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By Carney Shoam February 14, 2024

Uncertainty Consumes Me

I despise the way these thoughts persist in my mind. As I sit on the weathered, brown sofa within the confines of her apartment, I look around - surveying my surroundings, ensuring that I take in every detail. The peculiar plants resting gently by the sunlit window. The meticulously arranged Architectural Digest magazines that have been occupying their designated spot for as long as I can remember, their pristine condition never ceasing to impress me. The self-portraits she painted and hung over a decade ago. The stained-glass eggs rested in a bowl at the entrance of her apartment, beside her keys with the handcrafted keychain I made for her when I was seven. I may grow older, but as I sit on this sofa, everything remains the same.

Except for one thing.

I am completely and utterly obsessed with the time we have left. I try to catch photographs of her when she is going about her daily life. I watch as she meticulously cuts tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocados, and how she places them on her blue plates and on the table in front of me, even though I said I was not hungry. I save every voicemail she leaves me, even if it is a simple “How are you Boubal’le? Call me when you can.” And of course, I call her immediately. If we are dancing in her kitchen, I discreetly tuck my phone away in the corner so that I can cherish the moment together forever. If we are looking through her old photo albums, I pocket a few of my favorites so I can look at them after. If she lets me keep an old scarf of hers, I will carefully place it in a Ziploc bag and keep it in my closet, so that when I lose her, I can still smell her warm and woody perfume that seeps through it.

I refuse to waste a single second of the time we have left.

I destroy myself over this - this uncertainty. How much time do we have left together? How many more times will I get to wave to her from the window as I leave her apartment? How many more times will I get to hear her laugh? How many more birthdays will I wake up to and have her be the first to call? How much longer can I hold on to her hug, feel her wrinkly soft skin brush against mine, and admire the jewelry she wears?

I yearn for the moments past when she would take me to the drive-through. When she would treat my sister and I to trips at the museum. Or when she would have us over for Friday night dinner, and I was not fixated on the fact that it might be our last.

I long for her presence, even though she remains by my side.

The uncertainty of the unknown intimidates me. Thoughts of it creep in on me when I least expect them. The first time I lost a beloved grandparent, I was unprepared. I didn’t know why my entire body ached when I hadn’t done any physical exercise. I couldn’t think about anything but her face, the last words she spoke to me, and whether or not I responded with as much enthusiasm as I would now if I could have that conversation again.

I refuse to repeat that same mistake.

Part of me knows that when it happens again, I will understand that there is no preparation for grief. The other part of me has chosen to punish myself for the times when I am too tired to call when I have had a rough day, fearing the uncertainty of the future. I would tell her that she means everything to me, but don’t even know where to start. I fear that if she knew, there would be an obvious ominous presence in any future interaction between us, her knowing that every word she speaks I cherish, and me knowing that I must remember each spoken syllable. I am exhausted, yet I am ready to sit across from her and immerse myself in her tales about growing up in Lebanon, instead of dwelling on the fact that this might be the final occasion I hear her graveled voice.

Photo by Hunt Han on Unsplash

About the author

Carney Shoam is a first year student in Cinema Communications.

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