At night, when I curl myself around nothing, I imagine that empty space to be you.
I hold your shape, gently, because it is only a shape.
And no matter how many memories I pour into it, or tears, or promises,
I always crush it in my sleep.
Not much has changed, since you’ve been gone.
“The pinched cigarette filters of our youth, before we learned the value of a gentle touch, when we still hit every ball on the pool table like we were trying to get it airborne, it was that impetuous fire I was trying to rekindle to light my way back through the labyrinth of my adulthood, up through those winding passages to the cerulean sky of creativity.”
Only the most absurd series of circumstances led to my being home just now. A complete carnival of missed opportunities and bad Vietnamese food, regret and public transit. As I sat here listening to the alarm I thought I’d slept through this morning, realizing I’d simply mixed meridiems, I imagined maybe there was a point, or at least there existed the possibility that what at first seemed a conflagaration was in fact a signal fire, if only I could determine its purpose.
Determining purpose is definitely not my strong suit.
My own has eluded me for years.
The person speaking against their own self-interest is almost always the person speaking the truth.
The nicest guy I know is a pretty terrible boyfriend and judgmental as all hell. Sweet as cream, but he’s real straight-laced and can’t quite comprehend different points of view. The biggest disrespectful shithead I know has had a string of exes that have been following him for years claiming they’ve never been happier than they were when they were with him. Most everyone falls somewhere in the middle. The nicest guy on earth will probably still yell at you at some point, and usually for a decent reason. The biggest pricks have the most capacity for improvement or romance.
You have all these constructs you’re trying to force people to fit into. All it shows is that you think of yourself as somehow fully-formed, and above reproach. If you’re laboring under that delusion then you’re only going to find disappointment when confronted with simple, unflattering humanity.
We aren’t archetypes. We’re just people.
Sadly, so are you.
You’re never going to find a man that fits your ideal. You’ll just eventually realize it’s all in the way you’re looking at it. Perception and fantasy. Compromise and error. Forgiveness and tolerance.
You’re an interesting study in backsliding.
What’s the push? The driving force? Scraping that flint with your nimble fingers, stirring up sparks with those deep green eyes. You’re always practicing. Always learning new tricks. Uncomfortable on telephones. At home along the lakeshore. Always quick with the olive branch but slow to adapt. You curry favor, curry favors. A perennial stockpile. Vintage heels. One leaf to another whispering as it descends; come on, come on, come on. What’s the worst that could happen? There’s always more road ahead than behind. So many learning experiences, so little time.
Historical inaccuracy. Personal politics.
I have seen you in your Summer skin. I have held you up, not back.
Where are your slippers, girl? You have to tread lightly now.
“What we lose in the fire we gain in the flood,” she said, and her cheeks glistened in the candlelight.
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“No,” she said, sniffing hard, “I don’t suppose you do.”
I was young. I thought she was beautiful, or at least desirable. I wanted to kiss her, not understand her. Only one option even seemed possible, and that was the one I pursued. And she let me, of course. There is something about insouciance, about confidence borne of ignorance, that will always make better judgement bend knee. Her lips tasted like berries. Her breasts were small, and perfect. I appreciated these things, but not her honesty. I found her sadness ugly. I had other concerns. I had other excuses.
Watching the paper swell and warp where my tears landed, her words finally carried their weight. I erased much of what I had intended to say to you with salt water.
We trade experience for understanding.
Of course, what we lose in the flood we can also gain in the fire, if someone has the presence of mind to tend it. The turning of a wheel will result in motion, but it is only by further turning that anyone gains momentum, for better or worse.
I held a diamond once the size of a robin’s egg. Did I ever tell you that?
I just want to see you.
I want you to see me.
If only to say, “I don’t know you anymore.”