The gas man came today, and filled the tank for the fireplace. I didn’t request that he do this — had forgotten the task entirely — but it seems you were responsible.
The bill left behind by the gas company says it’s September. I hadn’t noticed the time passing, but I guess that explains why the nights have grown cooler. Had I realized the season, I probably would’ve wanted a fire to take the chill off. Instead, I just wrapped the wool tartan, the one you bought for me in Scotland during our honeymoon, around my shoulders and shivered.
Now that the tank is full, I suppose I could turn on the fireplace. Truth be told, the very thought of doing so, of flicking that switch, hearing the gassy whoosh and watching the blue flames erupt into a fiery dance makes me even sadder.
I always wanted a fireplace, dreamed of it for so many years. And finally, after much scrimping and saving, we were able to afford a house that had one. How many nights did we sit by the fire, draining the tank of all its fuel? How many days did we cuddle on the couch underneath the red blanket and watch the snow fall?
What was once a dream, and then a reality, has now become just one more reminder that you are gone. Ghosts don’t need a fire to see, or a fire to read by, or a fire to snuggle close to the one you love.
I’m loathe to admit it, but sometimes, it feels like I’m a ghost, too. No doubt you’d hate that I feel this way, but I can’t help it. Ever since you left, I’ve been haunting these rooms. I forget to eat. When I get out of bed, I find half-filled cups scattered on tables, the once-white insides dyed a dreary brown from forgotten tea. Copernicus would probably starve if it wasn’t for the automatic feeder, which I probably should fill again. I took a bath yesterday; I was so lost in thought remembering that time we foolishly left the trail in the woods that the water cooled and shriveled the skin on my fingers before I even noticed. Oh look, my slippers, have a hole. Where did that come from?
As I placed the gas company notice in the mail basket, I saw a rather large pile of unopened mail there. The letters and catalogs and magazines just pile up under the slot until I trip over the paper mound, but I’m always too tired to do more than toss them into the basket on the desk. Soon I will need to buy a bigger basket.
Anyway, I don’t mean to complain. This is my life now. So thank you for ordering the gas in advance, for taking care of me when I no longer want to bother. Even in death, you are so thoughtful.
–Bit of fiction inspired by this article in The New York Times