When my partner finds a stone she likes, she shares its burden with me. She never seems to have a place to keep them.
There is something about her sneaking them in my hand or backpack that is intimate—a piece of her deposited for safekeeping. As uneventful and unique as teardrops or doodles in margins. I am heavy with her most listless and solid moments. The bottoms of all my suitcases have a fine layer of dust from them rubbing together, changing.
The stones come from beaches and hikes and parks. They seem to, in her way, match what is going through her mind. Joyful-stones are bright and come handfuls at a time, often shining like full moons and just as infrequent. Ranting-stones are unwieldy and don’t fit in my pockets. Lost-stones have striations that are going somewhere she is not. Bad-news-stones are cracked.
When we moved back to the neighborhood she grew up in, we had to pack and unpack the stones. She looked at the old collection I had assembled before her and she curated them throughout the house, with the rejected placed in a salmon-colored bin under a shelf. There was no pattern to what she was still fond of. And these stones were beside new ones, moving-stones that were not beautiful but broken from the driveway of our old house. Job-search stones that were for a theoretical desk. Envy-stones she rolled in her hands many times while walking beside people from high school, listening as they complained—as they complained and didn’t ask why she moved back, how ill her mother was, the stones that were growing.
There were tv-show-binging-stones, comfort-food-stones, school-application-stones. These were numerous and sat in every room. Funeral-home-stones and loss-of-creativity-stones, sedimentary and igneous, these were much quieter in how they jingled in my breast pocket, not to be displayed.
Nap-stones filled the crevices of our couch, where she nested in layers and didn’t go out, nap-stones like crumbs and tissues and letters from lawyers and well-wishers who didn’t know her. She, for so long, was stone-faced, rung of moisture and grit. I held this partner-stone too, until it shifted. The tectonics were always in motion. Stones always changing.
The stones of grief are light. They trickle endlessly. But they have come slower now. They are small and smooth and have unexpected angles. “Her,” my partner says, holding the stone, not handing it to me. Not immediately. We share in this, knowing it is hard to let go.