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You asked for guidance, anything to let you understand how I am at turns familiar and otherwise unrecognizable. Think about any large room you have ever entered that's been lived in for many years. Think about everything brought into that room, loved in that room, left in that room. Think of the furniture, pictures, books, and papers. Trinkets and souvenirs. Think about the corners, space, and clutter. Think of all those things inhabiting one room. Now, think about navigating the room by firelight alone. Some things you see in stark detail, some faintly illuminated, some you never see at all.
There's a slip of paper with your name on it, your birthdate, and the day you died. No flowers, no headstone. Now there's a letter. I wrote everything I might have wanted to say if your life hadn't ended where it did. I set it right where your hands should be (but about six feet down). It rained all day yesterday and all this morning and most of your gravesite is covered in water. It's fitting. You chose the water and the dirt at the bottom of the river. It seems the water wasn't quite ready to give you back.
Tonight, on impulse, I drove by my first apartment. It's settled just on the side of the ridge, overlooking downtown. I slowed and then stopped right there in the middle of the road, staring up at it. Soft, yellow light spilled out of the upstairs window where I washed my dishes years and years ago. Someone else calls it home now and I drove on. It occured to me that this was the last place I felt truly at home. But I didn't dwell on it because I had someplace else to be. I always have someplace else to be.
I am the beggar at the feast. I know I don't belong. These beautiful things were never meant for me. I am meant for hunger and the cold. Not fine china and candlelight. Not snow white table clothes and silver. Those fine foods could choke me. Those hardwood chairs could break my back. And if I'm starving, well, I've grown accustomed to the feeling. If I'm nothing but teeth and bone, being ravenous suits me best. I stay in a state of starvation so I am always ready to be satisfied. I'm as sharp as the knife you eat with.
It is an anniversary of sorts. A year without you here. One full year since your warm body was put to the cold ground. The worst part is that I can no longer remember exactly the way you laughed. The tone of your voice, the shape of your hands… I can't force myself to recall them. You live now in the unexpected. Sometimes I see you in others' gestures, the way they smile. I cannot fashion all on my own anything as wonderful as you were. Whatever else I do, I pray for the unexpected, just to see you again.
Once, when I was very young, I got caught in a tree during a lightning storm. It was at my grandparent's house. I was in the topmost branches and, like many things in life, I could see it coming without knowing how to stop it. It's funny. I can remember the terrible wind and the electricity in the air, so thick I could taste it in the back of my throat. Thunder so loud that even now the memory makes me cringe. That was the day I first believed in both God and Death. I could see them both coming.
Here is all I've learned of love. It's absolutely capable of killing me. In this world, there is war and there are weapons and over a hundred different ways to die. I find I'm fine with that. But don't threaten me with love. I survived that particular impact once. I'm not sure if I could do so again. All by its lonesome it reduced me to ash and the shadow of the girl I once was. All by its lonesome it taught me the impact of one heart, beating. When it was done, it left me all by my lonesome.
At this very moment I am watching what few ever will. I am tracing the line that traces my life, watching it spin outward into infinity. I am watching my own heart beat and it is amazing. Steady, ready, healthy. This is the finest example of faith confirmed, something felt but always unseen. Until now. Whatever else I may write, whatever else I may say, I'm happy to be here. Happy to be alive. Somedays it may not seem it, but I am grateful for all small graces, the little miracles, and the thin red line linking it all together.
If nothing else, years from now this is what I will recall of him. He has pillow soft eyes. Round and open, clear as September skies. Those eyes hold me prisoner in a sideways glance. They remind me of rainwater and clean things. The echo of all oceans, the rhythm of time and motion, whispers to me from within them. Nothing inside this body could hope to withstand the question asked in his eyes. I shut my own, hoping he never guesses the answer stirred in spite of itself and all my better intentions. I open them, hoping he will.
I do not know the name of my father's father. I never have. My family does not talk about him. He died many years before I was born. I have never been to his grave, either. I asked Dad about him once. Only once. He walked away silent and crying. Mother took me aside and told me "Your father grew up in the shadow of a monster. Just let it be." We didn't speak of it again. I have since learned enough to know there are no monsters in this world, only people like my grandfather. But they are enough.
I'm tired. It's 2 AM and my comforter isn't living up to its name. My upstairs neighbor is awake and pacing. He's a youth pastor at a little church in the heart of downtown. I have never talked to this man and I don't have the urge to change that. Still, it's nice to know that at 2 AM I'm not the only one who can't sleep. He can pace for the both of us. In four hours we'll pass each other on the way to our cars, our work, our lives. I will understand the shadows under his eyes.
This is all it takes to make me smile, to make me happy. Oversized sweaters where the sleeves just cover my fingers. The smell of vanilla and cloves. Green apples that are just a bit tart. Red wine and tigerlilies. Staying up all night and then sleeping in the next day. Puddles on sidewalks. The way the pages of a new book are crisp and the way the pages of old books are smooth. Spring grass and summer rain. Cold air and warm water. How sunlight feels on my closed eyes. And you. None of this would matter without you.
If I tell you I'm lying, I'm inadvertently telling you the truth. I'm sick of the truth. It's all I deal with. I live it, breath it, and when I can sleep, I dream it. The truth has never been kind. It simply exists. It's immobile. Something like that shouldn't be so dangerous. It doesn't have to try to be. It just is. Everything else in your life will flay itself on those razor-sharp edges. That's why I'm tired, I think. I'm nothing but the truth and I'm so weary of everyone I love breaking themselves wide open over me.
At this very moment, the truth doesn't feel so immobile, so hard, or so harsh. It is warm water like I haven't felt since the last time my feet met the sea on the very edge of the sand. There are waves and motion and soft, fine surf. There is sunlight and heat. Oh, I am still the truth, but now I'm an ocean of it. Instead of everything breaking up on me, I'm breaking over everything in my path. But at least I'm warm this time. At least people are happy to see me when I come like this….
It is my night to repent. I'm sorry, Daniel. Yours is a bright, shiny heart and I'll not darken it with my own. You deserve far better than anything I ever could have offered. It is my night to recant. I rescind all the love I gave you, Rick. I recall all the tears and the years spent on you. Whatever you have left of your heart, it's not worth my own. It never was. It is my night to resurrect. I'm calling my heart back into my own body, where it belongs. It's too early to see if it'll stay.
Someone is knocking on my doors, knocking in my walls. But he's doing it with kindness and so I'm defenseless. I can take a hard hand and a raised voice. I can take indifference and the long walk out. I know how to respond to these things. My back is ramrod straight and the only hand I hold is my own. So when he reaches out with his, I don't know what to give him. Maybe my hand, but my heart may get in the way. It's confused just enough to leap without looking. It's why I needed those walls.
Pardon my inconvenient heart and the mess it sometimes makes. It isn't as wise as yours, obviously. Yours has learned the negotiations of love. How to give little and take much. How to exit gracefully. Gratefully, even. Mine is uncertain and certainly untried. It hangs on to the little things. Promises and the like. Too green to understand that your promises only stand till a better offer comes along. Or boredom. It was a hard lesson, but very well learned. And though I'm not sure I like what you've taught me, I give you credit for being an excellent teacher.
The official ruling is suicide. The official ruling is you did this. The official ruling is that you had too much to handle this time around. The official ruling is you chose this for yourself. You chose this. You. Chose. This. Over your daughter. Over your husband. Over me. When you jumped, did you have second thoughts? When you jumped, did you think of us? When you jumped, did you think at all? The cold water knocked all of that out of you. It knocked it out of us, too. What did you do? Oh God, what did you do?
Your mouth is a marvel. Soft and small with white teeth and a crooked grin. The most amazing things come from somewhere within, like your voice saying my name. Your mouth is a mystery. When you're asleep it tightens and turns to a half-frown. When you wake, it yawns and settles around a sigh. Your mouth is a maze. When it's next to mine I fear what I'll lose and I love what I find. Your mouth is a magician. Revealing and concealing you from one breath to the next. It builds castles of words and then invites me inside.
It's a bit of midnight I carry inside. A hint and nothing more. I'm not sure why but at the very heart of me, amidst all that goodness and all that light, there's this darkness. I don't know where it came from or its purpose. It's simply left me with a taste for melancholy, an appreciation for inevitability. Perhaps it exists to contrast the beauty I see everywhere else. I guess I wouldn't notice the light if I didn't have that bit of dark. Or maybe I wouldn't have noticed that bit of dark if there wasn't so much light.
When I dream of the perfect day, there isn't a sun in the sky. I dream of night and all the things that it hides. I understand the moon perfectly. The stars, comets, and clouds in a variegated violet and indigo sky… the things that love and live in the night are the most reasonable to me. Let the rest of the world worship the sun. She seems vulgar in comparison. Like a woman decked in all of her finest, intent on impressing. The sun glares. The moon simply glances and even then only from the corner of her eyes.
I woke up this morning to an empty apartment. This has never particularly bothered me before. I'm unentangled and enjoy being that way. But not this time and not this morning. The bed was too big. The air was too cold. The room was too quiet. I could hear my heart beating. For a few minutes I just laid there beneath the sheets and pondered the ceiling, the walls, and the miles between your body and mine. For that moment, I let myself wonder if you missed me like this. Then I climbed out of bed and into my day.
A part of me is always in the corner, cringed and cowed. Head bowed and aching, waiting for the next strike. To this day, unexpected movements have me throwing my arms up and my body back. I don't like being touched by anyone. It's their hands I see, but his I feel. I'm still ready for blows long since past. And if I have eyes like burnt out candles, well, he was the one that blew them. If I seem wary, I have my reasons. Violence was not a casual acquaintance, introduced by fists made from the hands I loved.
It is a dream of Christmas past. My past to be exact. I am only 12. In my dream I have gone to bed and I cannot sleep. My mother is down the hall. She is putting treats into my brother's stocking. I know because I was spying on her not five minutes earlier. Her hair is pulled back and she is wearing her oldest pink bathrobe. Her face is open and smiling and I know she is happy. I wake up and cry for a while. This was the last Christmas I could remember her healthy, whole, and well.
I don't want this to become love. It doesn't need to. The shape of your eyes does not need to affect me. The way you say my name does not have to be so sweet. How you look at me shouldn't matter even a little. If there's something inside of me that sings when it sees you, well it doesn't have to be my heart. If every little bit of me misses you when you aren't around, that can be ignored. Because I'm really not ready for you just yet. Not when your heart is already filled with someone else.
I need a night off from this. I get the uncomfortable sensation that I'm slicing off little bits of my soul and setting them out for inspection. I will never meet 98% of the people who will read these words. It's the other 2% that worry me. Honestly, I hope they don't come to me wanting to talk about my entries. Mostly, I wouldn't know what to say. I barely know what to write half the time and the other half has me scrambling to cut it down to one hundred words. How much is too much for public consumption?
Two days ago, I made the decision for you that there could never be an us. Two hours ago, you tossed my decision into the setting sun, just skipped it like a stone on water. I'm watching, waiting to see when it sinks. I have room enough in my life for friends. Not so much for lovers. We could take the double doors and the easy way out. My mouth could say platonic even if the rest of my body is in disagreement. Two minutes ago that was still what I wanted. Two seconds ago, my heart changed my mind.
For the past three years I have had trouble sleeping. Four continuous hours are a blessing, borderline miracle. The usual is two hours asleep and one awake. Sometimes I can't even get my eyes to close for longer than thirty minutes at a time. It has been suggested that perhaps hypnotism could help me. It is extremely ironic that a possible remedy lies within a variation of the thing escaping me. Besides, I find that anything can be adapted to, especially if you have no other choice. I have learned, also, that adaptation and acceptance should not ever be confused.
A memory is many things. It might be something your heart refuses to forget because it loves it so. It might be your mind unwilling and unable to let go. It might be bittersweet and beautiful, a dimly lit vision of a brush with destiny. Years may cloud it and others may join it. It might get lost somewhere within and never resurface. But it will always be there, the one thing you can keep and none can touch. This memory is of you and your face so near to mine. I will keep it with me, tucked tight inside.
We love to believe we are the masters of our destinies, carving and cleaving our paths from nothing. Well, a wall of water rose out of the ocean and destroyed half a continent yesterday. Two plates shifted beneath the Earth off the coast of India and, without warning, emptied the sea over sand and streets and five different countries. The world shrugged its shoulders and suddenly the paths of over 70,000 people disappeared under one wave of water. They were wiped out as easily as lines in sand. In the end, we're all nothing more than lines in the sand.
Resolutions: I will speak softly but more often. I will give up one thing I love that doesn't love me in return. I won't hit the snooze button more than twice… or less than once. I will stand on a beach and wiggle my toes in warm sand. I will do one completely selfless act a day and one completely selfish act once a week. I will try to drive slower. I will touch people and be touched by them without flinching. That last one covers both the physical and the emotional forms. That last one will be the hardest.
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