There are dishes in the sink. You hated that, hated having dirty dishes pile up. Everything went in the dishwasher right away. I always went along with that because who doesn’t like a tidy kitchen, but these dishes that are in the sink right now are my act of defiance. The clutter on the counter, giving table scraps to the dog, leaving the bedroom window open at night in the winter - they are all things you hated and things I do now and they feel like rebellion.
It’s been a year and I have finally accepted that you are gone. I have found peace with it, I have let myself recognize that you are no longer a part of my life. There’s a certain freedom in all that. I’m allowing myself to do things you didn’t want me to do. I get to park in the garage now. I make meatloaf for myself knowing you hated it. I sometimes don’t take in the garbage cans right away. I turn the heat up too high, leave the air conditioning running too long. I leave dishes in the sink.
I spent a year still taking care to do things the way you wanted them, as if you would come back at any moment and we’d go back to the way things were. I tried to keep the house tidy, to dust the picture frames in the hallway once a week, to fold my clothes as soon as they came out of the dryer. I bought the brands you liked. You know, the laundry detergent without any added stuff, hot sauces you favored. Because you might come back, I thought. We might try again.
But here we are a year later and I have finally realized there is never going to be an us again, and I’ve dropped any pretense of you walking through that door to see what’s become of me. So there are dishes in the sink and dust on the picture frames and these things are a notice to you: you don’t own me in that way anymore. My acts of defiance are simple, and you will never know of them, but they please me all the same. It feels decadent in a way to not wash my coffee cup as soon as I’m done with it. It feels like I’m getting away with a crime when I let my laundry pile up in the basket. There’s no one here to talk to me about it, to complain about it, to make me take care of these things in a timely manner. And there won’t be.
I order in from the places you hated. I eat donuts for lunch. I listen to the bands you didn’t like, and I listen loud. It’s not that you were overbearing with your rules, it’s not like you were mean about them; I just felt like I was living your life instead of mine. Dishes in the sink do not bother me like they bothered you. But you’re not here anymore and you never will be again and I don’t have to appease you.
If you could see me now, if you could see the state of the house, if you could hear me laugh without you, sing without you, you would know I’ve marked you down as absent, never to return. I no longer think about you walking through the door again. That dream is gone.
A few days ago as I was on the phone with my father getting help fixing the toilet, he said to me “you need to find yourself another man.” I laughed. There is no one who could fill the space you left, I’m convinced of that. There is no one who could make me compromise like that again. I am free of constraints, I am free to live in a way that makes me happy and not in a way that specifically makes you happy.
There are dishes in the sink. It’s only a few things; a mug, a small plate, a spoon. They might stay there for a bit because I don’t feel like unloading the dishwasher right now. I know you would not approve of this, but that no longer matters. You are not coming back. I am defiant, I am free.