E and I ended up at Home Depot today. We were there specifically to buy a crowbar to tear up the bottom of some cabinets we have out the garage. We've had a pack rat living in our garage for some time, and the destructive capabilities of this tiny rat (or big mouse) are really astonishing. It has eaten many, many things that are not food, including parts of our car wiring, but it seemed to have gone away for awhile, and we decided to stop worrying about it. Recently, though, the little brown signs of rodent life in the garage were back, and things on my workbench were mysteriously moving across the garage. We knew its lair was under the cabinets; I tried to shop-vac a bunch of the rat's "collection" out through holes in the cabinets last summer, but gave up because it was too much. But as we cleaned the garage yesterday, we happened upon and cornered the pack rat in one of the cabinets, and a live trap and a scoop of peanut butter made him our captive sometime in the night. We set him free in the big wash that runs behind our neighborhood, but still needed to clean up the mess. Hence the trip to Home Depot.
But while we were there, we looked at a few other things: lighting possibilities for my kitchen redecorating project. Flooring for the Arizona room where the dogs have destroyed the indoor/outdoor carpet. Laminate flooring possibilities for inside the house where the dogs have destroyed the carpet. A typical Saturday afternoon of shopping for necessary projects and dreaming of others.
When we finally moseyed our way to the tool corral, there was a cart, two customers, and an employee in our way, and I had to wait while E went in in search of the crowbar. But I was stopped in my tracks anyway; the employee looked so much like A, it took my breath away. He still had some color in his goatee and hair, though it was mostly gray, but otherwise, the resemblance was uncanny, right down to the glasses. A made his living with tools, rather than selling them, but nonetheless, I was stunned to tears. Simultaneously, I wanted to stay there and stare at him forever and I wanted to flee.
I stared at him as long as I could; I had reasonable cover, as my cart couldn't get through the aisle, and E was on the far side of them. As much as I was fully cognizant that it wasn't A, I just wanted to pretend that he was there, in front of me, alive, and to appreciate that for just a minute. But even though I couldn't tear my eyes away from the guy, the fantasy couldn't quite hold. He looked so much like him, yet he couldn't be him, and that is why I got teary. Every time I thought how much I wanted it to be A, wanted him to be alive like this man, the tears sprang afresh to my eyes. And as we made our way to the checkout, I saw other men who vaguely resembled A, and I thought, you know, maybe Home Depot is a dangerous place for someone who loves an absent middle-aged guy who used to build things. Suddenly, he was everywhere I looked, but none of the others had such a strong resemblance. I kept looking back over my shoulder for another glimpse as I finally turned the cart and walked away.
E missed the whole thing, and if he noticed the resemblance of the employee, or my subdued manner when we finally reunited in the next aisle, he didn't mention it. But the tears stayed close to the surface and threatened several more times in the store and on the way home; I wasn't quite right for hours after.
It never ends. I knew it never would, but I didn't KNOW, you know? When you think you've tripped all the triggers, and espied all the ambushes, and think there can't be anything left to bring you to your knees; when you've become a veteran widow and think you can see the muzzle flash and hear the bullet headed straight for your heart well in advance enough to step out of its way; it is then that you wander down the crowbar aisle and have your heart and all the defenses around it pried open, defenseless once again, and that dull ache you've mostly learned to ignore comes front and center. It never ends; not until you die yourself. So what is a successful life, then? Enduring longer than your pain? Does that seem unnecessarily cruel to anyone else? Is there to be no mercy, ever, for the bereaved who need it most?