Poets and Writers

Grief Is for People


Object permanence is the understand­ing that something exists, even if it’s hidden. It’s one of the earliest instances in which we use a child’s partially formed brain to amuse them. Presumably, you would not knock a toddler off balance for laughs, but peek-a-boo is the first game we play. How this experience is not horrifying for its victims, I have no idea. Something to which you’ve grown quite attached, be it a stuffed bunny or your mother’s face, is now gone, potentiall­y forever. Yet children are delighted by the concept. Maybe it’s the suspense. Though who knows at what age one develops a narrative arc? Probably twenty-six. More likely, it’s because if things didn’t keep disappeari­ng, they couldn’t keep coming back.

The coming back is the best part.

In a bonus dose of misfortune, I happen to live on the same block as the restaurant where Russell and I shared our last meal. We dined in the corner where the windows meet. Which means that when I pass the place, which is unavoidabl­e unless I never turn right, I can relive that evening. As if Russell’s absence is easily explained by a trip to the restroom. Here are the high-backed chairs. Here is the waitress running a damp towel weirdly close to the torsos of patrons as they sit. Russell will appear at any minute, and when he does, he will not want to see me trespassin­g on the stoop across the street, where I sit, night after night, and talk to him in my head:

You do realize we’re all going to get old and die without you? One day, I’ll be fifty-two and you’ll still be fifty-two. Which is some bullshit. Camus wrote that there is but one truly serious philosophi­cal problem, and that is suicide. Having children doesn’t qualify. It’s the eradicatio­n, the going against the grain. And you know what George Sand said? George Sand said we cannot tear a single page from our lives but we can burn the whole book. Were you a George Sand person? I should be able to remember, since you loved or hated everything. Nothing was ever just okay. See? I’m forgetting you already. Here’s one I know you like, from By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept: “Why do I not jump off this cliff where I lie sickened by the moon? I know these days are offering me only murder for my future.” The narrator becomes envious of a hawk because it can get away from Earth and she can’t. You introduced me to that book. Now it’s another piece of a puzzle you don’t want me touching. No need to be so secretive. All the pieces are black. I’ll never put it together.

From Grief Is for People by Sloane Crosley. Published by MCD/FSG, February 2024. Copyright © 2024 by Sloane Crosley. All rights reserved.

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