A phone number, some accounts in social networks. Two and a half years after the death of her husband, the author ponders the decisions he took custody of his posterity digital.
The other night, Katie, and my good friend, came to dinner. As is customary whenever that comes, the conversation turned to Mike, my husband, who had a good friendship with her. Katie has a rental business on golf carts in Arizona. Mike had a talent for writing, so he offered to help you to make some promotional materials, a task that is best achieved if “experienced golf carts”, as I clearly remember that I explained. Thus was spent an afternoon touring bars in the centre of Scottsdale, taking pictures of signs in restrooms of men to be published in an account of Instagram that Mike had created.
I don’t remember why you decided to create that account on Instagram dedicated to the signage of toilets of men, but I do remember the day that came to life. We were at our favorite pizza spot in the neighborhood when Mike returned from the bathroom smiling like a naughty boy and gave me the phone saying “look what I have done”. On the screen there was a picture of the word men carved into a metal plate blue green, under the title @mensroomsigns. I just smiled and silenced I ignored the issue as an absurd idea. But he remained, taking photos of signs wherever I was going, with me and without me.
My recollections of her afternoon with Katie remain as a fast scene in the movie of memories gathered that time and again pass through my mind since the passing of Mike, on November 1, 2017, 30 days after we enteráramos the pain dull and aching of his back was a manifestation of advanced pancreatic cancer.
That afternoon, after Katie and I ate orecciettes homemade and we shared a bottle of Barolo, she has opened up the application of Instagram on your iPhone, you typed “@mensroomsigns” in the search field, and, after reviewing a bit the listing, he found his adventure. As she appreciated the M floating on the cover of the album Nevermind Nirvana at the Hi Fi, the puppet of copper shining under a spotlight in the DJ’s Bar and Grill and the unicorns copulating in the Counter Intuitive, I felt as if I was witnessing a resurrection. These were pieces of my husband that deprived life of its own in the network, in an account in Instagram that he had created and that we had survived. An account whose existence I had completely forgotten about.
Navigate through the bureaucracy of death is a task inevitable, time-consuming and it is tedious. Call the bank to remove your name from our checking account jointly, to the companies that issue credit cards to cancel their cards, to the insurance company to remove your vehicle from our policy, to call to terminate membership that he had, and that I can no longer keep. These are also tasks one-dimensional. No one can mark them with a “like”, share or comment on them. With his death, my husband killed its importance.
But there was an account that is not closed, at least not completely. In the days that he missed, he asked Siri to call him, to see his name and number on the screen. I dropped the line about a month after his death, but was still asking him to call him from time to time, although I had to listen to a message telling me that the client was trying to locate was not available. Also I kept the phone and the number, by paying five dollars a month to make sure they would not be assigned to another person. I paid to be able to give it to our daughter, Flora, at the right time.
That’s what happens when you die a part of you: you cling to the pieces that are left the person who is gone. The pocket knife that Mike bought in an antique shop in western Massachusetts, where for the first time we share a home, live in my drawer of lingerie. I like to caress its suede lining tanned with vegetable extracts to create a tactile memory, to feel what he must have felt as he took that knife.
The photos and videos published on social networks, in the accounts of Instagram that kept and also in Facebook, are a public record of the life he lived and the life that we shared, cropped and edited to expose the best aspects of it, all of us. Almost always I avoid them, although there have been times that I have lost myself in those photos, not because longing for re-living those moments captured, but because it helped me to process the end of us.
Cancer Mike was relentless. He devoured his pancreas and part of his liver, and then wrapped the connection between your stomach and intestines, stopping your digestive system. However, with all its fragility, as they faced the imminent end of his life, Mike gathered his energy to give me the keys of all the accounts that had online –from Gmail to Fantasy football and everything in between–, by typing each password in a document in Word that you printed and left quietly on my dresser. I entrusted the care of his posterity digital.
Some weeks ago I decided that it was time to give Flora her phone. She is ten years old and, although still not log in to social networks, has its own playlists in the Spotify account that belonged to Mike, and now belongs to me.
I made sure to make a backup of the phone prior to giving it, so as not to lose the photos and videos that Mike kept there. (On a side floats a cloud with your name, full of their memories). I sat in front of my laptop, type “icloud.com” in the browser and filled out the fields of user identification and password with the data that belong to him. In that moment, I became him.
As wallpaper Mike had a photo of Times Square that he had taken from a local pedicab in which we walk together for our last night as residents of New York, when my employment then, as editor of the The NewYork Timestook us to Arizona. The time has more meaning in retrospect, because that would be his last night as a resident of that place. Flora changed the background of the screen as soon as he had the phone in his hands. The one you chose is a picture of Margot Robbie characterized as Harley Quinn, all sass and style.
She called the mother of Mike on FaceTime from his phone while we were going back home after leaving the store from Verizon, but got no answer so I called from my own phone to explain why she had a call from Mike. Since then, like me, had not cleared his name and number from your contacts.
Flora and I went shopping that afternoon, because I needed some new tennis hiking. At some point, she asked if she could take a walk around the shop alone, to which I replied yes and I said, “I’ll call you when I leave”.
When I finished shopping, I asked Siri to call Mike and it was Flora who replied, as I expected. After hanging up I replaced your name with hers, mordiéndome the lip. I waited to get home to cry as she looked through the other pictures he had in the other account of Instagram, that I remembered. The account is still there, as are your accounts in other social networks. I still don’t know what to do with them. I’m not ready to delete what is left of him.