She took another drag of her cigarette, long and deliberate. He could see the embers light up her eyes from across the room. She was smoking again. He said nothing about it, she was under enough stress.
She flicked the ashes into an antique vase. That was probably expensive, he thought. She stopped pacing and finally sat down, elbows on her knees as she hunched forward, like a vulture – staring at him – through him – from under her dark curls.
“Do you miss him?” she asked. Her words were accusatory, harsh.
“Of course I do. Everyone misses him,” it was the only reply he could think of. She stared at him, her cigarette ash falling onto the ornate carpet.
“Good…” She leaned back, staring up at the painting above the fireplace.
“You know,” she continued, “It’s a curious human condition that when we lose something small – an item – that we do three things:
One: We look in the last place we had it, or the place we remember having it the most.
Two: We mimic the experiences we had with it – turning a key, writing with a favorite pen, whatever.
And three: We rely on our memory, thinking back to the first moments with the item and the most recent moments that led to its disappearance,” she took another slow drag from her cigarette, tilting her head to look at him through the tendrils of smoke she blew out.
“Do you know why we do all of this?” she smirked, “We do all of this in the hopes that our memory will be jogged, that the item will be found if we follow these very simple, uncomplicated steps. In a strange turn of events, it often works! Its absence was brief, but relatively silly. We might even remind ourselves not to leave the item in such a hard to find place again. It’s uncanny, really…” She flicks her cigarette into the fireplace, a calculated shot that he’s mildly impressed by.
“…And… I’ve recently come to realize that death? The loss of an actual person? It’s the same…” she half-whispers, eyes filling with tears. His eyebrows go up. He’s rethinking coming here now.
“I don’t mean that callously, darling. I mean that our brains compartmentalize loss in specific ways. If one does any of that for a lost item, then invariably one does the same for a person lost to death. In similar ways, we-” she stands, rounding the room to stand behind his chair.
“One… Look in the last place we saw them… I went to his grave three times just today.
Two… Mimic the experience of being with them. We ate lunch at Cavitos every Tuesday, so that’s where I went today.
And Three… We rely on our memory, thinking back to our first moments with them and the most recent moments that led to their loss. I remember when he and I met, 21 years ago today… On a night just like this…”Her small hands glide down the chair, her eyes looking off into the distance wistfully.
“Hm… Unfortunately, our brains can’t compartmentalize the act of finding them again. So we go over and over and over these specific ‘tricks,’ these memories… These acts.
And we can’t tell our brains that they won’t be found.
They won’t listen.
They know that one day…
We will find them.
It just won’t be here.”
She smiles, pulling a hunting knife from her belt.
“I’m glad you miss him too, darling.
Let’s go find him again.