I never thought anyone like you would ever rule my world. But yet for eight years of my life and yours, you did. You dropped into my world and landed into my heart. Whether I was ready or not, there you were. And still are, even though you are gone forever.
When you blasted into my life, I wasn’t ready to fall in love again. I had just been abandoned for the final time of many times by the last one who stole my heart. He left no address, no way for me to find him ever again.
After inheriting that brutal legacy, I swore that I’d never let the cruel joke of love to seduce me with its flattery and finery ever again. I was quite content to reduce my world to a refuge that included my home, my yard, the boutique I own where only women and gay men enter into, and the house of Sally, my bestie of all times. Doing that, I could spend my life hiding in the dark where love would never find me, which suited me just perfectly fine.
That’s not what happens, of course. At least not in the long run. My girlfriends get into the act, especially Sally. She nags me to get over it. She says, he was a jackass. All the other girls agree over beer or coffee, depending if they find me at home or work. You can do better than him, they say. We always knew that he wasn’t worth it, jerk that he is.
Sally and the rest of the gang threaten to drag me back to my old haunts, to fill me up my empty spaces. I hold off, knowing if that happens, every trace of what I lost in love will be gone for good.
Finally I give in to her and the rest of them, so tired I am of their nagging and pleading. I go back to the places I had been to before, trying to learn to walk with the one leg I have left now that the other one has been severed from me.
I tell my friends, I never want to feel this pain again. They just tell me to shut up, and then they buy me a drink. Numb out, chill out, they say.
So I do, grateful that I can and that they let me. I happily tell off anyone who tries a move on me. My friends oblige me by telling horny drunks to buzz off. I feel relief, knowing I never have to love anyone else ever again.
This vacation doesn’t last very long. Because there you show up one day at the bar all too soon, having never been there before. You were just minding your own business, or at least you let me think that was what you were doing. Someone said, here, let me buy a drink and you just happily obliged.
That was the way you seemed to be. People seemed to go out of their way for you, without your demanding it or insisting on it. Somehow, just with your casual stance and your easy smile, you commanded it. It was like there was something about you that made everyone want to fall at your feet.
What was it about you? I couldn’t help but be curious, glad to have something as a diversion other than my own sorrow which I drowned in my own way. Looking at you, then, became a way to survive my own pain.
I was never going to have you anyway, I decided, seeing you were not my type. I always liked the playful kind, not the whole strong silent thing. I liked my men dark like fine chocolate, and there you were flaming red with the passion of the saints I always made fun of when I was in school. And what do they say about redheads and their tempers?
But maybe because you were so different and I so confident in my assumption I’d never have you, you slipped into a different gate of my heart that I never even knew of.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed you, you being new in town. You wore the banner of the stranger arriving on the scene very well. It’s like you basked in the aura of mystery that surrounded you.
You played it up to the max, big time. Sometimes you would show up, and other times be gone for days, then come back without any explanation as to where you had been.
That was part of your appeal. People were drawn to you. It didn’t matter what you did or didn’t do, they all loved you. But if you cared about their opinion, you never showed it.
People who want attention tend to be so obvious. That wasn’t you, not you at all. You came, you went. You did as you pleased, and disappeared whenever you wanted.
The women in town make up stories about you. Tracy, you remember Tracy, don’t you? The one with the freckles and Pat Benatar hair? She says you’re a secret agent in Europe, and that’s why you disappear without a trace.
That makes for a good laugh, imagining you prowling a café in Rome, Italy. Everyone knows you look more at home playing pool in a bar in Rome, New York with your faded jeans and worn out boots, like some Southern guitar rock hero than some metrosexual slumming for the day.
There’s another rumor that says you have wives in three different states that you have to play house with. It’s Elaine who starts that one up, the social networking queen who’s the first one of us on Facebook. She stalks all the guys that look like you on there and Myspace, confirming her suspicions as she always does with these kinds of searches and seizures.
See, she says, he’s right here. In Connecticut, with four kids. And here, in Tucson. Engaged to this lovely girl who is so excited to marry him. That girl, she has no idea what trouble she’s getting into, we all commiserate and agree.
All of us girls get into the conspiracy theory to some extent, including me. We pretend we feel sorry for these women, acting as if your charming predator ways have deluded them and not us. It’s hard when you want a ghost. Nothing to hold onto but illusions.
I almost forget in those moments that even thinking about you is a setup. To say I’m repeating patterns is an understatement, to fall for someone like you. You come and go as you please, part of your appeal. But what does that do to me, when going means leaving me?
There’s another rumor that starts up about you, about a month after you show up. This one says that you are married but that your wife is dying. That’s why you came to the bar, to start a new life for yourself once she is gone.
This one seems too tragic to be true. It’s too perfect and too romantic, part of the mystery that people want to dress you up in. I tell Sally and Elaine that. They just say my breakup has made me too cynical to believe in anything. Yeah, all right, I reply. I hold my ground, playing an imaginary violin and get drunk.
So imagine my surprise to me when Rebecca, the official news source of for all things local, comes up to me in the diner downtown and tells me the news about a week later. I’m in the midst of glazing over invoices of ceramic dogs and cats, glad to worry about little trivialities like business taxes to take my mind off my raw and broken heart, when Rebecca sticks her head in between my work and me.
Guess what, she says.
Being a woman who knows how to play the courtesy game after years of training by annoying customers, I oblige her with the rejoinder, what.
You know that guy that has been showing up here at the bar? The one that everyone’s been talking about?
For a second I pretend that I don’t remember you. I don’t mind the lie, because for one, it’s only Rebecca anyway. She’s only getting what she puts out, as far as I’m concerned.
But still, I feel a stab of guilt anyway, like I’m betraying you. Even though I’ve barely spoken to you, I’ve imagined having a conversation so much with you is that I believe that I know you already. The total opposite of not remembering you.
After that temporary charade I say, oh, yes, him. The red haired guy. What about him?
Did you hear?, she practically shouts even though she’s whispering. His wife died.
Rebecca’s eyes gleam with predatory glee, and all of the sudden I think I might hate her. She’s supposed to be pretty, everyone says. But I decide right then and there her eyes are too close and she has too many freckles. I want to throw the rest of my coffee in her face. It sucks today anyway, like I’m drinking lead paint laced with wood.
Then I catch myself and think, what the hell is going on with me? For all I know she’s making this crap up just because her phone signal cut out at home and she can’t log onto Facebook, so she came here instead. You know, something to do before happy hour. And I’m gullible enough to swallow the bait?
But I can’t help myself. It’s like the blood in my head disappears as I hear her words, rushing to lend aid to the thumping heart in my chest. After its escape, I’m left with nothing but a buzzing in my head that I have an impossible time explaining. It’s hard to determine anything on an empty brain.
The buzz is now a throb, and all the noise of the diner and the people talking seem too loud for a second before disintegrating into white noise. I finally find the words to say, his wife died?
Yeah, she says. So then I hear the whole story of how your wife’s family was from here, that she’d always wanted to be buried here in the hills rather than a city graveyard, that you’d spent a lot of your time in the next city over which is why none of us had ever heard of you, but in a way, you were always here.
Rebecca, being the drama/gossip queen she is, splices the whole narrative of you with oohs, ahhs, romantic gushing and blushing. Even though your wife has just dropped dead, she’s got balls enough to say, oh, I’m so jealous of her to have a husband like that. I wish I had her luck.
Right then I go from maybe hating Rebecca to really hating her, even though I’ve known her for two decades and up until that moment found her merely annoying. I hate her so much that I miss out on the whole irony of her being envious of a woman who died of cancer in her thirties. I hate her because I decide she wants you and will have you because you are in a weakened state. I never knew how much I hated her until then.
I decide I don’t believe her, simply because it’s Rebecca and because I’ve decided she’s onto me and wants what I have just so I don’t get it. I have to hear it from Jack at the bar, who’s been married for thirty years so observes the single ladies swooning over you with amusement rather than biting competitiveness. You girls are always worried about us hitting on you, he comments, and are that blind to how much a vulture you are yourselves? Like a bunch of hens pecking at each other to get at the last rooster on earth.
Russ of course has to pick up on the pun. Yeah, he slurs. Literally, like it’s the last cock. Bunch of f&*@ing groupies, that’s all you are.
Jack says to him to mind his language around ladies. Russ proceeds to do very much the opposite, and gets cut off by Liam in response. Russ says as he’s leaving, for years I’ve been hanging around here, and nobody notices me. This jackass shows up here for five minutes and everyone wants him.
Edith calls out, yeah exactly. We have options around here. Finally.
Russ says curses as he walks out. No one notices him. But everyone, apparently, has noticed you.
So you came here, not so much to come to make a new life to forget about the old one, as had been reported in the rumor that had come before. Small as this town is, it was the place that you came for a miracle that never arrived.
You, the man who would rather spend hours and days in the outdoors, came here instead to the four walls of a hospital room. Only to watch your wife die slowly, inches by increments, days, stretching into weeks into months. Until you took matters in your hands by bringing her home, and she was no longer here.
You know those doctors, they did nothing, Elaine and Judy say in the bar in your defense. They forced his hand. He did what he could. Even in your absence in mourning, people still rally to your side to defend you.
I heard him say he’ll never go to a doctor again after all this, Mark says.
Who can blame him? Says someone else, all nodding in agreement in a place that serves nurses and doctors every day.
Everyone holds a vigil in your honor over their beer when they hear the news. You have gotten to everyone, but most of all, you have gotten to me. I wonder where you are in your grief, and if you ever will return. But most of all, I wonder if you will return one day, to me.
It’s a while later, when I see you again. You are sipping a drink, alone again in person, silent in your words, and yet everyone watches you. How you manage to draw everyone’s energy to you yet keep the nosiness at bay, I don’t really know.
You cough silently, and it sounds like a hushed noise in the midst of a funeral. I have no way of knowing then how much of a prophecy a thought could be. In that moment, all I think of is you.
So, of course my friend Sally decides to go all out matchmaker with me. Her eyes gleam and she flashes a smile. I know it means she’s got some kind of plan for the two of us, and we’re just going to have to deal with it even if it’s the apocalypse.
Such is the role of the sidekick, I usually go along. This time, I can’t say I’m all that reluctant, if the blood rushing through me making me feel I had ten energy drinks fortified with a gallon of coffee is any indication.
Because I know Sally. She’s the kind of person who says, When you have a car accident, the best way to overcome the trauma is to get in the car and drive again.
Well, I’m game to get into the car after the accident and drive it. But Sally seems intent on signing me up to enter a NASCAR race. At least when it comes to you, if what she does next is any indication.
He’s here, you know.
She doesn’t take the hint of my glare to cut the crap.
I know you have a thing for him.
Christ, are you kidding? He’s not even my type.
She swallows a laugh because she’s got her drink in her mouth. Yeah, not your type. Look how great your type has worked for you so far.
Crap, who wants to hear that from her best friend? I’m not ready to get involved with anyone yet, I say. It’s only been three weeks, I insist. I don’t know why all of the sudden I feel like I ingested so much caffeine I am going to have a heart attack.
Sally shakes her head. Oh, give me a break. I think it’s stupid when people say that. Besides, when do you ever really get over anyone for good? That’s why people get all pissed off over lovers from ten and twenty years ago and remember their first love sixty years later.
The seat I am sitting on very uncomfortable all of the sudden. I see the exit door and find it quite appealing, as I feel squeezed in by my friend’s words on all sides. I don’t like where this conversation, or my gaze, is traveling.
Sally touches my shoulder. Besides, she says, if you are going to pretend that you get over someone completely, guess what?
I know what is coming next. Together we say, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Hah hah, I laugh after the pathetic chorus.
And besides, he’s wounded, she continues with a pouty face. He lost his wife. Look at how pathetic he is. He needs someone.
I look at you, and notice, yes you do look pretty shabby, like an abandoned stray cat stuck in a barn with nothing to eat but bird droppings and rat poison. You look like you were locked underground for three weeks without any food, water, or the benefit of a shower.
I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed this earlier. You look like you have lost nearly twenty pounds in the short time you’ve been here. In my effort to pretend I didn’t want to be bothered with you, I forgot to even see where your distress has taken you. Blood rushes to my head, and I feel like an idiot for being so blind.
Sally stares at my face and her grin is wider, if that’s even possible. Come on, Sally tugs at me. Let’s go talk to him.
It’s my luck, of course, that as soon as we start to head for you, it seems you choose to duck away from us. Maybe in my state of nerves, I read into your behavior. I ask you later about your behavior, but you claim you don’t remember. Hey, how can you hang me on the cross when I was so messed up?, is your neat reply to my question.
That’s your answer to this, which is hard to refute. But it’s also hard for me to not imagine that you are ignoring me now, like you are darting away from me and running away.
What does happen is that as soon as we get up, you turn your head. You tricked us, acting like you had no knowledge of Sally or me. It had seemed in your emaciated state that you were unaware of anything.
But like a cat, you seemed to sense danger even when you seemed distracted. You turned your head, and as we walked, you felt the need to get up and leave.
Sally laughed when you left the room. Well, she said, isn’t that just like a man. You can’t say he didn’t know we were around, though, she says. And I say, no, you can’t say that. She says, hey, let’s go figure out what the heck he is doing. He’s playing hard to get, isn’t that cute? So let’s play with him.
I want to give up on the whole thing. I am not in the mood for games. I am tired of begging and pleading for some man’s attention, and really don’t want to set it up once again where I am trying to get some man to change to fit my needs. I mean, we haven’t even introduced ourselves to each other. For all I know, you don’t even know my name. And we’re already playing cat and mouse? At least my last lover was living in my home before I was running around chasing him.
Of course, Sally is having none of this. She probably thinks the chase is good for me, and besides, it’s a cheap way to get a thrill out of things without having to risk anything. That is supposing that you are not a mass-murderer who will explode on us, I say. Oh, please, she replies. He’s probably just being shy.
So here I am, chasing around the building like it’s back in high school and college, darting around looking for some guy I have a crush on. You seem to disappear around hallways, doorways, and everywhere else. It seems ridiculous. We keep finding you just as you disappear ahead of us, like some strange comedy of errors. We walk in a hallway, just as you leave.
Sally finds this hilarious. I’m just wondering if you’re going to file a restraining order against the crazy chicks.
It’s outside where we literally bump into each other. I guess in the movies it’s supposed to be some romantic thing, where the lovers crash into each other. They’re supposed to exclaim all kinds of apologies. And as they do, they gaze into each other eyes. They are struck blind with the realization their fates have literally collided with their one true soulmate.
Except that we aren’t that couple, and we never will be. And perhaps, having a friend along the for the ride doesn’t help the romantic image any, either.
So when our romantic triage of a trio crashes, there are no proclamations of love. Instead, the first thing you do is exclaim a curse. I guess I’m supposed to be apologetic, and then you will melt in my arms. That doesn’t happen either. Sally apologizes for the both of us, and I instead decide to go back inside without saying one thing.
I can’t even bear to see your reaction. What I just did was even stupider than when I was fourteen and kissed Brad under the bleachers and got my tongue stuck in his braces. After that literal collision, my cozy shell of hiding seems even more inviting to me.
This was a joke, I tell Sally. We should forget about all of this. I bury my head into a beer, the highest ABV I can manage.
Okay, she shrugs. If that’s what you want to do, go ahead and forget it. It doesn’t look like that’s what someone else is doing, but hey whatever.
She shrugs and uses her eye to point at the door in the back of the bar. I reluctantly follow her direction.
That’s when I notice you looking at me, perhaps for the very first time. I don’t know what it is your look is suppose to be conveying, and you tell me later that this is when you fell for me. I can tell you that at that moment, I was too tired to care what you wanted, and weary of the games before was too tired to care what kind of flirtation I had walked into with my indifference.
But maybe that was it. Our reluctance to be seduced may have been our attraction to one another, the kindling that started the depth of ashes of lost love to begin all over again. It’s strange where bonds can be wound together, and this is where it begins for us. Subtly, this one starts.
Maybe if it happened any other way, we would have walked away from one another. Instead, in our wounds, we are drawn together in our numbness towards a low fire of embers to warm ourselves once again. Running away from love, we crash into each other and comfort ourselves in the aftermath.
Love doesn’t always happen at first sight. That’s what I’ve learned by meeting you.
Neither one of us wanted to be with the other. To say we were even friends wouldn’t make sense. At first you barely noticed me, involved in your own personal tragedy, and I was drowning in the melodrama of my own sorrows.
That’s what happened one minute, and yet within two weeks of our fateful crash, you were in my home and never left. To say we dated at all would be an exaggeration. One moment of passion that never truly ended, what should have been a one night stand in other cases extended into forever. It didn’t even feel wrong, to me or to you.
I still can’t explain it to this day even though it breaks all the rules that exist, relationship-wise. I don’t think they meant that getting over someone by getting under someone else included becoming live-in lovers within days. That’s not supposed to happen. It’s a rebound. You know what happens with rebounds. They get to pay for the mistakes of someone before. You never get over the ghosts of the past when you paint it over the present. Strange how life has other plans, for both of us. And at first, even I’m not convinced that what I’ve done by letting you move in so soon is the right thing either, replacement that you are of another.
That’s what my mind tries to convince me of, my gut and heart be damned. That I should be logical and see you as nothing more than as a replacement for what I lost before. A strange substitute that is just different enough for me to divert myself from my own pain. I tell myself hat you’re too itinerant, too much of a vagabond who proudly admits he’ll take any work just to pay the bills, a boy who somehow found a niche where he can skirt through the cracks rather than be crushed by them. I’m a businesswoman. A homeowner. What are you but temporary, but then you say to me later, what isn’t in this world?
You tell me later on, how in the last days of your wife’s life, you felt that you were being hunted. Sick as she was, you felt cornered by the restricted life of the hospital where she lay dripping away from you, which is why you snatched her away and brought her where at least life and death can meet as friends.
The life the two of you had before was one that any traveler would dream of, always on the move and never having ties to anywhere. You tell me of how you would live for months and days in the open, catching your food like a wild man and woman in the days of prehistory.
It’s the kind of life that many dream of doing, running away from it all. And yet you did it with her. That was how your life was with her, until she lay dying in a place where civilization and society trapped her, and you until you both fought back. Constantly, dealing with doctors, paperwork, and insurance brokers while your soulmate lay silent before you. Exactly the life you disdained, and now you were forced into it by crisis.
You overheard some of the nurses blaming you and your wild ways for your wife’s predicament, saying if you had been a real husband, she would have had a real home and by extention, she would not have been in mangled state that she was in.
They say that, and you wonder if they are directing their disdain at you, because you are the bad boy that they always wanted but could never get the loyalty of, and here you are, at their mercies. You never know with people and their gossip, which is why you have done so much to avoid the society which puts its stamp of approval of their behavior and life over theirs.
You assess their gossip as jealousy, as they punch out their clocks to mark another day gone, but it does nothing to ease the grip they have on you until one day, your wife is finally gone from you.
The experts say, that everyone mourns and needs some time for closure. You tell me that you and she always felt it was best to live life to the fullest each day. It really didn’t make much sense to sit around and mope about the past when there was nothing to be done about it.
When you tell me how this is how you were, one day when we are sitting and talking, making this pact to enjoy life to the fullest and let go of the past, it confuses me. Because to me, in the most logical course of events, seeing you stay here in the town where your wife died seems the opposite of forgetting the past.
You tell me by staying here, that you remain because you wish to stay in the last place where you knew her, because it makes you remember her more. If you really wanted to move on with your life, away from her, why are you here in the town of her deathbed now that she is gone? Why not move on like you always have?
You turn and say to me, I liked the town and it suited me. You never tell me what that means, and I never know if it has something to do with me.
Dealing with the walking wounded is never a fun thing. That is what you are when you come to me.
I wonder about the wisdom of letting you into my life. At first, the idea of being with you, once I decide that is what I will let happen, fills me with a kind of joy. It’s something that celebrates life, I decide, instead of allowing myself to dig a kind of grave within my own soul and pretend it’s some kind of maturity of growth.
Sometimes, you have a faraway look in your eyes that takes your gaze far from me. But when you look at me, it seems somewhere without having to speak at all, you see right into me. I know that our connection together is sealed. This is when I know that we are right, and that you were meant to be in my life.
But your crisis of loss has affected you. In those early days, I have no way of knowing the voice of your soul and how to read you. So quiet you are, I learn to read your emotions. But in those early days my lack of your language leads me to guess and write my own script of you onto our relationship.
I decide when I see you in your silence, that you suffer deeply with the loss of your love. I begin to wonder about cosmic coincidence, and think that together we have been put together to heal each other in our pain.
I don’t tell you this, because every time I tell you about cosmic coincidence, I am met with a blank stare. Life is just what happens, you tell me. I assume you have stuffed meaning behind pain in an effort to hold to your mindset. I think I know better, and think that there is no coincidences and no accidents.
As far as you are concerned, everything about life is a coincidence, and so nothing about anything is particularly unusual. Everything is a celebration that can be just enjoyed by looking at it. You see nothing unusual about our encounter, because to you, everything is unusual, and thus, nothing is so special that has to be elevated.
But despite your insistence, I decide that your crisis has taken a toll on you. I’m not the only one who thinks it. The first night you spend at my house is not even because of a night of passion. You get sick. You throw up, and everything explodes from you like some kind of bomb imploding within. You are on my couch, life flowing from you like lava from a volcano. You cough, you hack away.
You can’t blame me, even though you do, for thinking that it had something to do with me, at least initially. I joke with you, asking you if you are allergic to me. I am not kidding fully, and you seem to sense that. It has nothing to do with you, you say. I get like this from time to time, you say. You know, the hazards of road travel and hard living. And the hospital, you finish. Hospitals are where the healthy go and die.
It goes on that way for some time. We haven’t even been together as lovers and yet I have already skipped into the stage where I take care of you, nursing on my couch. I question all your insistence on being the lone warrior, as you accept my care without any resistance and letting me nurse you back to health. If you were such a cowboy, what are you doing here with me, letting me take care of you?
Some of the friends that we so insistent on my reaching out to you now have switched loyalties. They say to let you go, that you are using me for your own benefit, a product of the rebound that I have always avoided.
Lisa was one of those naysayers, as was Elaine. Even Sally, always the bestie that will be there in any season hail or blizzard, stays strangely silent when I tell her of the happenings in my home. She gets quiet when she is around you, says nothing at all, totally out of character for someone like her. She only speaks to me.
Always wary of being taken advantage of in this world, I think for a moment that I should heed their advice and get rid of you, go back to the solitary life of control that I think I should employ in my own time of loss, and forget about you.
But the doubt only lasts a moment. It is like I have developed a new skin that deflects many of the words that used to mean something to me. All these words of advice, they seem to mean nothing in this new world that has you in mine.
It seems with you in my life, my definition of what right and wrong, of what love is or isn’t, has been totally redefined. You lay on my couch, and we hardly speak. For whatever reason, it seems like nothing is out of the ordinary, and nothing is wrong with what it is that we are doing.
Eventually you manage to get better. One day you are lying on the couch all day, the next you are not.
On that day when you are finally well, you leave your couch and go outside. At first I don’t see you, just the empty couch. You’re not in the bathroom, not in the kitchen. You’re in a place that I can’t find you, and my own home feels disorientating and foreign.
I never tell you that at that very instant when I see the deserted furniture, I’m furious and panicked that you have abandoned me now that you don’t need me. In that moment, it doesn’t even occur to me to be grateful that you are well. I only know that you’ve left me, and I’m alone.
You are gone, no note or anything to tell me where you went. In panic mode, I wonder if it’s history repeating itself. But luckily I have no time to worry about it. My store opens in two hours, and someone has to be there to make sure the orphaned knickknacks of the world find a home.
No wonder the feminists of the old guard insisted that women get a career. The better to keep our minds off of men like you, not to mention keeping the lights on.
I manage to divert myself with this intention until I close shop at four, and drive home. Then all my thoughts are of you and how you have left. I can’t believe how dumb I was to ever believe I could love again. And then I realize I was dumb enough to fall in love with someone I barely know. Stupid, stupid stupid me.
So intent is my sense of abandonment that when I open the door and see you on my couch I don’t recognize you. That’s how much I’ve blanked you out and kicked you to the curb.
I scream and throw my keys at you. They pin you right on your face, full throttle. In response to this welcome wagon you say, well I was going to tell you I got a job at the lumber place, but I don’t have any more teeth. How was your day?
After tons of ice and many apologies, you finally shut me up with your wounded mouth. That’s not where it ends, but the agonies that I tortured myself are gone. Not, of course, the damage that I have inflicted upon you.
You say, don’t worry about me. I’ll always be here. Selfishly I grab at that, steal it into myself. Safe in your arms throughout the night, I forget that pain even exists in the world we have created.
You don’t want to admit it, but it takes awhile for you to get used to me. It takes awhile for you to adjust to the way I live. You give me those direct looks which you think instruct me in how well you have adapted to me.
But I catch you when you aren’t looking. You pause a lot between moves, as though you are gauging yourself. It must be strange to be in a place where you don’t know for sure who you are, and what you are supposed to be.
I talk with Sally about this. Now that you’ve gotten off the couch and stopped puking all over the place and gotten a job, she’s mellowed and is back to only seeing the best in you. It’s because you’ve been such a wild man, she says. He just doesn’t know what it’s like to stay in one place. I think about that, and the more about it, the more real it seems to me.
So I watch your hesitation, and stand with you as you learn this new life. I forget the adjustment you make to me, thinking that my way of life is so normal that everyone and everything just knows that this is the way to be, and just operates around that reality.
It will take a long time before you give me any real clue to the life that you have before me, and I feel I will never know for sure who you were before I knew you. But this is the beginning of your telling me where we have been so different, in a way that I would have never suspected from anyone else.
You choose to stay with me, and learn my life so you can better live with me. It is the beginning of you showing your commitment to me, and your intention to stay. Just that desire to stay put at all is indication of your loyalty. It is when I watch you move about my life that I truly begin to learn this about you.
I’m always amazed at how you are perceived by others. You don’t care what other people think of you.
It’s refreshing to see that in someone. It can get exhausting, the whole game that people play with each other even in the most casual of circumstances. Which makes me understand why as much as possible, you run away from conversation as much as you possibly can.
In the early days I take this reluctance as a kind of shyness. That deep inside, you need someone to hold your hand through the encounters of others. But you seem to sense that most social encounters are just a great deal of grandstanding, something that you just will have nothing to do with.
I think I have to introduce you to people to get you going. But you slink away most of the times before I even get the chance to do so. You tell me later that you would rather go where life is real. Better than wasting it on small talk and pretention that won’t matter in a hundred minutes.
I have people over, but unlike everyone who came before, you don’t try to butter up to everyone who shows there like some slick salesman. I think of the first time I had someone over besides my best friend. Which happened to not only be a guy, but a guy I’d dated twice about fifteen years ago but decided he made a better friend than anything else. He liked being loud and showy, liked being a black hole of attention and affection, just too much for me to deal with. But I’d convinced myself that his sense of humor was worth having around in a small town where enemies cost you more than taxes. Instead of showing up and impressing him and checking out the competition, you disappeared in your own room and ignored the situation.
It was like you could sense a false friend. I don’t think you were surprised when he wasn’t in my life anymore a couple of years later. You never said anything about it, because that wasn’t your thing to press an issue. But I can see you saying to yourself and shrugging your shoulders, he wasn’t worth your time anyway. Who needs to waste time on false friends just to look good?
I try to speak to you the way you speak to others, to speak to you without words. It’s so hard for me, because words and speech is the only way I can know you hear me.
I try to adapt to your way of speaking as you have tried to adapt to my settled life. You seem to fold into my life better without sacrificing your self. When I try to adapt to you, though, I feel like I am becoming foreign. I know your silences are how you speak, and I want to reach you in that place.
But then I start to talk to you again, and you will generally walk away once you have had the fill of empty chatter. I wonder if I am being abandoned again, and wonder if I will ever be able to reach you. The more I try, the more it slips from me, and I wonder if I can trust myself to learn to know you in a way that will show you how much I love you.
What I seem to like most about you, is how much you teach me about myself. Being in a relationship with you, you show me the parts of me that are blind to myself, and bring out these parts into the light.
One thing I’ve always prided myself in up until the day I have met you is what an outdoorswoman I am. I always enjoyed what a kick I got out of people who learned that I would rather be walking in the woods than browsing in the mall, any day. I loved looking at trees, flowers, streams. I could spend hours at the ocean not doing anything. Nature was never something to just blow by like an inconvenience.
I’ve always been the one who wants to have picnics, to go for walks in the park, to try to squeeze as much time in the fresh air as I possibly can. I always was the one who wanted to take my vacations in the national parks instead of museums.
I was the one who splashed in the waves rather than shelter myself under an umbrella reading books. The outdoors was my playground, I always told myself and others. And to most, they would say, yes you definitely the outdoorsy type. A tomboy who would rather get mud on her nails than the finest manicure. Yep, that’s you.
But you show me something about myself that I never knew. That as much as I prided myself as a woman who stops and looks at the roses, I don’t really see much at all. Nature to me is something to dance and play in, but many times I don’t really see it.
I’ll say, isn’t it a nice day to be outside, and then turn my attention to some mundane matter at hand, like whether I need to get the bills paid or what it is to make for dinner later on. Once again, I’m rambling to you, as you look away from me as I chatter and turn your focus on something more important, like where the birds are flying to today.
You watch me as I sit outside, reading books, looking through newspapers, and then amble past me with a scowl on your face. It’s a look that seems to tell me, lady, you are an amateur. You just see nature as an outside office, an extention of the rooms you hole yourself up in during winter. You want to see how it is you explore nature? I’ll show you how it’s really done.
You see nature the way a hunter does, after all, that is what you are. It is a business venture in the most primal sense, you the executive manager of making sure the environment you are in is culled to perfection.
It’s not the same kind of predator that invades and loots nature for its own sake. You see yourself as a kind of artist, pruning out nature so that everything remains in balance. For that reason, you need to take every aspect of nature into account, so that you don’t tip the scale in the wrong way.
It’s with you that I begin to learn the art of the hunter. I’ve seen them around my place, I’ve seen them in the diners and stores I frequent. Occasionally one or two even grace my store, buying keepsakes to impress a girl or quiet her anger down. I see them walking down the street in their camouflage with their rifles and even hear them as they fire their guns from their vehicles like some bad version of a rural drive-by shooting.
But you are the first one I have stopped to get to know, the first I have talked to tell me the craft that lies behind it. It is with you that I learn that there is beauty in the violence of predation, if you don’t take it as folly of sport and instead remember that as the predator, you are part of nature’s cycle, not above it.
The practices you have learned in your sport have made you keen to everything that is about you. I watch as you spot something from far away, a beaver, perhaps, or some nest of birds you want to case out. I am impressed, first, at how you can even notice something that small from so far away, and can train your vision to zero in on this object, while somehow in the back of your mind being aware of everything about you.
To me, nature is such a candy store of delights that I jump from vision to vision. You say, that is why you never really see anything. In order to really see something, you have to slow everything down, and let most things go so that you can focus in on what is really important.
And what is that? I ask you. How do you determine what is really important in nature? How can you choose one thing over another when nature has so much to offer?
You look at me. You don’t smile with your mouth, but your eyes seem to close in slight amusement. You say, you need to slow down. When you slow down, you can take everything in. You tell me that I think I see everything by blowing through the whole banquet, piling my plate with everything without taking time to notice what I’m loading myself up with.
It’s like eating everything, you say, without tasting anything. You say, it’s important to survey the whole picture before deciding anything. Then you can see the whole picture, and if you are still enough inside yourself, you can find what is important to you if you trust your instincts.
It’s remembering you are primal in a world that thinks itself civilized, you laugh. But remember how civilized it is. How many murders were in this state today? It’s because everything is so fast that humans forget where their place in the world, and then they can’t even see what is important. Slow down.
In some parts of the circles I travel in, they scoff at hunters as being a scourge to the environment. They look at preservation in a way that man should try to save everything he can.
When they look at someone like you, they see someone who is toying with nature, one that thinks that the environment is a playground that you can use and abuse at any time. Anyone who hunts is cruel to animals, they say. It isn’t part of life to have to hunt. That’s just men trying to recapture the day when their brute strength ruled the world. And women who think they have to be men to be equal.
But when you show me the way of the hunter, you show me a different perspective. The hunt doesn’t have to be a matter of cruelty, you show me. It depends on how you see nature, and whether you are an integral part of it or not. It depends if you see yourself with nature, or somehow above it.
You show me how the indifferent hunter and the one who wants to preserve everything may have more in common with each other, because they see themselves somehow separate from the cycle and instead forget how much is entrusted with the role of predator. After all, isn’t eating a carrot killing of a plant?, you ask. Aren’t siccing ladybugs onto your crops a kind of gun for hire?
Keeping things in balance, you say, is what is what is truly seeing nature as it is supposed to be. Remembering you are part of the balance is what is seeing what is important.
Slow down, you say. Remember who you are. Then maybe you will see what is important, and see everything there is to see in the natural world.
I know it probably isn’t fair to you, but I find myself, especially in the early days, comparing my last lover to you.
Both of you seem to want to be on your own, preferring the company of other men many times to me. I’m supposed to be okay with this. I say that I am until it seems the truth of what I feel cracks from underneath.
I like the idea of the man who thinks on his own. But I don’t like the fact that it comes with you spending so much time away from me. You think this is funny. You say to this, what, you want to have all the good stuff without the inconveniences? You think you are perfect? At least I don’t complain about you constantly.
Then after you finish you shrug and walk away. Before I can say anything back, having the last word. Just like my last lover did.
It takes awhile for me to let myself accept this side of you. The side that determines how much we will speak of emotions and of needs. The side that is willing to walk away from me. The one that will leave me to myself, when you decide you have enough.
This seems to be what happens to me. One evening, I call to you as you walk by me as I’m sitting on the couch. I want you with me. Instead of complying you say, no, you’re going in the patio. You say you want to look at the trees in the summer evening, rather than sit in front of a television watching yet another boring movie. You ask, don’t they end the same useless way every time, anyway? Then you disappear, and I feel stupid for asking you anything. The movie chatters away as I sit there and stew.
My mental wheels spin in your absence. I give you enough space, I think. So because of that, when I need you, you should be here and give yourself to me when I say so.
These are the things I’ve made a habit of telling you in my head. I’ve given up verbalizing them, since the times I actually told you, you just shrug and walk away, It leaves me to a rage of futility that I’m forced to stew in. Sort of like, now.
Today, I’ve begun the habit again. There are so many ways I can think of to tell you off, I can’t even keep track of the number.
But this time, something in me stops the dialogue I run. Instead, I run the history of what happens when I have tried to pin you down. It’s like a strange movie that I don’t want to see, but happens anyway.
I don’t know where it comes from. It’s almost like everything plays in front of me, showing how the silliness of playing the victim when it comes to being with someone like you.
There’s the time, I remember, when I followed you into the other room to prove to you that you couldn’t desert me. You weren’t going to run away from me, I say. All my friends would agree with me, that you need to spend time with me.
I told you, we are tired of men just taking off when it feels convenient, using our lives as pitstops. I’m all ready to fight you with this ammunition that feels so right to me, to prove to you how I’ve been wronged by your casual attitude towards me. And it has to be casual, right? This victimized voice says. If you really cared, wouldn’t you want to spend every waking moment you have with me?
It’s the last statement that shows me how absurd I am. I notice what I am saying, and I can’t believe it. Did I really say, “if you really cared, wouldn’t you want to spend every waking moment you have with me”? Crap, I don’t even want to spend every waking moment I have with you.
I think of times when you come up to me to embrace me, and I’ve pushed you away from me because I’m in the middle of some project that I need to get done. There was just a week earlier, when I was lying on what was my bed and now is ours, wanting to sleep away a headache that was eating at me.
You came to me then, to embrace me, and I pushed you away feeling suffocated with my own pain. I called you selfish both times for interrupting my space. Now, I call you selfish because you have claimed your own.
With this kind of thinking, you are always selfish and I am always the giving one. I know myself to be the giving kind of woman. But even to me, this whole scene I’ve just written when taken together sounds absolutely ridiculous.
So I change it up. I stop letting myself say how rotten you are for not being there for me, like I’ve done before and my lover before me. Instead of getting off on feeling justified at how rotten men can be, I instead laugh at the silliness I’m telling myself to prove a point. One that seems too ridiculous to be considered worth fighting for.
Soon enough, the movie I’m watching seems silly and pointless as well. Almost like I was watching it just to prove that I didn’t need you. Prove to whom? Myself? You? I don’t know, but I wonder if it even matters anymore. So I shut it off, and join you in the patio in your silence.
When I join you there, you don’t tell me to go away. Which tells me, you never wanted me to be gone to begin with. Like me, you had your own plans as to how to spend the evening, but you never said that they never should include me. You didn’t think you had to, as I was always welcome.
I feel stupid for thinking that all you were doing was staking your territory against me, and join you on the couch in your contemplation of the world outside our door.
The sun begins to set as we sit together. Its orange glow seeps over you, basking you in a glow that brings out all the color in you, especially your fire colored hair. I get a glimpse into the relatively recent past, how just months ago, I yearned to be with you exactly as you were.
The silent stance you took that drew me in enchants me once again. This is you who I fell for, exactly you. You reach for me and I fall into your embrace. I remember everything about you that made me fall for you. The sun is gone with nothing left in my mind but the thought and feel of you.
You mourn sometimes for the love that you have lost, especially in those early days, even though you have decided to stay with me.
I don’t find it a betrayal, which surprises me. I’m surprised by my lack of jealousy, seeing that I’ve been abandoned and betrayed before. Well, of course the love you lost is dead, so you probably won’t be running back to her the way you might if she were here.
Your mourning is different from the heartbreak of abandonment and broken love, but it’s mourning still. Do you feel abandoned because she left you for another world where you can’t go without never returning?
When you came into my life, she was the baggage you carried with you. Literally, in a ceramic vase. There hadn’t been any elaborate funeral, you told me. She, like you, had been a creature on the road, and was willing to let the road be her graveyard.
Cemeteries are stupid, anyway, you tell me. If I ever die on you, you say, dump me in the ground and let me return to nature. Hey, dig a hole and bury me in the ground under a rock, for all I care. I won’t be here, anyway. I’m going to be hunting in the playground of heaven.
You think there is a heaven? And everyone goes there, no matter what?
You shrug. Why not? Hey, I have no idea who belongs in heaven or hell, anyway. Even the worst jackass thinks he’s doing the world a favor when he does something insane. So why not call it even and send everyone up there? Who knows how stupid any of us can be at any time? So yeah, I’m not too worried about it.
I stop. You think your wife is up there, too then?
Well, you say. I don’t know if she’s “up” anywhere. But she’s still here. Anything that ever lived is still here. It’s like, matter never is really destroyed, right? So why would anything be truly dead? See my point?
You think even animals go there?
Can’t see why not. They’re life forms too, right?
Even the ones you kill when you hunt?
Of course, you say, looking at me straight with those green eyes that always haunt me. They say a lot without you having to speak the words. Your gaze says, you think because I kill other life forms I don’t acknowledge their soul? You know what I would have answered if my words were honest, and you look away.
I don’t know how we have gotten onto this track when all I wanted to do was reach out to you in your grief, but maybe that was your point. Deflecting me, you go to the place where you sometimes seek refuge, where you go to see her.
Maybe that is your point, as you go to the pond for your vigil. You go right in front of me, defying any support I say I will give you, pushing me away so that you can have the funeral of your own dreams in your own mind, where you know I can’t invade them with my words.
You scattered her ashes here, once you decided this was your home. By the pond in the backyard. What that says about me that I let you do that on my land, I don’t know. When you did so, it was on one of those rare occasions when you let me accompany you.
I asked you if you wanted any special words said, and you said, no. She already knows what I wanted to say to her, and I can say them anytime. This is just closure to me.
We scattered her remains amongst the trees and the water, where she spills and spreads in ripples and in the wind. I watched as the last of her disappears, and then you walked away, leaving me standing there, alone.
I watched you disappear as well, back into the house. I wondered at you, and what has just happened. It is like you just decided to take out the trash, and you’ve moved onto the next thing. When I turned to look at the place where you cast the remains of the one you once loved, there was nothing there. Yet, was there truly nothing? Is there now?
The longer I stand there, the more I feel a strange vibration in my mind and my chest, as though whoever she was in the life she had with you has come alive here for at least another moment. She hasn’t gone, and she is here.
Yet I don’t feel haunted, and I don’t feel alarmed. Even though the wind has picked up, there is a warmth that comes over me, and it is like the ashes who have come here have come alive, and befriended me. It’s comforting to feel your past has embraced me, found me acceptable.
The warmth stays with me. I wonder if you felt it, too, and holding it to you, felt the strength to move on without having to clutch onto what you lost. There are birds singing, and though I don’t know the music, I feel they sing with me.
I go to the house, close the door, to find you asleep, and I wonder what dreamland you have entered. I watch you, and the warmth is still there.
One time during your solo vigils, early on in our life together, the wind was blowing a certain way. Normally, it would breathe down from the house, carrying its power towards the backyard, to the pond and far beyond.
But on this particular day, the wind had other paths in mind, and swept itself up in the opposite direction so that it greeted me head on as I stood on the patio, watching you from the distance. The wind brought me your secret, and so unusual the message was, I almost didn’t interpret it in time.
It was the sound of your voice being caught inside you, and at first, it was hard to reconcile the sob with the one who I thought I’d come to know. I looked in the sound’s direction, and saw you kneeling at the place where we cast her ashes.
It was like walking into someone’s secret, and I was quick to look away. My mind, though, still saw you there no matter how far away I turned my gaze. The imprint was a lesson of you that has always stayed.
You came back that day, and your face was still stained from the tears that you decided to hide from me. It’s mist from the pond, you know how sometimes the wind can get at these times. The wind changed direction later that day, and I never saw you there at the place of vigil again.
She has never left, though. Sometimes I would go there, look at the place where I saw you weep, the place where we scattered her ashes. The warmth still fills me.
It’s good to know that I have her blessing. You are right, when someone dies, they never leave. It’s good to have friends in high places. The wind will always tell you the truth it wants if you stand still enough to listen.
You know, for someone who prides himself on being a creature that roams with no place to settle down, you adapt awfully well to the life you share with me in this house.
I don’t know if it’s because you finally get it through your head that I won’t tolerate unlimited departures of undetermined lengths. But your nomadic nature seems to become more tamed the longer we are together.
In the early days, it seemed that you used this place as a pitstop that you knew would always be there, me being your comfort woman that would provide a warm bed and body when you wanted it.
And yet, even in those days where it seemed you wanted to prove your independence and wrestle me for power, you still would come back anyway, here to me.
I have pictures. I have evidence, even back then. In fact, if pictures are evidence, then I have a lot of it. There are a lot of pictures of you, in my home and in my mind. You were so easy to picture in so many places.
There’s pictures of you on the porch, sunning yourself like you are some kind of god that is allowing worshippers to pay you homage. Your eyes are closed as you lay still for hours.
For someone who wants to move around, you spend an awful lot of time staying put. Especially when you feel the need to catch the rays on my porch. That says a lot to me, even in those early days when you disappeared for long stretches.
I remember one of those times. You look at me for only a second before you continue going as you were. Your casual attitude towards coming and going drives me nuts in those moments. The fact that you don’t care it drives me nuts drives me even nuttier.
Never one to hold back, I tell you this. You say, how do you know I don’t care it drives you nuts? I do care. I always come back. What else is it that you want from me? And then, you continue on your merry way, disappearing to the wild where you first came from.
You disappear that morning, long before the lumberyard begins the day. You come back that night, long past the time when the lumberyard is open. But, you are back.
Where’s dinner, you say. You look at some of the things I cook like tofu and quinoa, and say, man, I want real food, not this hippie stuff you make. Don’t you remember where I came from?
I should be grateful, you seem to say. The one thing that aggravates me beyond anything is the regalness you think you’re entitled to. You come back, and you act like you were just standing in the back yard for a couple of minutes.
This is the one thing that gets me about you, your casual sense of entitlement. You think you deserve every ounce of my affection, no matter what you do. You even tell me this. And I listen. What does that say about me?
You say because I’ve accepted you into my life, I should accept who you are. And because I’ve accepted you into my life, I should give you all the affection I have to give. Else, why bother to even have a relationship?
How aggravating, because that’s one of those traps of logic that seem to conclude in exactly the findings you have decided are right for you, and by extension, us. Thanks for consulting me on this, I want to say.
But I know you have a point. I knew who you were, and you are just being who you always were. At what point does a lover have a right to reign in the one she loves, just to have him prove his love for her?
This is the one thing that I can’t seem to fully rationalize about you, or ever come to peace with. I feel that if you love me, you have an obligation to me to at least care about what you do. You live with me, I say. You say, that doesn’t change me.
But you do come back. I don’t know if that reflects a sense of desperation on my end, or just a reality that things don’t always work out exactly to our plan and this is the way mine doesn’t. After all, you probably would rather do without my nagging on the matter.
You would rather have my blessing on the subject, and you don’t have it. You have my disapproval, and you don’t want that. Everyone has to make compromises, and we each have to grumble at the prospect at the ones we’ve been handed.
Nothing’s perfect, not even a gorgeous creature like you. Does that mean love is weak when you know that you’ve lowered the bar on what you want from another? I don’t know, but I do know that my love for you isn’t any less real for it.
I come home, and you’re listening to those nuts on the radio who rant and rave about politics again. It takes me awhile to get used to the noise, because before you, that was never something that was part of my life. It’s a strange thing to reconcile about you, that you love the wild and silence of nature but are addicted to a mechanical voice of a radio.
Everyone before you preferred the company of music, rather than words. Not you, it seems. It’s just another example of how I need to still learn the wonders of you, and what makes you so different and unique from everyone else I have ever known.
As I watch you, my mind drifts on a tangent that I’m only vaguely conscious of. I always said, in my life before you, that I would never be with a boy like you. I never could admit I liked boys like you, with your so-called renegade streak disappearing like a cat when convenient to their own plans. Too wild to even want to be tamed, too much a chase where I don’t know where I’m the predator or the prey, or maybe both in some strange way. I would always run the other way, before a chase could even start. I like my world tranquil, which with wild boys like you is decidedly the opposite.
I never knew to what to do with boys and men like you. I don’t know now, either, now that you are here and want me. It flatters me, and yet I don’ t like that I’ve resorted to feeling flattered by a man’s attention to make me feel better about myself. Didn’t I decide that stuff was immature back in high school?
I don’t know why the radio makes me think of all of this, sending my mind into some tailspin where I look at you like some bizarre creature that has entered my house and taken it over. Triggers are strange like that, and I know all about them.
So a mere object like a radio transforms into a symbol of our relationship. It’s a sign that you have altered my life in way where I can’t control. It reminds me that you are the kind of man that I always ran away from. Renegade, redneck, vagabond, rebel with a cause and maybe without one as well. All the things that mark red flags to the fine wine that is supposed to be me. And yet, here I am. With you.
I remind myself, I’m a volunteer in all of this. I can let you go. I can send you far away, so that you never come back to me. But I don’t. So after all of this time, I know what that means. I’m saying, I’ve decided you’re what I want.
You? What’s your take in all of this? If the way you’re sprawled out on my couch listening to propaganda blaring from the radio is any indication, you think I’ll adjust to you and your ways, regardless. After all, isn’t that what I signed up for by letting you into my life knowing nothing but rumors of you?
And how much better, I ask myself, was it when I had the boy that I thought would always be around? The one who always seemed like a little lapdog following me around, fawning over me. The one who acted loyal one moment only to turn around and betray me, deserting me for God knows what and where.
That was the boy that acted the part of being my loyal lover as a cover, and behind the smiles, he would leave me in such a way that I didn’t even see it coming. He wouldn’t even want me back, leaving me to wonder how much of his love had been true to begin with.
You, on the other hand, have been consistent from the beginning. You were the man who was the roaming boy, on the prowl for your own adventures, always the one on the road. You say to me how I have known this from the beginning, and yet you have chosen me anyway.
So here we are. You with the radio going, listening to all the people I have disdained over the years with their rantings and ravings, as far as I am concerned, duping the masses with silliness under the banner of supposed journalism. I know you are smart enough to see through all of it, so I don’t understand why you subject yourself to the junk.
In the meantime, I’ve spent the last ten minutes hating you to hell and back, all while standing numbly by a closet door. We could be posing for a bad painting called, Woman Kills To Get Closer To Lover or Mars And Venus Frozen By A Meteor. Not an epitaph I’d like to ever wear.
I clear my throat, though I don’t know why. And then I speak.
Why do you even listen to this? I ask. You shrug.
It relaxes me, I suppose, you say. It’s funny to hear people going bananas over a lot of nothing, you say. They think they know everything, and yet they can’t even take a chill pill.
Or get their own lives in gear, I say.
Exactly, you say back. It’s a total trip how people will get nuts over nothing. It’s really funny. They could learn a lot by shutting up and getting themselves back into nature. I hear them going nuts, and it makes me realize how good I have it just living.
You then shut up, look into the distance while the sun sets, the radio speaking whatever barrage is important for the day, and you smile at the reminder of the good life.
The radio is still going, but your words have soothed me. I begin to see your point of bizarre meditation in all of this. The sun sets on the verbal insanity, and I can see how pointlessness of most things besides beauty we have.
It isn’t all that long after that night that you stop listening to the radio. I don’t notice it at first, because I’ve come to learn to tune out the noise so don’t even notice when it’s gone.
I’m busy going about cleaning up after dinner, putting stuff away, when something seems different to me. I can’t place what it is, so I go over my steps to see what I’ve missed. Nothing is wrong, yet I know something is different.
And then I hear the silence, which is louder than the white noise of the radio that I’ve gotten used to over the weeks. It’s like I have to say to myself, what is that lack of noise, it’s too much of a racket.
I wonder if you have taken off on one of your solo adventures, and almost get angry again. You cough, that piercing hack that appears out of nowhere from time to time. And like always, it disappears as quickly as it comes. The alarm I feel when I hear it is tempered by the realization that you are here in the silence.
When I find you, you’re sitting in the patio, watching the sun set like usual. I say, you’ve stopped listening to the radio.
Yep. For about a week now. You smile.
I didn’t even notice it until today.
I can see that, you say. It’s amazing what you can get used to, right?
I look at you, trying to read the words you don’t say in your face, trying to glean the motive of this new move, but don’t find much. Why did you stop?
You shrug. Tired of the noise. You look outside, as though telling me what kind of noise is worth tuning your attention into. I wonder if you stopped because of me, but it feels strange to press you when you have found something so much more interesting than something that you’ve put aside.
It doesn’t take long for me to get used to the silence where the radio used to be. It is like I’ve digested another layer of you. In the solitude of the home we share, without the voices of others, I feel you have come closer to me.
If the radio was a shield you held up between us, you’ve taken it down. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but it’s nice to think so. The silence is so strong, I could pretend that I am alone in the house. With the radio, I knew you were there. Strange that I feel that with you right here.
But the silence feels like a womb that encompasses us without any barriers. It wraps both of us together in a blanket of solitude, in a world where only the two of us exist. You have entered this world with me, and I feel comforted by that.
It’s springtime, and you’re outside living it up on your day off. You disappear in the vast woods behind the house, vanishing from sight. I wonder what you think about when you take these walks. You never say, and I never ask. Every time you leave, I wonder if I will see you again.
I take a long breath and try to forget about you until you come back. I try to remember that it was your free spirit that attracted me to you to begin with. But that doesn’t erase the tightness I feel inside me with until you return.
I always hate myself for being so strung out from your disappearance. I have a life, after all. I have a business to run, people to see, things to do. None which necessarily involve you. I fortify myself against the emotions you provoke in your absence with this knowledge, if only to make myself focused enough to pay the bills and be a smiling face for the customers that will help me pay them.
This is only a temporary reprieve for me, this life of mine which only serves as distraction. For when you do arrive again, it breaks and destroys the dam I erected to shut you out. The flush of relief coupled by the joy of your presence overwhelms me.
You wonder if I get a high from this, and say, hey, I should leave more often. That’s you, always looking for a way to fly free.
You tell me, hey, what do you expect? You joke, I was always a cat on the prowl. You can’t expect me to go all tame on you, and don’t get soft on me. You were always a wild girl too, even though you play the little soft one pretty well enough to convince the naive and stupid. Do you see me trying to change you?
And you know you have me. So my body lets you go as you make your wanderings, even though my heart wants to grab you and never let you go.
Besides, after a long winter, it’s always good to spend as much time as possible outdoors, you tell me. I’ve been with you all that time. You have those memories to hold onto about me. You can’t expect me to be just one thing, do you girl?
Not wanting to be one of those girls who cling, I say, no I can’t.
But what I don’t tell you that somehow in my fantasies, I want to clip your wings to have you near me, and yet still have the benefit of the wild man that is in your soul.
I know I can’t have both. To keep your wild man, I have to let you go in those times that you know you need to roam in order to live.
Spring is a time which brings out the spirit of you, a spirit that has been asleep for most of the winter. It’s a time when you seem to be at your fullest, perhaps because you’re just waking up from a long hibernation and your mind is rested.
You don’t make a big pretense of having to prove you’re tough like many others who sit outside during the cold winter in the elements. In fact, you laugh at them. During winter, when you see the others ice fishing for recreational purposes only, or skiing down black marked runs for no other reason than to show they can, you say to me, sometimes people are just nuts to prove themselves.
To you, it proves nothing of their valor. You’d rather enjoy the fire, and go explore terrain on your own terms. The fact that you don’t have to prove your toughness, says to me you are more a man than any of the others who have to spread their peacock wings by outwitting death over some silly stunt.
You know yourself, and you know that you are waiting for spring. Like a bear, this is when you wake up to the nature around you. I love watching you then.
You take up your posts, sitting underneath trees to survey the lay of the land like a master painter creating a canvas. There is a plum tree that you sometimes go to. As it blossoms itself awake, you stretch yourself in a manner that says you have found the best place to be in the world. And nothing at all is going to make you move. Sometimes the blossoms will fall on you as they shed themselves from the tree. It is adorable to see delicate flowers cascade on your tough boy self.
The fact that you let me laugh at you without becoming defensive yourself is another expression of secure masculinity that you exude without trying. The smells of spring bleed themselves onto the landscape, and you are there to catch the flow. You fit right into the whole picture. Watching you in your element comforts me.
I hate doctors, you tell me often. You say that, but you really don’t have to even tell me. You hate doctors with a passion. In three words, you say a lot. But it also tells me the subject is closed, end of story.
Sometimes you say this after one of your long hacking spells that you never explain and I never question. Telling me you hate doctors sounds like a defense mechanism to prevent me from nagging you to do something about it. I react internally, balking at the idea of being categorized as the bitchy lover when I feel I’ve done nothing to earn it.
To make myself feel better about your implication, I make up my own story about your pet peeve about the medical profession, although I never voice it. I fill in the blanks as I sometimes do when your words don’t say enough. At first, I decide it has something to do with your wife’s death. After all, they failed her.
That logic makes sense until I see it’s too small to hold all the facts. It leaves out the fact that you and she did everything to avoid hospitals, doctors and anything else remotely institutional as much as you possibly could. So I know, your resentment cuts deeper than that with you.
What I decide all on my own is that it’s all about your need for freedom, and the need to reject authority in all its forms. You respect the law because it makes sense to you, the idea of the law saying you can’t harm life or the property of others.
You accept this minimum standard of imposition on your liberty. But the hard line of medical commands is one you see no reason in denying. It isn’t a threat to liberty or the lives of others if you decide not to pop baby aspirin for the next forty years.
So you don’t, nor do you take into heed any other method the medical profession has decided is good for you. You’re the kind of male who likes to decide for himself what is good for you, and you aren’t going to let some white coat decide how you are going to live your life.
That’s what I decide about you, because it makes the most sense of who I have learned who you are over the months and years. I sometimes wonder if I should become the stereotype of the female mate, nagging you to go to every checkup possible to get a doctor’s stamp of approval, my imaginary insistence standing in for protecting the love of my life.
But it seems too much like a bad comedy to switch roles like that. It seems too out of place in a relationship based on plain speech and straight expression, even when that speech and expression is silence. And my true emotion is to let you be the man you are, to let you live your life in the way you see fit. If you want a doctor, you would show me, and you never do.
I don’t know if it is some state of denial that paints this picture of love I have for you. But you have lived your whole life being who you are. To change you now would be a desecration of what we have built up together over the years.
After all the chaos of settling into our relationship, it’s good when the everyday routines finally take hold. It’s easy for most to assume that now the excitement is gone, our relationship becomes a chore that must be worked though.
But you and I know better. After what you’ve been through, and the drama of my life, everyday stability is a joy to be cherished. I love the routines we create together. I love how the most ordinary of moments become memories that remind me of our life. I can carry their simplicity with me forever, instead of some trauma that I’d rather forget just to keep things exciting.
There’s waking up when you still are asleep, with your head on my pillow. Or the days when you’ve waken up with the early dawn of spring and summer. You pounce on me awake as if to say, hey lady, you’re missing out on the best part of the day.
I awaken to your touch, and it’s the best alarm clock I’ve ever encountered in my life. Making coffee while you lounge around me. I joke that you get in my way, but never want you to go away even as I trip over you. It’s good to have you around me, even in the silly inconveniences that everyday, normal life might bring to me.
There are habits that I learn about you as the days and years go by. The lessons of you come every day, teaching me the small etchings that make you who you are. With your wild ways, I’m surprised when I see how neat you are around the house, perhaps even more so than I am. It’s strange to see a man rearranging my house, saying that things are too disorganized for him to function.
I see you as you roam in nature, and the last thing I would have expected you to be is meticulous about appearance and housecleaning. But you are. You tell me, while on the road, it’s important to be as clean as possible, because lots of times you are sleeping where you travel. And because you don’t want to get sick, dealing with those doctors that drive you nuts.
You say also, as a man on the road, you’ve always taken the time to look your best. It’s sticky enough to be taken seriously when you are a nomad. To look like an unwashed bum would only be rubbing things in people’s faces. All that would do was feed the stereotype that all roamers are complete slobs with no regard for society. Not to mention, you tell me, there’s no reason not to respect the some laws of the general public.
You don’t really mind that society exists, you say. You just don’t want to follow blindly everything they tell you to do. But there’s a way to defy convention and still have class, you say. I marvel at the paradox you lay out, your own definition of simple wisdom.
It’s nice to pass the days, the weeks, the months, the years with you. I like how we spend the evenings together, eight long years of them that sometimes feel too short. It isn’t always side by side, but I learn a different kind of togetherness because of you.
I know where you are, you know where I am. I go do whatever it is that pleases me, and you do the things that please you. But we know what the other is doing. We know where we stand with each other. I know what you mean to me, and I with you.
This is the most comfortable aspect of routine for me. I slip into it without realizing it. I slip into trusting you, and don’t even know I’ve done it. I trust you simply because I don’t have to ask myself all the time if I do or don’t. It is something I just act upon.
The everyday life of you and me has created that for me. I watch you on the couch, and I know the position you will take. I see you stretched out, with the entire length of your body elongated to its maximum. I rub you, and you move yourself so I can massage the perfect place you’ve been craving me to touch.
So often that this happens that it becomes a memory chip I play back to me, even in the moments when you are not there. Everyday moments like this are what create a life. Everyday moments like this are what create a bond, one that never can be broken when memory is the only reality to know.
You drink from your favorite cup, you have your favorite bowl. Such a novelty that a roamer like you is such a creature of habit. It’s so easy to say someone is all this or all that.
But you remind me that everyone is a mixture of everything. So you surprise me, and yet you have the same routine. Should routine surprise me, and if it does surprise me, is it really routine? I don’t know, but I love watching the habits you bring me and the life we create together because of them.
I don’t know how these moments shape me, but I know I have you, no matter where you are. That, to me, is the only lesson I need to know. You climb up on the bed with me for another night of slumber. I have all that I need in you.
When you get sick, I don’t really want to notice it at first. I’ve trained myself to think of your coughing spells as clouds that will pass leaving behind a shining blue sky and nothing more.
Understanding your need for solitude and independence, I decide to trust your judgment and discernment. You keep telling me that you are all right, and that you just need to rest more. So I let you go on your way, deciding your life on your own terms.
It’s strange how just a few years ago, this would have seemed like exactly the wrong decision. But listening to you and believing in you has finally become something that feels right inside of me. Is it denial? Perhaps. But it’s what feels right to me, to us. This is what matters, I’ve convinced myself as I let myself forget what I see.
I don’t notice a lot of changes at first, because in eight years’ time you get sick on and off. So when this time comes around, it just seems like more of what I’ve come to know. You sleep a lot more, but I figure that your work has taken more out of you. I believe you when you say there is nothing all that unusual with how you feel. I take comfort that you know yourself well enough that you can tell me that everything is all right.
And for awhile, it’s certainly easy to go with that belief. The fire roars like it usually does between us, both in the house and between us. You sill come to me to tell me you want me, and sitting by the fire through the winter, it seems everything is just as it is every year.
Things slow down during that time. You do, I do. The two of us spending hours lying there together, saying and doing nothing, is nothing out of the ordinary. So when you tell me nothing has changed, saying it’s nothing, just a cold that you’ll get through, it’s easy to believe you and that since nothing has changed for all these years, they won’t do so again.
I don’t even listen to Sally’s warnings, who says you are quiet even by your silent standards. It’s like he’s going back to the way he was when he first met you, she says to me. Like he’s disappearing.
I smile and say, you have your ups and your downs. Everyone does. She looks at me and nods. She drops the subject, and then blissfully I do also.
But then, you start eating less. This is when I begin to worry. Though you always were particular in what you wanted, you never were one to refuse food completely.
I watch as you turn food away that I prepare for you, the deer meat that you yourself prepared from your hunting and the vegetables from our garden that I have preserved in our freezer. You look at it for a time, and then walk away, saying that you’re too tired to eat and just need to rest. You take your position up on the couch, and within minutes are asleep again, shutting me out for good.
I watch you, feeling unsure of what to do next. Should I wake you, hold you, get medicine, send you to a shaman, what? Your silence tells me that you want me to go away, that you are taking your life in your own hands.
There is nothing I can do to stop this. You sleep, telling me this is what you want to do with the crisis you face. If I loved you, am I to denounce you as one in severe denial, and take over your life to get some sense back into you?
It’s strange to walk through this murky water of self-reflection. I do all the things that are so important in the daytime, and probably look like any other busy woman with too many things to do to be able to think.
But underneath all my going back and forth, I ask myself what kind of mate am I? Why am I letting you walk to your death unchallenged? Just because you tell me that’s what you would prefer to do, I just comply and go to the store acting like you just said you’re watching a baseball game? Is there a point where I’m to write you off as insane and not able to think clearly? Or is any need to overwrite you just a mask of my own insecurities, that after all these years of being with you, I will do anything to keep you with me?
I think back of those early days with you. The days when I was raw with the abandonment I’d experienced, and how every moment I spent with you was a projection of that insecurity. I think back to those early days with you, and somehow I deluded myself in my grief that I couldn’t bear to feel more loss if you left me. Somehow, I took your presence to be oxygen I needed to breath.
If I want to hold onto you now, am I just reacting to some primal need that says you are oxygen while forgetting what you really are about? Or is it genuine concern for a loved one that I experience, hoping your acceptance of death is just your reaction to the imperfection you are so unused to facing in your life?
You don’t seem to have that much conflict in your soul, even now. So, you’re sick, you seem to say. The more I want to write you off as being in some strange denial, the more your personality reminds me that you are in charge even when it seems your body is slipping away. You get up, go to various places, make yourself comfortable. Even as I can see the pain eating at you, I know this about you.
Life has always seemed something you’ve seen to enjoy. Even though your rough breathing tells me you must be in agony now, you don’t let up in the image you show me. You’re going to grab as much comfort and joy out of this life no matter what, no matter what illness or other obstacle is thrown at you.
Just as you were cast out on the road as a youngster, just as you suffered through the death of your first mate, you still now show that you aren’t going to let anything take the idea of enjoying life away from you.
You stretch out on the couch, the blankets wrapped around you like a gift package. No matter what happens, life is a gift that you’ll savor. Strange to see this lesson you give me, even at a moment such as this.
I love you, even as your illness starts taking you from me, bit by bit. I find myself drawing away from you physically, not because your illness repulses me. But know that despite your silence, your body is in agony. Any embrace I give you is only a selfish expression to wring a feeling of affection from you, a selfish taking.
You move from our bed to the couch, saying that you don’t want to keep me awake with getting up so much. I learn to love you from a distance. I say nothing to stop you.
You will come to me, I decide. You were the one who always wanted the control, and it seems only fitting that I give it to you if you’ve embarked upon your last days with me. You will come to me if and when you want to.
And you do, at times. You rest your head on me, letting me hold you for a few precious moments here and there.
There is the time when I come upon you, resting on the bed. Thinking you’re asleep, I lie next to you and relish your nearness. It’s a strange moment, because we do something we’ve done so many times over the years the memories blend together.
This time, this one instance stands out to me. This time, the experience burns itself into me, as though you are imprinting yourself one more time into my soul before you travel to your next destination where I can’t find you.
You stir in your sleep, and you look up at me, rubbing your head underneath my chin. You do this several times, and it feels good to have you touch me once more. It reminds me of all the years we have spent together doing this.
You give me one last gift of yourself, it seems, before you go. You say nothing to me as you touch me. But your caress tells me that you cherished all the times you have been here like this. I cherished them too.
I hold you like that, and the moment lasts for a lifetime because it stays forever in my memory. Is that what forever means, in the end?
Spring has arrived again, but my joy at its arrival is tempered by the circumstances of our tragedy.
You spend your days quietly now, moving about as little as you possibly can. This is the time when I have you by my side constantly, for the first time in our relationship.
I look at you, asleep for hours on a couch, knowing exactly where you will be at any moment. There was a time early on when I craved this certainty of you here.
Now, years later, with the comfort of your affection safely on my side and the reality of who you are, your constant presence fills me with sadness.
This is not who you are, this sedentary being who wastes no movement on anything but the essentials. You are the hunter that prowls in the night, you are the vagabond scouting the hills in the heat of the day.
Illness has robbed you of much of who you are in the outside of things. The wild man has been tamed. It’s a time for mourning, rather than a celebration that finally I’ve curbed my man.
I long for the days when you ran wild. Over the years, I have learned to accept that side of you. In doing so, I’ve learned to accept you exactly for who you are.
Instead of doing everything possible to keep you by my side like I did so long ago, I try to encourage you to go the wild places that you’ve scouted over the years. In these last days I tell you, the fresh air is good for you.
You’re exhausted and you can’t do much to fight me. In your weakened state I’m able to move you from your sickbed inside to the patio outside. You can be sick out there as well as here, I tell you.
You comply, slumping into a chair and disappear. I hope you stay out there as long as possible. Not so that I can be rid of you, because as often as I can, I join you there. I just know that a wild man like you needs his elements.
I’ve learned that when we are at our weakest, our roots are what heal us the most. You’ve taught me that, you know. The student becomes the teacher, the teacher becomes a student once more.
Most of the times, you stay on the patio. You fall asleep, trying to beat the pain you experience with slumber . You tell me you are comfortable. I interpret to mean you want to be left alone, that any more fussing is simply interference which only makes your life worse.
So I oblige. I think of holding you, but imagine the pain of your breathing and let you be. It is a kind of letting go, the opposite of what my affection has always craved to do to express itself.
I remember the days when all I would do is try to indulge in as much of the sensuous from our relationship, and from you. It was a kind of taking on my part, of this I know now.
It was a kind of selfishness dressed up in sexual affection. Yet by touching you, it was an easy copout from actually learning how to fully love you. In your end days, I touch you very little.
It’s a letting go of you. Somehow it’s teaching me how to give you compassion, without insisting on love on its own individual terms.
There are times when your old wild self rises. There are times when I leave you on the patio to your slumber but find you gone when I return. Those are the days when I have the most hope, and the moments in your illness when I feel happiest.
You’ve disappeared somewhere to nature, a return to the wild. Sometimes it seems you have just shifted slumbering places, like you are playing musical chairs on a sinking ship.
But I see you occasionally by your old haunts, preying and prowling, stalking the quarries that you always used to do. For those few moments, it’s good to see you being you once more.
Cycling like seasons, back and forth, the moments like this come and go between the moments of slumber. You have created your own rhythm of seasons by your behavior.
There is a day that comes in what feels like the midst of all this, when you lie on your couch. Sally wants to take me out to lunch, and you encourage me to go.
You tell me that I can’t forget about my life outside of you. You tell me that I need to live my life, strongly and fully. That if I decide sacrifice everything there is about me, I’m doing both of us a disservice. You tell me to live life fully.
So, I say back to you, what about you? Are you going to spend the last moments of your life cooped inside like you work on an assembly line, or are you going to spend it like you have a real life in the real world?
You tell me that I have a point. As I get ready to go, you let me push you out the door, into the wild that I found you. Everyone has a life to live fully, I tell you. I tell you that you don’t have any excuse not to live yours.
So, I let you go. I’m busy getting my things together, and I catch an image of you outside the window overlooking the back yard. There you are, walking in the grass like it’s a day in your youth, and it’s time for you to conquer the world.
You find a place that seems to suit you, but this isn’t a time for you to slumber. You take up your post and you survey the land. It’s one of those cycles where you are healthier, I decide. It’s good to see you in your elements again. It’s good to see you return to the wild.
I leave you. I leave the house, and go and live my life. It’s strange how little I worry about you when I’m gone. I go out to lunch, and I sit on an outdoor patio. There’s a pasta dish that I haven’t tried yet, one that I have held off for years because it’s on the expensive side.
Today, I get the dish. It’s shrimp pasta with feta cheese, which gives it a sour taste that dances in with the crunch of garlic and the sweetness of the shrimp and the saltiness of the tomatoes. It’s good, I tell Sally. She tries some of it too.
In my mind, I offer some to you and imagine you savoring it, the food nurturing you back to health. I’m sure you would have loved it in the days before now. I decide you love it now, too.
The day is gorgeous. Everyone in town raves at the beauty of the day. It was a brutal winter, and spring came late this year. But today, it’s easy to forget all of that. It’s like the world has woken up from the grave.
Life is beautiful, life is renewed. Sunshine can do that. I think of you, and how I left you. I wonder if I did the right thing, leaving you as I did. I tell Sally of my worries.
Knowing me as long as she does, she talks to me in a way that most people can’t. She tells me, you did the right thing. Wasn’t it always a pact with you guys, to live as well as you can?
So I tell her how I saw you on the trails we walked on. How you ventured into nature the way that only a master could. It is hard to imagine you dying when I think of you like that. It is hard to imagine death when everything is about me is coming back to life.
I remember you as I last saw you, as though you were recapturing your best self back. I remember you in that glorious spring afternoon, walking the trails, your hair glittering in the sun like glowing fire.
It’s a great picture of you to hold onto you. The warmth it gives me makes you very much alive to me. Is it denial? I don’t care. The sense of life makes me feel alive. So what could be so wrong about that?
When I come home, I can’t find you at first. I don’t know why I don’t feel panic. I should, seeing how sick you have been. But I don’t. You are gone, the way you had been back in the days when you had been well.
It’s like I relive them again, and it’s great to revisit that part of life in something other than memory. I take a casual stroll, around the pond where the trail I last saw you leads to. Around its perimeter, there you are, lying in the sun like a god.
The sun shimmers on you in response. You are still alive, though weak. It is as though it took everything in you to live out this moment. It’s a gift you gave yourself. But it was worth it, you seem to say as you smile at me.
I smile back. I say with that smile, good for you.
You come back with me, and you lay near me throughout the evening, barely moving, never talking. But I hold onto the memory of the sunlight in your hair. You are alive in that moment. The imprint with you stays with me, so this is what I remember.
In the middle of that last night, you wake me with your touch. It’s soft, filling me with a purr of delight. I never thought someone like you could ever make me feel such a way. Somehow I never get used to the fact that you can melt me with one feather touch of your softness. Maybe that is good, for things like that are the things I always remember.
That night, I run through the memory bank that is you. I remember when you rested by the window, pausing in your contemplation to look through me with green eyes. I remember as you stretched on the couch, spreading your body to its fullest length so that you are twice as large as you are, as though your heart expanded your ultimate maximum. I remember it as you slink by me in your stealth mode, trying to convince me that I don’t see you, but you know I do.
The memory of your touch infuses every last moment that you spend with me. It makes your presence seem even stronger. Is this what it means when the physical is intimate? No more is the sensuous a game to play, it instead brings me closer to the meaning of you. So is this what is all about? For me to learn this after so many years alive in this world?
For someone with such a tough boy persona, for someone who stands apart from the world, you are full of silky softness. There were times, especially in the beginning when I would clutch to you just to see if you were really still there. I’d wish to spend whole days and nights holding you. There were many long days in the cold winters where we sat by the fire, doing just that.
You would lay next to me, your head resting up by mine. I’d wake up to hear the soft whisper of your sleep next to me. I would caress you, and sometimes you would stir, nuzzling up closer to me.
Other times, you would remain asleep, a twitch of your face telling me you were in dreamland. I would draw closer to you, and then you would wrap yourself more deeply into me. A place like that always made me feel safe, a haven in a storm.
Strange what moments in life can give a person permanent hope, and moments like that in your arms did it to me.
You bring something alive in me by your softness, and the physical memory of you, burying myself in you, tells me that touch brings its own individual messages. You connected me forever to you with yours.
I witness your slipping from one world to the next the very next day.
You lay on the couch on your last day. It’s a wonderful, sunny day the day you die, but you sleep through much of it. When you do awaken, you tell me that you are too tired, but tell me to go out and enjoy it for you. Go hiking, you say. Go enjoy your life.
So I do, walking through the same kind of hills and trees that have captured the imagination of both of us over the years. All the hardwoods of stability that give way to four seasons, these are the measures which have defined both of us. I go to the park nearby our home, and people wave at me.
I wave back, and do it in the name of both of us. I pass by the lake in the park’s center, and think of you resting by the pond just the day before. The smell of dampness is in my nostrils, and I imagine myself experiencing just the same thing as you did, only yesterday.
You are still alive when I return, but asleep. I go to you, kiss the top of your head like I am blessing a child. You purr slightly in your sleep, the feral nature of your being wakening for just a moment before you slip back into the dreamworld that I am excluded from.
I have no jealousy at this. It is amazing how much time I wasted on such a useless emotion in my life when love could have been held as an offering. I watch you, and realize that no matter where you are, I am always with you.
It is sometime later, as I am with you, that you slip from this world into the next. You awake with a start, and look at me one more time. Then, it is like your breath catches, and you are grabbing for it. Once, twice.
I tell you that I love you. Then your breath stops. I learn the meaning of passing away, for it feels that is exactly what you have just done. Passed from here, to there.
I watch you for a moment, before realizing what has happened. You have died, in front of me, in my arms. Your last moments on this earth were with me.
Now, your time here has passed. Your time has a different meaning now, and I watch you slip away to that place. You seem to tell me, see you later. You don’t tell me goodbye.
My eyes well with tears, and you become blurred. I see an image of you in my mind. You come to me and hold me, as if you are comforting me.
Don’t worry, you seem to say. I’m always here. Don’t cry over my shell, because I’m more than that. So are you. And I will always be with you.
The tears fall from my eyes, yet I smile. I kiss your head, and you are still warm. Your cheeks are wet from my tears, and I know you understand what I feel when I see them there.
Evening arrives. It is the first sunset without you here. I go to the garden where you spent so much of your time, sitting on the gravestone of a pet that came before you, in another life.
Now, another chapter has ended on me. You are gone, and yet everything I see here reminds me of you. I see you wandering among the trails in your contemplation of nature, I see you patrolling the garden looking for ways to battle weeds and rodents in your quest to be the master of your universe.
I see you basking in the sun, your hair glimmering in its rays as though the very orb that lights the world is rejoicing in your presence and illuminates your joy. I see you in all these places, and it is as though you are still here.
I will never hold you in my arms again. I will never feel the softness of your touch. I will never hear your voice whisper to me in the middle of the night. I will never be able to share long evenings with you by my side.
All these things are true, and yet I feel as though you are still here. Almost as though, because I remember you, you are still alive. Nothing has ended, only changed.
The sun wraps itself along the edge of the horizon, as though you are giving me one final embrace before you say, so long. I let my gaze submerge into its fiery orange. I leave the garden, but I don’t forget you.
It’s a few days after you have died. The daffodils are just about ready to die, so I cut them, walking away with the flowers in my hand.
I walk to the stone that I’ve placed where I buried your ashes. It’s a pretty place there, and I know you liked it. I had considered throwing in your ashes by the pond, where you last were fully alive. It would have been near your wife.
But I didn’t. I chose here, by the trees alongside the garden. You spent a lot of time here. And it seems like a good place for a memorial, especially for a man who spent much of his time in the wild, but yet bordered the surface of the civilized and tame world. This borderland marks the world you straddled, and it seems the place where I could call you mine and remember you as that.
I feel you still see me here, as I sit in the same space in those days we spent together when you were alive. It’s strange, but I feel you are there with me in the garden as I overlook it. Not scattered on the ground with your remains, but strolling around the entire perimeter, as you used to do. You strut yourself, macho yet indifferent at the same time.
You were so sexy, so beautiful. You still are. I follow this image of memory across the land, watch the memory as it takes the journey that had become so familiar to me. I feel you say to me in this memory that you are happy where you are.
You tell me, you were happy with me. The memory image looks at me, from the furthest point in the garden. The gaze is a laser point towards me. It is an arrow that pierces my heart. You did that to me, you know, you pierced my heart with passion.
Then you healed it with your love. I tell the image this. You respond with a wave of your hand. Then you go. But I don’t feel deserted. I feel you have heard me, and this comforts me.
I sit in the silence that you leave behind. It doesn’t feel empty, though. Even though you have gone in body, even though the image of you has wandered away, the silence still feels full of you.
It feels full of what you and I created together, to whatever it is that made our relationship. I can’t explain exactly what it is. Words evade precision.
But I recognize the feeling of us here, and feel sure about what it is. Is this what love looks like when everything else is stripped away?
Soon, I decide to go, as I’m off to meet Sally in the place where I met you so long ago. There is a shift in me that recognizes that life goes on elsewhere besides this strange essence I’ve just encountered. The daffodils are still in my hand.
As I get up to leave, I place them by the site where I threw your ashes. I can sense the words, thank you. It is a sensation I don’t recognize, but yet it doesn’t feel all that weird. It is just you, reminding me that you are still with me. I smile, and I prepare to go.
I turn one more time, and see the daffodils at rest. The sun dances on them, reminding me that spring always returns after winter. I remember you saying that when someone dies, they never leave. I believe you now, so I feel nothing but your presence as I meet up with Sally to head to the bar, drinks on the house in memory of you. You will be sorely missed, but in a way you’ll be there too. You always will be.
I won’t say good-bye, because I’ve learned from you that there are no goodbyes. See you soon, my love. I will return.