The Nature of Grief
I thought there was time, I really did. I saw myself, decades in the future, walking the hills of San Francisco or the deserts of Vulcan, my companion at my side. Age would be a friend, embracing both of us, perhaps not equally, but with a smirk and a wink, giving and taking during each day, until finally, it would take us both.
Logic dictates, and how I smile when my internal dialogue starts a thread of thought with those words, that he would out live me by virtue of his alien physique. Because I had watched him age from a young man to his present stolid figure with silver in his hair, I had assumed he would remain so for another century.
It was not to be. I won't describe how he appeared the last time I saw him alive, it is the stuff of nightmares, and I have plenty of them without adding more. Suffice it to say, I choose to remember him as he was, standing proud on the bridge of the Enterprise, or sprawled in sleep across our sunlit bed, or sitting robed, in still meditation by a window decorated with starlight.
These images should bring comfort but they don't. There is a raw place in my chest, which makes my lungs burn as though starved for oxygen and my eyes sting. His absence is on an emotional loop, playing endlessly as I reach for his presence and feel a cold void. It is like I lost my right arm, every task and duty becoming almost impossible without him.
I'm not a fanciful man, but I've seen things that don't make sense. When he lay in the morgue, his ruined body decontaminated and prepared for burial, I saw the silver rain for the first time. In the dim room, bright spots of light dropped through the air faster and faster until they turned into a storm. I blinked it away, suspecting grief and exhaustion. Later in our quarters, while I lay sleepless staring at the ceiling, it came again, not a torrent, but slow drops of brilliant white that faded into a silver web. I see the webs everywhere, now. I'm not willing to tell anyone about this, not even Bones, who is strange these days.
I've heard things as well. Voices in my nightmares push and pull at me, their tones odd and inhuman. Sometimes I remember what they say; sometimes it is just a vague memory of someone exhorting me to do something I can't quite grasp. Only once was the voice perfectly clear. I thought I was awake but I must have been drifting into the restless sleep that has become my companion these days. The voice said simply, "Be ready." It startled me and I spent the rest of the night and many days thereafter, trying to figure out what those words might mean.
Right after he died I had the strangest experience of all. The computer alarm in his sealed quarters went off when I was on the bridge, nudging our ship slowly home. I entered his quarters in a rush, only to find Bones in a chair speaking in a voice eerily like his, demanding I climb the steps to Mount Selaya. Bones's slipped into unconsciousness and when he woke, had no memory of what he had said, it's meaning or how he'd come to be in the Captain's Quarters. This, I couldn't have imagined. I played the security tapes over and over trying to make sense of Bones' words. I researched Vulcan rites, messaged his father, asked Savik, but was none the wiser.
I wonder if these experiences are just my mind's way of deflecting the grief, the absolute loss of my friend. I called him friend, because he was always that. I called him partner because there was rarely a time when we didn't walk a synchronized path, even when apart. I called him lover because the depth and breadth of the emotion between us was indescribable in any other way. I haven't raged, though most people would expect that. I have wept, pushing down harsh sobs that choke me. It seems endless, this sadness stretching out in front of me for an eternity.
I wish I could just stop for a moment and step out of time. I can't, because to stop, to succumb to inertia, does him no justice. He would expect me to go on, shepherding his cadets home in our ship. He would never have admitted to loving his crew much less an inanimate object like a starship, but he did love them in his own way. He was reticent about speaking of his emotions and chose to express his feelings in actions and not words. But no one who knew him had any doubt that he felt deeply.
Enterprise echoes with his absence. It always seemed she was sentient and was at her best when her family, her crew was aboard. She misses a crucial part of herself as she limps home. I know when I stand on the bridge or walk her corridors at night, she mourns in her own way. Maybe she is philosophical about death; he has become starlight, past time and space. She doesn't tell me her secrets though.
When we return to Earth, I don't know what I'll do. There are obligations that must be met to family and friends and mindless housekeeping tasks in settling his estate. His physical possessions were not important to him in life but they become tangible evidence of his existence in death. When I walk our home, what will I keep of him? How long will the scent of tea linger in our kitchen? Will I hear the memory of his footsteps on those predictable restless nights? I don't know if it will be a comfort or not.
I am tired and maudlin. I suppose all this will pass, logic suggests. But I thought there was time. I really did. I was wrong.