What is the Future for Fugitive Chris Burns? When Will His Expiration Date Finally Come?

I am craving a late-night snack, probably because all I have eaten today is potato soup. It’s all I could stomach. My friend brought it over for me, and it was nourishment to my soul as I slurped up every last spoonful of cream. There are so many days, my body tells me it can’t stomach the day, can’t stomach the days behind me, or the days I will face. I stare in the fridge at fresh fruit, organic yogurts, broccoli that I can saute in five minutes, homemade prepared meals that only require a microwave minute brought to my doorstep by compassionate friends…and still, I close the door in silence leaving the contents perfectly in their place.  I make my way around the island to the pantry which displays the less healthy stuff. I eat a few vanilla wafers and pick up my go-to food when I can’t stomach anything–gluten-free, chemically laced, pasta with marinara sauce.

I pull out the pot, fill it with water trying to get this done as quickly as possible because my mind tells me I need to eat, but my body tells me to be in bed asleep.

Standing on the anti-fatigue mat in front of the stove doesn’t help me feel anti-fatigue. My knees ache and my lungs burn knowing that my body is still fighting long-term Covid that has turned into pneumonia.

It ends up, I need to open a new box of pasta, and per my usual peculiarities, I check the expiration to make sure this is edible. These days, I’m sure I have been desperate enough to place things in my body that are beyond human consumption–so, at least I am trying by checking the expiration date. I assume I’m close to the cut-off point, but surprisingly, on this day, October 1, 2021, the expiration for my curly noodles is not until November 23, 2023.

 I think for most people expiration dates don’t matter much, especially that far out, but seeing this number, I stare at the blue flames on the stove, and they lull me away from my boiling noodles into a reflective conversation with myself–one that comes up every day in my mind.

What will my life be like on November 23, 2023? Will Chris still be missing? Will he be in jail? Will I be on a witness stand in a court? Will we just have had a one-sided last goodbye? Will I have wanted to say my last goodbyes or will I finally feel free by that time, will the kids come home from college to deal with the court proceedings, or will they have moved on with their lives by that point? Will I have moved on with my life by that point? That will be three years and two months since he drove away. Will anything be different in my psyche on November 23, 2023?

An expiration date. Will it be an expiration date for us.

They are unanswerable questions that float in and out of my consciousness as I stand waiting for the timer to confirm eight minutes has passed, and my noodles are now perfectly cooked. I drain the noodles and decide to try a new Alfredo sauce. I haven’t had it before which makes me a little timid since my go-to option is marinara sauce when I can’t eat. But tonight, I am taking the little strength I have left to attempt a different approach. 

I have played the piano all my life, built jewelry from scratch with my dextrous hands, created a bed frame from a tree on my grandparent’s land with a plainer, sanding, and heavy machinery. My hands moved so much of our lives within weeks of him leaving–carrying boxes, packing heavy and delicate objects, working alongside an army of friends to make trip after trip after trip carrying our old life into a new house, what I hoped would be a safe home. My hands work hard; they are strong.

And tonight, I just needed them to open the new glass bottle of Alfredo sauce. I clasped one hand on the metal top, and one hand on the glass bottle and pushed the forces in opposite directions without even a millimeter of movement. Again I tried, this time using my bi-cep strength to add to the oppositional force needed to create an opening. Again, I fell short. I took a knife to try to pop open the airtight seal on the top, but it was stubbornly opposed to opening up. It was sealed tight, and I wasn’t going to be able to use my strength to create the movement needed to complete the task that would provide me basic nourishment; my body was exhausted and was emptied of a will to bend anything to my will. 

I screamed out loud to myself, and tears streamed down my cheeks. I wasn’t prepared for the outburst, but it also felt like the only solution to the deep reality that I was alone and not strong enough.

 Only a year ago, I would have called out to Chris to open a jar of sauce for me. In fact, he probably would have made the whole late-night spread for me knowing my level of exhaustion and need for calories. His arms were twice the size of mine, his energy seemingly larger than mine in every way imaginable. To me, his force and ability to bend things to his will knew no bounds. It’s how he operated in the world–brute strength forcing momentum, opening up worlds for us and all those who came into his orbit. And, he was seemingly always there to offer his strength in times of need–to use his energy to open life.

There is an obnoxiously large void for that space in our lives now. There is no added strength, no force behind me, no strength beyond my own in this home. What is necessary to survive has landed squarely on my shoulders, and I must find ways to open sauce jars on my own, to bring sustenance to our weary bodies.

Once the tears dry up and the shouting stops, I consider giving in to my usual marinara option which I know I can open. But I can’t give up. I make one last-ditch effort. I pull the bright green, rubber sink drain cover from under the kitchen sink and wrap it around the top of the glass jar hoping it can give me the grip to nudge the slightest opening in the airtight seal. I put all of my strength into it, and it still doesn’t work.

I want to give up. But I don’t have that luxury these days. There is no giving up or giving in anymore.

 I take a knife out again, desperate to pop the seal enough to let some air into the jar to loosen its hold on the sauce inside. Whether the sink drain cover gave me a slight advantage that I didn’t notice, or the jar finally saw me as a formidable foe who was not going to back down, it finally released its grip. I finally opened a new experience for myself.

Will I be eating the Alfredo sauce in the future? I haven’t decided if it’s my new late-night comfort food. It’s not a known comfort. It’s different. It’s changing. It’s the opposite of what has felt safe and comfortable to me for years. It’s harder to break open, but my resolve is somehow stronger to create a new force for comfort. Maybe on November 23, 2023, my strength will be in full bloom. Can I hope that what can feel like blank voids and a missing person will be replaced with perseverance and strength that no one can take away from me again?

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