I started eating white bread again after my husband died of cancer. Every morning I made a bacon sandwich in the microwave and ate it alongside a cup of instant coffee, lightened with powdered milk and sweetened with aspartame. Then I flipped through the endless stack of legal documents, tax forms, and family letters while trying to choke it down. Our golden retriever, Lily, stared at me unflinching with her shiny black eyes because Dave had always fed her at the table. He’d also walked her every morning along the breakwater, but I couldn’t find the motivation to do that, so I sat on the front steps and threw the same red ball for her over and over and over again.
She always came back.
I tossed our coconut oil in the compost and started frying everything in vegetable oil. You name it, I fried it. The taste was different. Sort of like burning. Thick and rancid.
I began frequenting the tanning beds down on 16th. You could smell the flowery lotion and crispy skin across the street. There was a vending machine in the lobby filled with chia pudding, kale chips, and coconut water, but I always stopped next door at the convenience store and picked up a can of soda before checking in.
“I’m so happy you took some time for yourself,” one friend said, admiring my tan. “It’s really important when you lose a loved one.”
After a month or two, I was able to walk Lily further than the front yard. I took her to the park with the thick power lines, the ones that people measured with EMF meters and told their kids to stay away from. There were bunny rabbits everywhere, brown ones with fluffy white tails, and white ones with milky red eyes. Lily chased them with her tongue sticking out, just in case one fell into her mouth. Occasionally, she was lucky, and she’d run over, elated, and drop the gift at my feet, looking at me like she’d just presented Dave reincarnate. I’d leave the bunny behind though, burying it in the thick underbrush, because I was on a strict red meat only diet. No more pescatarianism now that Dave was gone. And certainly no bunnies.
Letters came from my doctor, reminding me to book a pap test, schedule a physical, consider a mammogram. I ignored them. Wrote “Return to Sender” on the envelope and left them out for the postman who continued to deliver a barrage of condolence cards and small meaningless gifts.
I took up smoking and drinking. Dave and I hadn’t been much into either, maybe a glass of red wine with supper or a bit of champagne to celebrate a good friend’s birthdays. Some mornings, staring at my bacon sandwich and instant coffee, it truly felt like I was going to die, my head thick with sadness and my throat scratchy and sore.
Here I come, I’d think while I chewed. Here I come.
Jennifer is a number nerd, backyard beekeeper, and writer based in Canada. Her stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Flash Fiction Online, (b)OINK, and elsewhere. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.