There are certain things I can’t remove.
Let’s start with my iPhone. I still have the voicemail from the coroner’s office that was left on February 7, 2019 at 4:18 AM:
Hi, this message is for Larry Carlat. Um, my name is Jennifer Herzog and I’m an investigator with Los Angeles County. I’m looking for family for Robbie James Carlat born on January 18, 1991. If you know Robbie, if you could please give me a call back. My direct best extension is 323-343-0677. Again that’s 323-343-0677 and please reference case number 201901035. Again that’s 2019-01035. And again I’m looking for family for Robbie Carlat. Thank you.
I’m not sure why I haven’t deleted it. It’s not like I pop it on like a favorite Steely Dan song. In fact, today was the first time I’ve heard the message since receiving the original call. Jenny starts out kind of fun and peppy with the first line–Hi, this message is for Larry Carlat–almost sounding like maybe she’s calling to say that I’ve won some type of prize. And then she drops the hammer with her momentarily hesitant “um.” As soon as I heard that little word, it was game over. I knew that I wouldn’t be winning any prize on that sickening day.
I also can’t bring myself to delete Rob’s phone number from my Contacts and Favorites. We cancelled his service a few weeks after he died, but I still call his number every now and then. I know it’s crazy, but just seeing his name appear on my phone with a tiny version of the Menendez Brothers photo next to it satisfies my yearning to hear his voice again.
Anytime I call anyone on my Favorites list (a small handful of people who I call and love the most), there he is right where he belongs, in the middle of Zach and Caryn, and I just can’t imagine a time when Rob won’t be there–although I live with that horrible reality every day, as we all do.
The other thing I can’t remove is his six-month AA chip that I have on my key ring. As you may recall, he gave it to me as a Father’s Day gift last year. It’s a small, metal square and etched on the front are the words “6 Months,” “Sobriety” and “One Day at a Time.”
Little did I know that these words would someday apply to me. We’re coming up on six months since Rob died, I can’t think of anything more sobering and “One Day at a Time” is exactly how I’ve been living without him.
The last things I can’t remove are 128 emails from firstname.lastname@example.org. They begin on October 1st, 2009, asking my opinion on a design for his “Life Rolls On” tattoo and end with an edit of his resume that I sent to him on January 19th, a day after his last birthday.
In between is the usual medley of Rob hits including several requests for money (usually beginning with “I hate to ask, but…”), long threads about Weird Al Yankovic, photos of him and Zach when they were little boys, discussions on the series finale of Weeds, IMs with him freaking out after losing a debit card, articles I sent him about Mr. Robot, jokes he sent me from Reddit, songs that we sent each other, making plans to see him for a Fourth of July barbecue in Binghamton, my user names and passwords for Hulu and Netflix, one that says “Emergency, had an accident,” and a few others with “Favor” written in the subject line.
I’m not sure why I keep these either. I’m not sure why I keep any of this useless crap. It doesn’t bring me joy, it doesn’t help me remember him any better, it doesn’t do anything other than remind me that Rob’s no longer here.
And yet I just can’t bear to further erase him.