The Last Thing He Told Me

3.10 Sometimes You Can Go Home Again


We sit on the tarmac, waiting for the plane to take o􀏦. Bailey stares out the
window. She looks exhausted—her eyes dark and pu􀏦y, her skin a splotchy red.
She looks exhausted and she looks scared.
I haven’t told her everything yet. But she understands enough. She
understands enough that I’m not surprised she is scared. I’d be surprised if she
“They’ll come visit,” I say. “Nicholas and Charlie. They can bring your
cousins if you want. I think that would be a nice thing. I think your cousins
really want to meet you.”
“They won’t stay with us or anything?” she says.
“No. Nothing like that. We’ll have a meal or two together. Start there.”
“And you’ll be there?”
“For all of it,” I say.
She nods, taking this in.
“Do I have to decide about my cousins right now?” she says.
“You don’t have to decide about anything right now.”
She doesn’t say anything else. She understands—as well as she is allowing
herself to integrate it—that her father isn’t coming home. But she doesn’t want
to talk about it, not yet. She doesn’t want to navigate with me what things will
look like without him, what they’ll feel like. That too doesn’t need to happen
right now.
I take a deep breath in and try not to think about all the things that do have
to happen—if not right now, then soon. The steps we’ll have to take, one after
another, to move through our lives now. Jules and Max will pick us up at the
airport, our refrigerator stocked with food for today, dinner waiting on the table.
But those things will have to keep happening, day in and day out, until they start
to feel normal again.
And there are things I can’t avoid happening, like the fallout coming several
weeks from now (or several months from now), when Bailey is on her way to
something like recovery, and I’ll have my 􀏯rst still moment to think about
myself. To think about what I’ve lost, what I’ll never have back. To think only of
myself. And of Owen. Of what I’ve lost—what I’m still losing—without him.
When the world gets quiet again, it will take everything I am not to allow the
grief of his loss to level me.
The strangest thing will stop it from leveling me. I’ll have an answer to the
question that I’m only now starting to consider: If I had known, would I be
here? If Owen told me, out of the gate, that he had this past, if he had warned
me about what I would be walking into, would I have chosen him anyway?
Would I have chosen to end up where I am now? It will remind me brie􀏲y of
that moment of grace my grandfather provided shortly after my mother’s
departure when I realized I belonged exactly where I was. And I’ll feel the answer
move through me, like a blinding heat. Yes. Without hesitation. Even if Owen
had told me, even if I had known every last bit. Yes, I would choose this. It will
keep me going.
“What is taking so long?” Bailey says. “Why aren’t we taking o􀏦 yet?”
“I don’t know. I think the 􀏲ight attendant said something about a backup on
the runway,” I say.
She nods and wraps her arms around herself, cold and unhappy, her T-shirt
unable to compete against the frosty airplane air. Her arms covered with goose
bumps. Again.
Except this time I’m prepared. Two years ago—two days ago—I wasn’t. But
now, apparently, is a di􀏦erent story. I reach into my bag and pull out Bailey’s
favorite wool hoodie. I slipped the hoodie into my carry-on bag to have it ready
for this moment.
I know, for the 􀏯rst time, how to give her what she needs.
It isn’t everything, of course. It isn’t even close. But she takes her sweater,
putting it on, warming her elbows with her palms.
“Thanks,” she says.
“Sure,” I say.
The plane jerks forward a few feet, and then back. Then, slowly, it starts
easing down the runway.
“There we go,” Bailey says. “Finally.”
She sits back in her seat, relieved to be on the way. She closes her eyes and
puts her elbow on our shared armrest.
Her elbow is there, the plane is picking up speed. I put my elbow there too,
and I feel her do it, I feel us both do it. We move a little closer to each other as
opposed to doing the opposite.
It feels like what it is.
A start.

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