

This year, I’m not upholding tradition.

Mass will be in Italian.

Harry’s Bar on the Grand Canal will be involved.

Airports will not.

 

Dec. 25, 2009, 9:29PM: Six hours into my layover at Cochiba International, even my noise-cancelling headphones, iPod, laptop and Blackberry can’t distract me from all the jolly couples everywhere.

I’ve changed seats at least ten times, trying to distance myself from the intertwined hands and rounds of embraces.

But I’m outnumbered.

And tired of hauling my gadgets and luggage around in a lone game of musical chairs.

I give up.

The Christmas couples win.