I am called to declare a man dead between dinner and bedtime. I leave my son watching cartoons and drive the six blocks to the man's house, where family members have parked on the street, the alley, the lawn, the neighbor's lawn. Dogs and kids run the block while the adults tend to the business of mourning. I take off my shoes on the porch and hug five aunties before I reach his body, thin and jaundiced, eyes closed.
My job here is to confirm that he is, in fact, dead. I have brought my only props, a stethoscope and a pad of carbon paper death certificates. I lay my stethoscope on his still chest. I sign the paper, rip the white copy off the top and hand it to his wife. My hands no longer shake when I fill these out.
When I get home my son is still watching TV, perched on top of a beanbag chair that he has balanced on top of the sofa. He is vibrating with excitement because, "Mom, this mission needs the WHOLE Paw Patrol!"
That night the baby won't sleep, so I try to bring her to my bed, tuck her under my arm like I used to when I nursed her to sleep every night. But she sleeps only minutes at a time and wakes crying and thrashing and pushing me away. I take her to her crib and she eventually settles, but now I am awake.
Last night I told Benjamin that I don't want to be married anymore. I didn't mean to tell him yet, hadn't planned out what I would say, I didn't have a plan for what happens next. I hadn't even decided, really, hadn't stopped my constant mental tallying of pros and cons, contingency plans and carefully worded ultimatums. But it was there like a drum beat I could feel in my sternum, "This is over. This is over. This is over."
I sit in bed, hugging my knees, waiting for the grief, waiting for the anger, waiting for the loneliness. Still wondering if I'm doing the right thing. But at least now it is real, at least now I have said it out loud. This is over.