Tonight is for reading this poem, again and again.
Our eyes met and you wanted me.
Our lips met and I wanted you.
Whiskey and lemonade and deception
Stolen breath and hushed mirth.
You spoke to me in platitudes I planned desperately to believe.
Time is the killer of compassion.
Reality, of dedication.
Trite idioms and an insistence of intention
(It’s not about you, I didn’t intend to hurt you)
Turn my reflection to Medusa and my heart to stone.
Faith and trust are cotton in my mouth and water in my lungs.
Thoughts bound and tongue glued, the tomorrows weigh heavy.
I still want you.
I’m thinking about leaving you.
I wouldn’t say anything. No fights or harsh words. I’ll cheerfully kiss you off to work tomorrow, pack my things and be gone before you get home.
You will lament to friends, family, the next woman, the current other woman that I was always going, that you don’t know why I left, that I just abandoned you and took your heart with me.
You will protect the reasons for my disappearance. You will keep your secrets. You will pretend ignorance and take no credit for your hurt.
You will keep lying.
But not to me.
I want to write something bigger than you.
I want my words to move mountains.
To stretch from sea to sand to lonely cliff,
metaphors tumbling with sharp staccato, edges wearing thin, smoother than your glib lies will ever be.
I want to write something other than love.
Having love, lacking love, I want to
I have bound myself in by submitting to you.
I want the colors to burst from me, a kaleidoscope
hard as diamonds,
soft as skin.
Fractured, I want to bind myself together, fitting the torn edges. Broken, I want to find myself whole again.
I want to navigate the deep trenches between us.
To open the gates
I did not close,
I did not break.
To stumble into the sunlight blinking,
fingers like keys in locks,
pulling us into adventure.
I want to write about the path not taken,
my words and actions in harmony
as I do on to you as you cannot
(or will not)
do on to me.
I want to be enough to hold this stumbling cadence together.
To define myself not by you,
but with you.
I want to believe with every fiber,
heart to loins,
crest to sole,
inhale the future you whisper into my lungs.
I want the sun to rise. I want the earth to warm. I want the days to stack like stars, infinite and vast in light and heat.
I shiver in the chill
as I reach my arms across our bed to stroke you.
I slide across your back and wonder where you are.
I write something smaller than you, the ice building to a wall of stone, impervious.
I watched the sunrise over the Oregon mountains from an airplane this morning, and it broke my heart.
How can twenty years be an eternity and an eye blink? Twenty years. Twenty years.
I barely remember the girl who didn’t say “I love you”. The girl who preferred not to be touched, who shied away from hugs until the day that connection became necessary because it was the closest thing she had to solace.
I don’t know what path I was on when you left us. My life has been divided so strongly into before and after that I feel there is no way I could know. Perhaps I am exactly the person I would have been with you that I became without you. The details from before are hazy now. They were, even before the passage of time smoothed the corners I could remember.
I remember your death more than I remember your life.
I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish I had written down everything I could remember of you, read it again and again until I was certain those memories would never fade. I wish I could celebrate your life the way I can still relive the weeks after you died.
I carry guilt and responsibility for the last moments of your life. It has been twenty years of living and experience and I know now that the conclusion of that last phone call will probably always be the thing I regret the most.
I want to miss you, but time has taken that. I do mourn you. I wonder if our friendship would have survived our youth or if we would have slipped from each other’s lives, become a late 20s friend request and the occasional conversation when we both happen to be in town. I wonder if you would have grown up and gotten out, or if you would have followed a path that kept you home. I wonder who you would have become as an adult, if you would have a family, a life you had built for yourself.
I think about all the things I have experienced, the people I have loved, the places I have been in the last twenty years and I wish, desperately, that you had a journey of your own.
Maybe I do miss you. Maybe I miss the person you would have become, whether you were in my life or not. I miss the space you occupied on this earth. The absence of you left an empty place in me that even time has not filled.
Know that you are remembered, and in memory, loved.
Give me a love that is quiet and calm. That finds passion in the smallest moments, in the pauses between breaths. That believes in wishes and planning, that cools and changes, that finds itself again. That doesn’t thrive on hurt, but weathers the pain when it comes.
Give me a love that chooses to thrive, chooses to grow, chooses again. Water that love and make it greener, slowly, with purpose.
“Are you listening to me?”
He closes his eyes for a moment, steadies himself. Looks up from his hands to her questioning gaze. Smiles, with hope. Readies himself to fight.
She tries to cry freedom as if it would make it so.
She would never wrap around him in the night again. She would never slide out from under an elbow hooked around her in sleep, or feel him snuggle into her neck, face rough with morning, the tickle making her feel special, warm, loved. She would never crinkle her eyes just that way, lament his humor, hear him whisper “you’re pretty” to end a conversation.
She would never shoot Nerf darts decorated with hearts or wish on another shooting star.
She nods, swipes before the tear breaks her lashes.
He sits alone on his lunch, parked next to a beautiful green he won’t visit.
Once he would have dined with friends, lovers. Now these stolen moments are the best – and worst – of his day.
He catches a glimpse of his silvering hair in the mirror and doesn’t recognize himself.
Turning the key, he looks up from the console to briefly ponder the barren winter trees creaking proudly, eternally, in the frosty sunshine. The first sigh is an experiment. The second, a wish. The engine coughs. He pulls onto the road.
There is a little more loneliness in the world.
I ended 2009 kissing someone who was not mine, while the one who technically was worried about me kissing someone entirely different. It was over.
I was pregnant at the end of 2010, with twins, but I didn’t know it. I was also at the beginning of something new. At midnight we toasted with champagne and someone spilled, he spent the next few minutes on his knees cleaning instead of kissing me. I wish I knew then what I know now.
I don’t remember the end of 2011. I know where we were, probably, but I was miserable and he was miserable and the misery would end us six days later… but not permanently, unfortunately.
I ended things with him on the last day of 2012, then pushed pause on the breakup to go to a party. I was broken. I stepped on a scale and was pushing 300lbs. I left him, and Texas, six weeks later.
I moved to Portland and went to a party to end my drift of 2013. I started 2014 happy and over, dressed as a cat, complete with drunk pictures and slightly inappropriate texts to a much younger man who was completely off limits.
2015 began with a whisper and a kiss, just that younger man and me in a hotel room. New Years on two other coasts lead me to this room on the east coast and the sailor I am sharing it with. It may not work out, but this is right where I want to be.
Betty lived a big life in a big city filled with big things. She always felt so small in that big white house, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, three sparkling windows that overlooked the eastern neighbors, two bratty but beguiling children and one boisterous husband. All that space was filled with the presence of love, and while she felt small, she felt safe.
Until the accident.
Now she lives in a tiny house by her tiny self. She prefers it that way. “If there’s no space to fill up, there’s no empty, hollow place where my loved ones belong.”