I’m in one of those places tonight where there seems nothing to do but self-destruct. And so I am here, sitting for no reason, burning up the fleeing hours of night, staring out this frosted window, drinking endless cups of coffee and listening to things I should know better. Music that was ours. Because back in the days that once made sense, everything belonged to us. Every song was ours. Every book written to us specifically. And I do what I can now to wash out the dye of you from everything that ever was. But it keeps seeping back in, scrub as I might. And tonight I have given in.
And these flashes of moments – split second frames of a life that was – flicker on the screen of this black and thunderous night. The time we bought each other outfits from the thrifty mart in secret and agreed to wear them the rest of the day. You ended up with a plaid t-shirt and tie, a pair of nurses pants and a set of corderoy slippers; me in a gold skirt, a green halter top ornamented with elephants, and nothing on my feet but red-striped athletic socks. And matching headbands, one of a million small serendipities. Or the night we heard about Andrew taking the job with Cal and how we hated life for giving him no options, and how we hated him for settling. And running out to the ravine and hurling rocks down into the darkness as hard as we could and swearing we’d never quit burning and burning and raging against the dying of the light. Us and our Dylan. Or how, when we were small, we’d go swimming and dive down to the bottom of the deepest part, and stay down as long as we could screaming words to each other in that strange, heavy, dense world and, when we could hold our breath no longer, shooting up to the top to see if we had guessed correctly. Or how we sat in the same seat in Mrs. Maswall’s Geometry class two periods apart from each other, and we’d leave notes in that place under the chair, and feel the thrill of danger flouted, as we left our barest souls there on ruled paper, folded into the tightest shapes we could create, for anyone who happened to run their hands under the seat, to find. To my recollection, nobody ever did. Or how, from childhood on, we always decided every argument with a game of rock, paper, scissors… and as it evolved in complexity, dynamite, tsunami, chaos theory, plague… And how you even brought it up that day, that terrible day I left. Doing your best to lighten the mood, thinking I’d come around if it could all be diffused. That we should settle the question with a life-changing round of R-P-S.
But I had worked myself up into one of my terrifying tornadoes of time-is-fleeting and I’m-way-too-afraid-of-having-what-i-want-for-fear-I’ll-somehow-lose-it-all, and having-this-one-breathtaking-thing-means-not-having-something-else… and I had convinced myself that everyone expected us to stay together forever, and the view of a wide horizon open to a future full of unknown wonders and wide-open possibility had narrowed to a gun-barrel tube of impossibly small dimension, and I couldn’t do it. I had never done anything completely on my own, and I was afraid I never would, and that any chance I had at a brilliant, sky-splitting future, was flying from me at light speeds. In other words, I felt trapped. And not even by you, because you were always and only just the same you. It was, mostly, I think, just this place. This town and its narrow expectations, and my own perpetually bursting soul, that could feel confined in an endless ocean-- that will (I am afraid) relentlessly opt for freedom. Regardless of the cost…
Anyway, I got it into my head that I had to leave. That I had to take a hiatus from everything, including you. And in the back of my mind you understood, and would shake your head at my folly, and my impulsive, screwball logic, and, in perfect, undoubting confidence, wait for me to realize what I’ve always known, and to come home. Or send for you, and then we’d be off again… in other words, I told you goodbye, but I really only meant see you tomorrow.
But I forgot about the part where you were a human. Real and full of your own set of entrenched stubornnesses, and hurts and plans that didn’t include waiting forever for a girl who runs from her fears by running toward others.
And I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye at all (how could I ever say goodbye? What language is there for impossible words?) and so I had set myself to the writing of a terrible letter, and I had gone to the cabin to write it, and I was going to leave it there for you to find, and in it I was going to say things like, ‘I’m so afraid’, and ‘I love you’ and ‘I have to get free’, and, ‘don’t let me detonate,’ … but I sat there with that blank notebook page in front of me for ages, with only your name there at the top of the page, as it appears here, perennially: Simon. And I found I had doodled a copy of that Little Prince picture, the one on the cover of the book. The one where the world is too small.
Time – ever the relentless hound – was pressing on me, and i threw the notebook in frustration, which was the moment you walked up the hill. And at first you disappeared in the radiance of the rising sun, just so, behind you. Resolving slowly, like a dream, into the shape of something familiar and dear. And I almost ran. But I was too heavy with the weight of the endless fulmination inside, with the pressure of unspent tears, with the immoveable ballast of potential; that movement seemed an impossibility. And so I watched you – that wild and wide soul, somehow contained in muscle and tissue, and clothed in skin – approach, for a last and final time, with myself as a destination.
You sat down, and I couldn’t look at you. What eyes are there that can bear the sight of loss, breathing?
And it was unbearable, the soul-crushing PSI of all that, in that moment, sat, hefted on my all-too-unsteady shoulders. And you, there, inches and a world away, and me all agonies and groanings and the unrelenting bursting; the eternal combustion and humming and thrumming of electricity that threatens to send me flying in shivers and splinters of bone and nerve and gland to the antipodes like so much concentrated C4.
It’s the way it’s always been, though perhaps I’ve learned to cage it a bit, that inner explosion, or at least leash it in when company comes over… but when you’re nineteen, and full of dynamite and gunpowder, and so electric you swear you could hook yourself up to the power lines and light the entire blessed town… then it’s not so easy.
And I told you I had to go. And you said that wasn’t in the plan. And I said I knew, and that that was why I had to go. And you grinned it off, and proposed a Rock, Paper Sissors match, Superhero rules, and I could have lazer-gun immunity…
And then I knew what would happen. I could see it so clearly, an entire life, laid out. I would turn to you and there you would be, and our hands would find each other like creatures unrelated, working their way into an inextricable net, and I would fight the urge to look at you, but your gaze on me regardless, pouring over me like a syrup, like a blanket, thick and warm and immobilizing, flung up into the air, held by the corners only, and let settle, falling in slow, arched waves over my shoulders. And you would bring my hands to your mouth, and hold them there, and then, as always, you bringing my wrists to your lips, and then your nose, brow, temples, and it would end with my hands clasped behind your neck and you pulling the rest of me to you, and it would be a sort of magnetism, and it would be the snap of a lock, and it would be a thousand nights of laughter, and it would be glorious madness and giddy revolution… but it would be all familiar. And I saw it so clearly in that half-moment, fractals of everything we were, and the beauty of it reproduced in the warmest dimensions into the infinite.
And I loved it.
And I was terrified by it.
Because if I chose that, it meant I was un-choosing everything else.
And for that I was not prepared.
It was a fleeing.
No rearviewing, no words to hang in the air, that we might have regarded, tilting our heads, so, and squinting up at them, and then deciding, ‘no no, that won’t do,’ and taking them down, choosing other words with which to adorn the atmosphere. No final touch. No embrace. No tearful parting. No explanations or hashings-through… none of that.
There was only the notebook with the ill-fitting world, lying in the grass, and my desperate desertion.
And what is there to say after that? What could I have expected of you? What brand of perspective and wisdom could I hope for from you, when I had none?
And those two and a half years that we didn’t speak. Ah, how could I have done without you all of those loose-leafed days?
Mom tells me you came to the house every day for months. And Andy came over after I got back and told me how it had been with you. And if sorries were good for anything I would dig me a mine and bring up the brightest and shiniest of them all, grinding away the days with a pick and a mule, to pile them on your doorstep. But as it is… it would only be further folly.
And so I dig this night in secret. Pulling out veins of regret, hefting nuggets of forgiveness, begged. And so you know, it is done against my will. Hating these fruitless tears, raging against this whole unseemly endeavor.
Which, I suppose, is all to say, that I miss the moon this black, blind night. And you, Simon. I miss you.