Talk to him again. I did, but I don’t want to cross it off, because it’s something I want to do over and over again. In surprising places. In unexpected places. In places where I feel vulnerable and have the arrogance to believe I’m at peace, I want to be there, at that place, that place where I hear his feet crunch along the gravel. I want to be at that place where I turn around to see my present but be confronted with my past. I want to be there and stare at the night sky, bright and burning, hot and heavy in humid summer air, and feel like I’m one end of a polarized magnet, and I’m utterly helpless like I always was next to him. Maybe that’s why here, in this place, I still laugh and whisper his name as the water laps my ankles because the water is what choked his breath. Because that’s what he wanted.
I struggle to make peace with that because he promised me magnificence, and we clearly had different understandings of the term. I saw it in tiny faces with wide eyed curiosity, and he saw belonging elsewhere. After his choice was made, those words aching on my arm when I write of him; when I looked over my shoulder to see him standing there, looking up to the same set of stars my eyes were fixed on. That same smile spread on his face that I stared at and lost my balance when I fell into a spiral, standing in the aisle of the Barnes and Noble when I watched him dance like he was draped in the soft hues of his living room with subtle scratches of vinyl as the backdrop.
I don’t remember breathing. I do remember the longest moment of my life – this ghost who has come to me only in dreams and screams as I round mountain bends with tears staining my sad, fat cheeks, all of it in flashes and my eyes grow dry – and then I blink. Right as he looked over his left shoulder at me, and smiled like he did that night in Aztlan after the sweat lodge when I laid in the dewy grass and played with spiders under the velvet stars, dammit I just had to go and blink. And he’s gone. Again. And I still can’t bring myself to cross off No. 121 from my list, like keeping it there will make it happen again. Like it’s unfinished business. Like each time it happens I’ll add a sense, and eventually he’ll come back. And maybe I’ll get answers to dumb questions and I’ll get to apologize for not seeing him before we traded waters and I’ll get to tell him how he saved me like maybe it would’ve mattered and I’ll get to find out of it’s him when I’m walking in the surf and I feel wind grab hold around my waist right as the tide teases in and drags back out.
I make friends with birds, like he made friends with bees, and the soles of my feet sting from broken bits of seashell biting my soft and uncalloused flesh, and cold salt water pours in. I know he’d be proud and grinning wide and saying something simple yet humbling about how none of this really matters and it’s all a sensory illusion, and I’d get annoyed because theory doesn’t mean I can’t still feel my thighs rub together and feel self conscious, but he’d still look at me like I was something. Something so fucking magnificent he could never break past that barrier to touch me no matter how dense the tension because he didn’t want to taint me with the wickedness he saw in his soul. I never saw it. And he never believed me.
Originally written January 8 2018, on the beach at Casey Key.