She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. As simple as that. The only memory I have of her is the book, always holding the book. No one knows where she went, or if they do, they don't want to tell me.
I like to think that she went to the places in her book: The places where men and women do great things and fight magical beasts and overcome impossible odds. I like to think that she moved to the Amazon to fight for the rainforests and protect the animals and trees.
No one wants to tell me where she really went, and I don't know why. So I make believe that she is criss-crossing the globe on some kind of humanitarian mission, protecting the innocent from evil men. Time passes, I get a little bit older, and I'm reading more books besides the crumpled paper-back she left me so long ago.
I picture her in the land of Narnia, fighting epic battles with animals as smart as her. I read the pages of my school book and draw her in the margins, remembered only through yellowed pictures and embellished with a child's taste for adventure and beauty.
People at school tell me she is dead, I don't know why they would say that. They say she walked out the door and into hell. I don't believe them though. Dad never told me that, and anyways, he says no one knows where she is. And I believe him.
Sometimes I sit at home, staring at the pages in books, and he comes home from work. He always says to me, "Hey, guy! Watcha doin'?" And I always say, "Nothin' dad, just thinking about Mom again." Then he starts to think things he doesn't want to think, I can see it on his face, and he says, "Well, pal, I know that wherever she is, she's thinking about us right this second."
And I can feel myself grow lighter, a weight lifting off my shoulders, and I can't help it and I say, "Really, Dad?" But a look comes across his face, a look that only later in life do I recognize as regret and remorse as he says, "Yes son, really, really."
Now I'm all grown up with a family of my own and a tombstone where my dad used to be. I try to forgive him for that lie years ago, telling myself that he had to do it. I was too young; the truth was too much. He wanted to protect me the best way he knew how. I understand now. But there is a part of me that will never move past those lighthearted days spent imagining distant worlds inhabited by hobbits, dragons, elves and my mom.
Some days, when the kids are at their friend's house and my wife is working late, I take a Prozac with a tall glass of water, and I sit and stare at the pages of any book I have laying around. I forget the days buried in grief, and I can read the words, and I can see her in the pages again, taking some lost soul on the adventure of a lifetime.
When this happens, I don't put the book down, and I read like she will walk back in the door, pick up the book, and sit down, reclaiming her place in the world. I read like my life depends on it, like her life depends on it, and in some way, they do. They really, really do.