Ana reaches toward susan. “Maybe it’s time for us all to take a step back,” she says.

Susan turns her head, as if noticing ana for the first time. “Who are you?” she asks. she asks it like we are clowns coming out of a volkswagen. she asks it as if she’s exhausted by all the people that keep appearing.

“I’m a friend,” ana says. “and I don’t think any of us are in a position to behave rationally, so maybe we can just breathe—”

Susan turns toward the man in the red tie, her body language interrupting ana midsentence. “you and I need to discuss this in private,” she barks at him.

“Ma’am, please calm down.”

“Calm down? you’re joking!”

“Susan—” I start to say. I don’t know how I planned on finishing, but susan doesn’t give a shit.

“Stop,” she says, putting her hand up in my face. It’s aggressive and instinctual, as if she needs to protect her face from my words.

“Ma’am, elsie was escorted in by the police. she was at the scene. I have no reason to doubt that she and your son were as she says . . .”

“Married?” susan is incredulous.

“Yes,” the man in the red tie says.

“Call the county! I want to see a record of it!”

“Elsie, do you have a copy of your marriage certificate that you can show Mrs. ross?”

I can feel myself shrinking in front of them. I don’t want to shrink. I want to stand tall. I want to be proud, confident. But this is all too much and I don’t have anything to show for myself.

“No, but, susan—” I say as tears fall down my face. I feel so ugly right now, so small and stupid.

“Stop calling me that!” she screams. “you don’t even know me. stop calling me by my name!”

“Fine,” I say. My eyes are staring forward, focused on the body in the room. My husband’s body. “keep all of it,” I say. “I don’t care. We can sit here and scream all day but it doesn’t change anything. so I really don’t give a shit where his wallet goes.”

I put one foot in front of the other and I walk out. I leave my husband’s body there with her.and the minute my feet hit the hallway, the minute ana has shut the door behind us, I regret walking out. I should have stayed with him until the nurse kicked me out.

Ana pushes me forward.

She puts me in the car. she buckles my seat belt. she drives slowly through town. she parks in my driveway. I don’t remember any of it happening. suddenly, I am at my front door.

Stepping into my apartment, I have no idea what time of day it is. I have no idea how long it has been since I sat on the couch like a cavalier bitch whining about cereal in my pajamas. this apartment, the one I have loved since I moved in, the one I considered “ours” when Ben moved in, now betrays me. It hasn’t moved an inch since Ben died. It’s like it doesn’t care.

It didn’t put away his shoes sitting in the middle of the floor. It didn’t fold up the blanket he was using. It didn’t even have the decency to hide his toothbrush from plain view. this apartment is acting like nothing has changed. everything has changed. I tell the walls he’s gone. “He’s dead. He’s not coming home.”ana rubs my back and says, “I know, baby. I know.”

She doesn’t know. she could never know. I walk carelessly into my bedroom, hit my shoulder on the door hinge and feel nothing. I get into my side of the bed and I can smell him still. He’s still here in the sheets. I grab his pillow from his side of the bed and I smell it, choking on my own tears. I walk into the kitchen as ana is getting me a glass of water. I walk right past her with the pillow in my hand and I grab a trash bag, shoving the pillow into it. I tie it tight, knotting the plastic over and over until it breaks off in my hand and falls onto the kitchen floor.

“What are you doing?” she asks me.

“It smells like Ben,” I answer. “I don’t want the smell to evaporate. I want to save it.”

“I don’t know if that’s going to work,” she says delicately.

“Fuck you,” I say and go back to the bed.

I start crying the minute I hit my pillow. I hate what this has made me. I’ve never told anyone to f**k off before, least of all ana.

Ana has been my best friend since I was seventeen years old. We met the first day of college in line at the dining hall. I didn’t have anyone to sit with and she was already trying to avoid a boy. It was a telling moment for each of us. When she decided to move to los angeles to be an actress, I came with her. not because I had any affinity for los angeles, I had never been here, but because I had such a strong affinity for her. ana had said to me, “C’mon, you can be a librarian anywhere.” and she was absolutely right.

Here we were, nine years after meeting, her watching me like I’m going to slit my wrists. If I had a better grip on my senses, I’d say this is the real meat of friendship, but I don’t care about that right now. I don’t care about anything.

Ana comes in with two pills and a glass of water. “I found these in your medicine cabinet,” she says. I look in her hand and I recognize them. It’s vicodinfrom when Ben had a back spasm last month. He barely took any of them. I think he thought taking them made him a wimp.

I take them out of her hand without questioning and I swallow them. “thank you,” I say. she tucks the duvet around me and goes to sleep on the couch. I’m glad she doesn’t try to sleep in bed with me. I don’t want her to take away his smell. My eyes are parched from crying, my limbs weak, but my brain needs the vicodin to pass out. I shuffle over to Ben’s side of the bed as I get groggy and fall asleep. “I love you,” I say, and for the first time, there’s no one to hear it.

I wake up feeling hungover. I reach over to grab Ben’s hand as I do every morning, and his side of the bed is empty. For a minute I think he must be in the bathroom or making breakfast and then I remember. My devastation returns, this time duller but thicker, coating my body like a blanket, sinking my heart like a stone.

I pull my hands to my face and try to wipe away the tears, but they are flowing out of me too fast to catch up. It’s like a Whac-a-Mole of misery.

Ana comes in with a dish towel in her hands, drying them. “you’re up,” she says, surprised.

“How observant.” Why am I being so mean? I’m not a mean person.this isn’t who I am.

“Susan called.” she is ignoring my outbursts, and for that, I am thankful.

“What did she say?” I sit up and grab the glass of water on my bedside table from last night. “What could she possibly want from me?”

“She didn’t say anything. Just to call her.”


“I left the number on the refrigerator. In case you did want to call her.”

“Thanks.” I sip the water and stand up.

“I have to go walk Bugsy and then I’ll be right back,”ana says. Bugsy is her english bulldog. He drools all over everything and I want to tell her that Bugsy doesn’t need to be let out because Bugsy is a lazy sack of shit, but I don’t say any of this because I really, really want to stop being so unkind. “okay.”

“Do you want anything while I’m out?” she asks, and it reminds me that I asked Ben to get me Fruity pebbles. I get right back into bed.

“No, nothing for me. thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back shortly.” she thinks for a minute. “actually, do you want me to stick around in case you decide to call her now?”

“No, thanks. I can handle it.”

“Okay, if you change your mind . . .”


Ana leaves, and as I hear the door shut, it hits me how alone I am. I am alone in this room, I am alone in this apartment, but more to the point, I am alone in this life. I can’t even wrap my brain around it. I just get up and pick up the phone. I get the number from the front of the refrigerator and I see a magnet for Georgie’s pizza. I fall to the floor, my cheek against the cold tile. I can’t seem to make myself get up.


It was new year’s eve and ana and I had this great plan. We were going to go to this party to see this guy she had been flirting with at the gym, and then we were going to leave at 11:30 p.m. We wanted to drive to the beach, open a bottle of champagne together, and ring in the new year tipsy and drenched in sea spray.