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One by one, she emptied the closets. First, the shirts went, with the trousers following suit. The neatly arranged drawer of ties went next, wrapped in her arms like snakes slithering over each other. All this while, I was standing by the door, and when I saw her come back in after the ties, I knew the rocking chair was going too. All of these things piled up in a corner of our small yard, each little addition raising the collective peak slightly higher.

When she was finally done removing every sign of his presence from our house, everything stacked on top of itself in the yard, she joined me on our stoop. I had ended up continuing my lookout at the yard, the door corner eventually tiring me. For the first time in years, we found time to breathe. She looked out at the pile she’d created, and when I noticed a slight smile on her lips, I wasn’t sure if she felt proud or relieved. We sat there for a while, mother and daughter, each weighing the collective weight our lives.

Done? she asked, her voice soft but firm.

Hmm, I replied, barely audible. I was tired by sitting on the concrete.

She walked up to the pile and started lighting a dangling tie on fire. She had one of those old kitchen lighters that burned a small but steady flame instead of a spark. How practical, I thought.

It took a while but the tie eventually caught and spread the fire into the pile. I thought it would be majestic but soon it turned into a thick black cloud rising lazily ever higher, the flame nowhere to be seen.

Will you miss him? I silently asked myself. No answers came jumping out at me, and I did not wish to summon them.

Did you love him? I asked when she joined me on the concrete.

I’m tired, she sighed.

We sat there until the fire went out, the two of us gazing at the black cloud, which had, by then, turned into a thin line of smoke, the moments of our past rising free in the air.

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