I wonder how you will describe me to her? I wonder if she will pay attention the way I did? See, I know how telling it can be, the way you describe someone like me. Because I am on that list now. Before I was her; sitting across from you, smiling mildly, listening attentively. Trying to keep the names straight and asking pertinent questions.
Will she note the way you clench your jaw when you talk about the girl who cheated on you? Will she catch you pulling your hand through your hair when you talk about the girl you didn’t love? Will she watch you bounce your knee as you list the other girls, rapid fire? The way you said their names, it’s like you knew they were shrapnel. They were the leftover pieces of relationships that flew into a new one and punctured holes. They demanded answers and history. They left holes and burns that you would rather patch up and cover than explain, and I understood that. They were your wounds.
The fact that you were uncomfortable telling me, but felt I should know anyway, was important to me. It conveyed an honesty that I respected. I watched your face as you told me their stories. You explained each scar, so that I would know you. It was familiar because sometimes when we lay in bed I would ask where you got this scar or that mark, and this process of telling me their names felt like that.
I knew who you respected and who you still cared for. Who hurt you and who you wish you never met. I could see it all, playing across your face and your hands and I paid attention. I wanted to see your scars. I wanted to see where the shrapnel would land so that I could dress it and heal it.
This girl now, the one sitting across from you, listening. Will she see? Will she pay attention? Will she notice when my name crosses your lips and falls, white hot and burning, metal tearing through your sinew? I am shrapnel now. And I hope that she pays attention to the way that you talk about me. Because before, I was in her place, and I paid attention to the way that you spoke about them.
For your sake, I hope that I am the last piece of shrapnel that pierces you. I cannot bear to see any more scars on the heart that I loved.
The other night I was awake later than I should have been. Naturally, I kept myself awake thinking things that would have been best to push out of mind. Things like “Does my cat know her name?” and “When will I be able to buy groceries like an adult, dammit, I’m so tired of eating the same microwave shit, get your life together.” But then I lay there longer. And my mind slowed down. Staring at the back of the couch, I let myself wander down the paths of my mind that I usually block off.
These paths need warning signs.
"Danger Ahead." "Do Not Enter." "No Thru Street."
At the ends of those trails of thought, I found the ones who have hurt me.
The one who ignores me.
The one who let me go.
The one who didn’t want me.
They live in the corners of my mind, tempting me to visit them, and remember. They hold out the remnants of our relationships, like shiny beacons in the night, drawing me in. Then they hold my hand as we walk together through my memories. They start at the beginning and they make stops to point out particular moments. They remind me what it felt like to be around them. Happy. Loved. Alive. Yet we always end up in the same place. And when we reach the end, the place where the pain begins, I turn to ask ”Why?” and they are gone.
They leave me with no answers, like they left me in reality. I twist and I turn through the different paths I have carved for myself, hoping one of these will bring me to an answer. Eventually, I stumble. I close my eyes against the maze of unanswerable questions and try to tell myself that I do not need to know. That I cannot know. I try to make my peace with that unanswerable ache.
I opened my eyes and I stared at the back of the couch. Some paths need warning signs.
It is quiet and dark in my bedroom.
You and I face each other, forming parentheses from our question mark bodies. The space between us open. I feel like when you breath out I can breath you in. When I exhale you inhale, and together we keep each other breathing. The things we do not say fill the space in our parentheses. Our bodies are the question marks at the end of sentences we do not utter.
"Are you the one?"
"Will you love me?"
"Can I trust you?"
Our curved lines straighten out. Knees lining up, elbows tucked in. Slowly feet entwine and arms reach around. Two parallel lines, coming together and crossing. Like vines we hold each other tightly until we cannot see our edges. We flatten and twist our parentheses until it is closed and those questions are gone.
We may not hear the answers, but then, our question mark bodies stopped asking.
I wrote you love letters. I spelled them out with desire. I left them across your hands, your chest, your lips. I scattered them like secrets; tattooed them with my promise.
But somehow, my letters faded. The ink I used rose up and swallowed me. I stood at the bottom of a whirlpool, my love letters surrounding me. I drowned in my own interpretation of our romance.
I stood naked and alone as our possibility crumbled around me, dripping in the ink of my love letters. I wiped my kisses off my arms and legs. I wrung my tears out of my hair. I cleared my eyes of my enchantment, blinking out the ink I had written it with.
And once I was removed of you, I found I was stronger. I was deeper. And I held all of that ink, ready to write for someone new.
But even now, as I cry myself to sleep yet another time, do I regret you? No. Because I see. I see how lovely we were and could have been. And how can anyone resent something which brought so much happiness?
We will grow, and learn. All from almost having one another.
I think I might have said it, had you said it first. And for that, I will be grateful. For that, I will value what we shared. The next time I open my heart to someone I will look for you. I will seek what I almost shared with you.
And because of that I will Love. And it will be real, and whole. And I cannot blame you; but thank you. For how do you resent the one who taught you what is to be beautiful?
You do not. You merely accept. You move on. You say “Goodnight”.
I have to relearn now. Before, I didn’t even know what I was missing. Now I do and I have to relearn how to be OK without it.
How did I fall asleep without you?
How did I drive without your hand on my knee?
How did I feel beautiful without your lingering gaze, and reverent kiss?
Before, I thought I knew how Broken felt. I knew the sting of Betrayal, but not how Broken feels. Broken feels heavy. Betrayal was sharp and angry. Broken has acceptance. Broken recognizes that this was inevitable. Broken is heartbreakingly, achingly, sad. Sad. Heavy, and cold, and sad.
I didn’t know before. Now I do. And I have to learn to be OK with it.
I’m keeping your sweater. I’ve worn it and stretched it and it feels like mine now.
It hits me just below my hips. Hips that you held and caressed.
The sleeves cover my hands. Hands you picked up to hold, to kiss.
The collar slides off one shoulder, exposing my neck which you cupped when I tilted my face to yours.
Your sweater feels like you. It feels like me.
It feels like us.
I just saw our picture. But tonight it didn’t hurt to look at it. Tonight I saw how handsome you were and how close we stood. Sentimental. This is becoming normal. Where before there were sharp, jagged edges, time has worn your memory down smooth. The parts which barbed and snagged at my heart slip quietly through my memory…
As long as I can remember, my grandma has carried a worry stone. It is a rock, rounded and shiny from being held and rubbed in a pocket. You use it to soothe yourself when you are anxious or worried. She let me take it on my first flight. I held tight to it, believing in her guardian angels and trusting God to see me safely through.
Your memory is smooth like that worry stone. Noticeable. Heavy sometimes. But not sharp. Sometimes I even forget. I am getting over you. I will carry you with me; tucked into a pocket of memory. But you will not weigh me down. You were my first flight.
But I am no longer afraid to fall.