Hiraeth (n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.
I was the only one standing by the counter at Reed’s coffee shop. Reed wasn’t there. I ordered a mocha latte. It was the second weekend of January. Daniel and I had just returned from our annual mountain trip for New Year’s and I was 10 days into not making good on my dieting resolution. Plus it was damn cold and I was rewarding myself for working on a Saturday.
I had a sense of satisfaction as my chores were complete and I had no plans for the next twenty four hours.
My phone vibrated while I waited for my mocha. “What the hell?,” I thought, I had purposefully chosen not to bring my phone into work so I could concentrate. Daniel and I still sent texts back and forth to each other like we’d been together a few months instead of four years. He so easily broke my concentration. So the phone had stayed in the car.
I noticed on my way to Reed’s I had already two missed calls. It was odd. No one really calls. But my phone was ringing again with another unrecognizable number. This time from Sanford. I knew people in Sanford. Daniel’s family.
Daniel was so close to his father and here he was calling me for the first time. I thought about how he knew I would soon be proposed to. I thought about how it was his encouragement that Daniel had decided to adopt Meriwether.
And Daniel had truly become her dad.
All this I thought of in the mere seconds it took me to realize it was Richard on the line.
The espresso machine making my mocha was drowning his words out. I stepped away from the counter as he repeated, “Are you home?” “I’m in Mebane,” I answered, confused as to where his line of questioning was going. “Why,” I asked.
Right there in the middle of Reed’s with no Reed. Right there as the espresso machine heated skim milk loudly. My life, as I had come to love, ended.
Trying to compute what Richard was telling me was like flipping through one of Daniel’s math books. It didn’t make sense.
I just saw him.
“MOCHA.” Of course the barista is hollering at me. I’m the only one waiting. He was leaned over the counter towards me with an outstretched arm. My already paid for with a tip mocha in hand.
Perhaps he was able to enjoy my mocha.
All I could muster to say to Daniel’s father was, “What the fuck.” Over and over. I’m embarrassed by that now.
“He had a heart attack. His body is at the hospital. He’s gone, so there is no need for you to go.”
“What the fuck.”
My body went on autopilot as everything began to shut down.
There was nothing else to say. I hung up.
I walked one block back to work. I couldn’t operate my car. I knew that. I recall the stunned faces that saw me. My life had left my body. My basic functions were all that was operating. I was a shell that could not comprehend what was happening, what I was saying, or how I would get home. My boss made me sit for fear I’d pass out.
I wasn’t crying. I was in total shock and could feel nothing. This added to my confusion.
I called my mom and all I could say was, “He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.”
“Whose dead, Heather? Heather, tell me who you are talking about. You’re scaring me.”
But I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t make myself say Daniel.