That Which Doesn't Kill You, Blah Blah Blah

Yesterday was Penny's last day at her job, and the whole company shut down an hour early and headed to the biergarten to see her off. She's very loved by that place, naturally, and she loves it back - forgetting now, as she should, most of the difficulties she had there. They gave her a stretched canvas as a going-away card, with kind and funny little messages scribbled all over it, attempts at offhand artworks befitting her new career as an illustrator. Somebody made her a little book, with drawings of each little scene in this chapter of her life. "Penny gets a job...Penny gets a promotion...Penny gets a website..."

It was great. They hugged her, shook her hands, genuinely wished her well. I was happy for her and sad for her both, which is how it's supposed to be. I know all those people because I used to work there. I know she'll miss them; I know exactly how she'll feel.

So it was with empathy, pride and a little bit of jealousy that I hugged her myself last night in her studio which used to be our dining room, after reading her goodbye letter from her best friend at that job. All those things, I felt. They were hard to pick out in the solid field of plain sadness, but they were there.

And confusion - there was a little bit of confusion too. Neither of us was prepared for all the emotions that hit us, and I, knowing my role as the designated stable person in the situation, had made my best efforts to stay supportive and unaffected. It's okay to be scared when your spouse leaves a job, leaving the two of you with a single income. It's okay to be happy for her, venturing into the field she's always wanted. And it's okay to be pained, envisioning all the days to come that won't include the people you've grown so fond of, the people who've had so much to do with your own identity.

It's okay to feel each of those things, I'm sure. But all at once... that was hard. Last night was hard.

Neither of us was ready for it, and I don't know that we ever would have been. The side of her computer yesterday had a sign like the ones I used to tape there every day, taped there by Evan, the best friend. It said

"Today Penelope Feels..."
(It always said that)

"...As Ready As She'll Ever Be"

I wrote that, quickly, not knowing what was the right thing to say. I figured it was honest enough, and clever enough, to get by, but wished it had been perfect enough not to need cleverness. I knew I didn't have the words. There's too much to say and it doesn't fit on the side of a monitor, or in a silly little text window on this screen.

The only statement I made last night that I trust as true and accurate, not colored by an attempt to hide fear or garner affection, I made very softly. I read the letter Evan wrote to Penny, all the way through, and saw it showing me the picture of the whole sad situation. It almost broke my heart - like a small drawing he'd left her on a napkin under the windshield wiper, showing a heart with a zigzaggy line running down one side, with an arrow to its caption: "Large, but not completely fatal crack."

The letter finally overwhelmed me, being so perfect and unsentimental and every paragraph so clearly showing what a beautiful friendship had grown there between them. At the moment I held her, it was all I could do. I didn't know what to make of all this or how to pretend that I did. We both cried, not saying anything. Eventually, quietly, the words came out.

"How can it be over?"

And that was all I had to say.

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