My Gmail is a priceless hoard of us making plans, telling inside jokes, calling each other “snoodle” and “bubbies.” I type his name into the search field and enter a world of the unscripted dialogue that filled our 9-to-5 existence. In hundreds of chats automatically saved to my account, we express our love for each other readily and naturally in our own private speech.
This is a history of our relationship that we didn’t intend to write, one that runs parallel to the one authored by his uncontainable illness. Me: yes more den anythin Clark: I see well, I’d say we have a problem because I love you your love might clash with my love, resulting into a shitstorm of unicorns, babies, puppy dogs, and couples ice skating it could get ugly Me: hahahahahahahhaha and tandem bikes I remember the pharmaceutical names of his medications—amitryptyline, Zoloft, methadone. It was winter 2008 and Clark was taking part in a trial, his second, at the National Institutes of Health.
The site's chatwall combines the back-and-forth interaction of a chat room with the asynchronous nature of a forum.
In both cases Malone fought tooth and nail to not have to pay child support—it didn't work.
I don’t know exactly when we first said I love you, but the first email exchange containing the phrase, which he casually includes before signing off, is dated October 3 of that year.
Nearly four years later, I sometimes type his email address in the search box in my Gmail.
The way we spoke to each other about what I’d bring home for dinner or whether it was a PBR or a Grolsch kind of night. The second surgery, which removed the cancer’s recurrence from underneath the tender flesh of the first, was June 11. I spent a lot of time after his death looking at photographs of us camping, at a friend’s wedding, with my family at our first Thanksgiving.
In nearly every conversation, there is something that releases the pressure from my chest by forcing a giant laugh. Me: yes i had soup and chips but whatever someone else has smells delish Clark: k just as long as you ate something how do you spell Bodasifa? He was hospitalized from November 11–19 and again from December 1–6. Clark: oh baby do not say sorry Me: i really was just exhausted! Clark: I totally understand i know you were so tired and I know that you want to make sure I’m going to be okay and safe and really makes me want to cry Clark: i feel the same way about you I want to always want to make sure you are safe and warm and comfortable Clark: and I didn’t mean to yell but you are so stubborn Me: no i know haha SO ARE YOU, for the record Clark died two months later. I listened to “The Ocean” by Sunny Day Real Estate, the song he heard when he imagined me walking down the aisle at our wedding.
Hundreds of results pop up, and I’ll pick a few at random to read. Me: yep it’s a buddhism thing I can break down Clark’s illness into one diagnosis (metastatic melanoma), one prognosis (between 4 and 14 months to live), three surgeries, three clinical trials, seven hospital stays, three doses of chemotherapy, and five weeks of hospice care.