it’s a bargain

Nadja Maril

Bargain. It’s one of the phases of grief, the counselor explains. First there is denial. You walk past the nursery door; through the quiet house pretending the future you were imagining still exists. If you keep the door closed, you won’t have to think about selling all that baby furniture. 

You reach out in the night for someone to hug, but your spouse is gone. You tell yourself they’re away on an extended business trip. This explains why there’s only one car in the driveway and you’ve got to drag the trash cans out all by yourself. 

You pretend everything is as it was before. 

Then you get angry. Why me? Why couldn’t something this bad happen to somebody else? They—the doctors— screwed up. The friends who weren’t around to offer their support—you’re going to make them pay for what they did or didn’t do. You’re going to ruin their life. You’re going to tell the world why they don’t deserve to be happy. Everyone should be just as miserable as you feel.

It is what it is. You come to terms with your loss. You’ll need to make a new plan. You are alone and you begin to bargain.

You tell yourself you are willing to accept less. You say, I know I expected no losses. I expected no one would ever leave me. You say the “me” with emphasis because you were sure you would leave them, when the time was right. But now, instead of pretending everything is still okay and instead of fuming with rage or self-medicating, you’ve decided to accept your losses, if you can get some sort of bargain out of the whole mess.

It’s not so bad, you tell yourself. I can get rid of that ugly chair they loved.

 You convince yourself that you always wanted to travel. You never wanted more children. You can tell yourself anything you want, because it’s negotiable now. Time to bargain.

You’re going to restart your life with a clean slate. You are going to get rid of everything that reminds you of the future you thought you had—pictures, furniture, dishes, books— at bargain prices. You are willing to accept a lower price for what you once valued, so you open an account on eBay. 

You price the lovely vase that sat in the center of the dining room table, the one you used to fill with fresh flowers, at half of what you know it’s worth. The lovely crystal sparkles in the sunlight, the cutting is deep and precise. There’s even a signature on the bottom by a famous artist. 

You price it at a mere $100 when you know it’s worth hundreds of dollars. Even eBay with its pricing comparisons agrees, you’ve chosen a fair price. You receive an offer of $35. And it makes you furious.

You remind yourself to let go of the anger. You counter offer $85. They offer $65 and you accept. And then they demand free shipping. 

You convince yourself it’s okay to accept less, even though it feels demeaning. Maybe it’s time to put everything else inside a donation box. Get rid of it. Someone else can pick it up inside a store somewhere and find a bargain. 

You feel sad. Is this all your life is worth? The stuff is gone and now you’re left holding that empty box. You keep waking up in the middle of the night remembering what you’ve lost.

As the birds begin to chirp and the sun is warm on your face, feelings take the shape of words on a page. You hold a pen in your hand. Emotions pour forth from every crevice of your body. Purged, your footsteps bounce against the pavement as you move forward. You  have so much, two children and fine memories that help you hear music in the whoosh of wind pressing against tree branches.

You sprinkle salt and sweep away the residue of snow gathered on the edges of  your sidewalk. You rake the dry brown leaves out of the flower beds. Gradually the dreary sky shifts to a brighter hue. You keep writing and the grass begins to turn green.

One day you’re taking a walk and you realize you no longer feel weary. You feel cool air on your face. You smell the tangle of honeysuckle by the porch. You snip a few sprigs of the honeysuckle, add a few daisies and phlox, and place the bouquet inside a mason jar to place on the dining room table. You sit in your new chair and admire the open space in the room and how you’ve arranged what’s left of the furniture. Although you thought you wanted a different house, you’ve made yourself comfortable here. Satisfied. You feel good. You’ve accepted that life is a bargain.