My dearest love,
It’s been months since I’ve heard from you. I have almost completely accepted the fact that this must be how you have chosen things to be. You have chosen this as our ending, a gentle fade into the sunset. This was not the ending I chose for us and so I write you one final letter.
I’ve always had this romantic notion of letters. Of honest to goodness pen and paper. There is a magic that happens as the ink slides across the paper. How a seemingly random and senseless series of movements, each so subtle on its own when combined together can some how produce something so beautiful. A cohesive and coherent way to share your thoughts with another person.
I know that a letter probably won’t bring you back after all this time has passed. I only pray that you are safe and happy and that if you do think of me it is not with a heavy heart, for as our time together travels further into our past it becomes a fond memory and not a regret. If you have moved on with your life I don’t wish you ill will. I only want happiness for you. Which is what I want for myself. And up until today, I still held on hope that you would call to tell me that you love me still. To tell me that you’re still going to come home to me one day, someday soon.
But even as I write those words I know they will not be true. I know that our story ends here, with the words that the random strokes of my pen have created. For us, this is our ending. One final letter to say I loved you. Somewhere in my past and some days still in my present, you held my heart. And when I tell this story somewhere in the future I will speak of our beautiful love story that ended with a letter to say goodbye.
And with that, I close. Not with a desperate plea for you to call. Not with the hope that somewhere in your heart you still love me. But only with goodbye.
I drove my car into your porch last night
I just had to see you again
I had so many things I needed to tell you
But I can never decide where to begin…
His face crumbled as the realization of what was happening sank in. The response was delayed by the confusion that hit first. Like a cartoon character he went running off a cliff. And as it always does, it took that extra moment for him to realize that he was no longer on solid ground. Suddenly he felt himself go crashing to the bottom of the canyon in a puff of dust.
He searched her face for something, anything comforting. Remorse, regret, recognition… but he was met by a blank, cold stare marred only by the slightest hing of disgust.
I told you not to love me.
He stared after her as she walked away, desperate for any sign of hesitation as she reached for the door, opened it and left his life forever. There wasn’t any.
She watched him as she told him that she was leaving. If she had thought about it more it might have amused her slightly to know that he hadn’t seen it coming. But she wasn’t about to waste the time and energy necessary to contemplate that.
She watched his face crumble. It turned her stomach just a little.
I told you not to love me.
She felt his eyes on her as she turned to walk away. She knew that she should say something to him, to make some attempt to ease his pain but she thought better of it. it would make things worse. The worst thing she could possibly do right now is to give him hope. He obviously was capable of creating something out of nothing. No reason to give him any scrap of anything resembling possibility. She let the door close behind her. She stopped and stood for a moment. She wondered if she’d ever think of him again. As she walked down the hallway to the stairs, she dismissed the idea as ridiculous. She was wrong.
The first hot days of spring always have a hint of desperation on the breeze. It’s as if Mother Nature is trying a bit too hard to get us to forget about the tragedies of winter. A not so subtle plea to pull us from our caves and reassure us that it’s safe to go out again.
That day in May was no exception. It was hot, unseasonably so. A day too hot for school, which was why when he picked her up that morning they headed in the opposite direction.
She slid into the seat with a fresh batch of cookies she’d made for his birthday. Speaking of hints of desperation… but she was too young to see the cliches, too starry eyed to care. No, today was her first hot day of spring and she was leaving the cave. You could talk about the rotten relationship she’d just gotten out of. You could talke about the prospect of graduation looming on the horizon, with leaving for college hiding just behind. Today, those didn’t matter. She was empowered by the trappings of spring that made you feel like today really was the first day of the rest of your life. And today, she was sure that life involved him.
He drove his old pick up truck out the dusty road on the edge of town. A dirt road winding through overgrowth and dirt piles. She remembered being out there as a child, picking raspberries with her grandmother. Even years later the strange combination of the fragrance of raspberries dancing in the dust of a hot summer breeze takes her back down that dirt road. But she wasn’t here to pick raspberries today. She looked out the window and tried to quiet the butterflies in her stomach.
He reached down to turn the radio up. She reached into her bag for the cd she’d scrambled to find in time for today. It was the follow up to a band she’d heard him mention and she had managed to find a copy. His eyes lit up when he saw the case. She put in the cd and tried to pretend that she had ever heard any of the songs before.
“Man, I love this song,” he began to drum his fingers on the steering wheel. He stretched his neck forward to look out the windshield and up at the sky. “Almost there.” He turned to smile at her and she studied his face, committing this moment to memory.
He drove a little bit further as she looked around wondering how this patch of dirt was different than the one they had just passed or the one they would inevitably get to next. But apparently they were different to him as he slowed the truck and rolled to a stop.
“There,” he said, killing the engine, ”perfect.” He left the music playing, reached back to open the back window, opened the door and slid out of the truck. “Bring the cookies.”
She had no idea where the heck she was going but climbed out of the truck, tupperware in hand. He dropped the tailgate and jumped up into the bed. He reached down and offered her a hand to help her up.
“Any minute now,” he said as he cracked open the cookies and layed down in the back of the truck. She layed down next to him and stared up into the cloudless, endless sky. She wondered if he was messing with her, or if she was missing something. It had to be one of the two.
And then she heard the roar of an engine. As a plane buzzed over her, barely clearing the trees, she remembered why this was open space. She realized that he was right, this patch of dirt was different and infinitely better than the last 3 miles of dirt they drove through to get here. Almost as soon as that plane was gone from sight, another came, this time heading in for a landing.
They layed there all day watching planes take off and land. They talked about everything and nothing all at once. They talked about futures and pasts. It was the one and only time they would share a day together.
She left that day with her heart tied in knots for him. He left that day and never called her again. She spent that summer reliving that day. Celebrating everything that went right, questioning everything that could have gone wrong. And she listened to that album.
It was that album, that she had worked so hard to get her hands on, that became her soundtrack that summer, as she played it over and over and over again. And when she left for college in the fall, it was that album that became the conversation starter with the man who would become her husband.
So perhaps Mother Nature isn’t so desperate after all. It was that hot day that pulled her out of her cave, desperate to forget the tragedies of winter. And as she layed in that truck watching planes take off to better places she wanted nothing more than a reason to believe that maybe this year would be better than the last…
She sat on the tailgate of the truck and let her legs dangle over the side. She looked down at her shoes and watched her shoelaces dance in swirly patterns against the dark tar of the freshly paved parking lot. She knew that the silence was about to transition from acceptable and poignant into awkward. She looked up at him, and squinted against the bright sunlight. He was looking away, pretending to be interested in the chaos that can only be created by a dismissal bell on a hot, almost summer day. Truth be told, he didn’t care at all what was happening over there, but he sure as hell didn’t want her to know that.
“Hello? I’m over here.” She swung her leg out to catch his. Maybe she could lighten the mood.
He looked back at her trying to look more angry than hurt. He failed. She had failed too. There was no lightening this mood. Not today. She could tell from the furrow of his brows that she had hurt him. Fortunately for her, she had the advantage of being 17 and not really caring.
“Listen, if it’s going to be a big deal, I won’t go. I don’t want to piss you off.” Lie #1
“No,” he answered, searching the crowd again, “It’s not a big deal. It’s fine.” Lie #2
“Baby, I can tell you’re upset. I don’t want you to be all upset all weekend.” Lie #3
“I won’t be, you and me, we can go another time. You go. Have fun.” Lie #4
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. It’s no big deal. I’ll be here when you get home.” Lie #5
She woke up and glanced over to the empty pillow next to her. A sense of relief washed over her. It could have gone either way, and she was decidedly happy with the outcome. She must have been dreaming, nothing more. She smiled to herself as she rolled over and pulled the covers back up around her neck.
She silently cursed herself for even questioning her resolve. Sleep was no excuse for letting down her guard and she was upset for even thinking that she would have done so. She knew her rules, she knew all too well why she had them.
Rule #1 – Always wake up alone.
That’s when she heard the shower turn on. What the hell? She sat straight up in bed. Someone was in her apartment. But a burgular probably wouldn’t be taking a shower. No, she couldn’t be so lucky. Someone breaks in, she has the right to bash them in the head with a baseball bat. No, this was much, much worse. She had let this one in. Dammit.
He knew it was foolish to lament the loss of something that he never really had, pointless even. The frustration of that futility only added to the aching in his chest. He sat alone at the table and watched the steam rising from his cup of coffee. He watched it billow and swirl and prayed that it would somehow fill the gaping hole left in his chest. The cavernous space that once held the promise of something better. The promise that life hadn’t forgotten about him. But as the steam continued up towards the heavens he watched as it too passed him by.
He turned to look out the window. Through the grimy windows he could see the cars as they passed. He watched as they slowed down for the changing light. He envied their sense of purpose. Where were they going? Whether it was from somewhere or to somewhere, they had a destination. His only destination was to sit in this booth. He looked down at the table and he slid his hand across. He closed his eyes to feel the cold, smooth familiar surface. He opened his eyes and was reminded that he was alone. The loss flooded back all over again.
He pulled the pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He slid one out slowly, caressing it between his fingers. He set it on the table in front of him and stared at it.
The waitress approached with the coffee pot. “Need a light, hun?”
He looked up, confused. “Huh? Oh, uh… no. I’m fine, thanks.” He picked up the cigarette and pushed his coffee to the edge of the table.
She looked at him with a mix of curiosity and amusement as she filled his coffee. “Okay, you good with coffee?”
He mustered up the closest he could get to a smile, “Yep. I’m good.” But she had already moved on to the next table. He watched her as she walked from booth to booth pouring coffee and pretending to give a shit about how these people were or if they were enjoying their runny eggs.
He looked back at the cigarette in his hands. “Fuck it,” he thought and put it to his lips. The lighter crackled to life as he closed his eyes and tilted his head down to the flame. If everyone has a distinct way that they light a cigarette, this was his. Eyes closed, head tiltled down and slightly to the right. Always the same. Always.
And with that first inhale the smoke filled the cavernous hole in his chest. He forgot that he was aching. He forgot the pain. But for every inhale there is an exhale. And he couldn’t hold his breath forever.
The doubt creeps in slowly at first. It seems impossible to pinpoint the moment it started. Often it’s difficult to even recall the exact words what were said. In reality, it doesn’t matter what was said or when it started. Once it has begun, it’s unstoppable.
You’re standing behind a giant wall. You notice that there’s a spot in the corner where the concrete has darkened. It’s cooler than it should be, damp to the touch. You can’t even see the crack. Your fortress was supposed to be impenetrable. Nature always finds a way. You should know that by now.
You look away for a moment. It was a split second, really, nothing more. You turn around and there are tiny droplets. They’re forming along a now visible crack. It curls across the wall in a sneer, mocking your sense of security. It seems as if it’s spreading, expanding. You are suddenly aware that the wall is opening up its jagged teeth and at any moment it could swallow you whole. The water comes in drops and dribbles at first. Then the floods come.
A simple thought, most likely dismissed, raps its knuckles on an indestructible wall. Before you realize it has happened the floods have overtaken you. You can try to cling to what you thought were truths, but once the doubt grabs hold, there is no truth. Not anymore.
It was funny she should mention it. I had found the picture this morning. I was shuffling around boxes in the basement which inevitably meant that I was opening boxes in the basement, going through their contents and generally forgetting what the hell I went down there for. Today was no exception and my latest excursion found me sitting on the floor surrounded by pictures and journals, newspaper clippings and greeting cards. I found the picture of her and me.
We stood there, in all of our 22 year old glory, in front of a fountain. The picture is woefully (and in retrospect, ironically) over exposed and in the harsh sunlight we look like a couple of squinty bananas. If bananas had eyes to squint, of course.
I’ve been reliving my ‘glory days’ a lot lately. Telling stories ad nauseum about when I was young and reckless and impulsive. I think that trip to Nashville all those years ago may top the list. We decided on a whim to get on a plane and fly halfway across the country. We went to a place we’d never been before. We sat by a river and listened to music for days. We picked up boys at a cowboy bar. She stood on a chair while being serenaded for her birthday. We danced in a fountain at 2 in the morning. We drank tequila at 10 in the morning before we got on the plane. (Not advised, btw) It was a perfect weekend. It will forever stay in my memory as such. Maybe that’s why I held that picture a little longer. As I sat there in the basement looking at that picture I wondered how almost 10 years had passed so quickly. What the hell had happened? When had I changed from that Nashville banana to an old potato?
I guess I don’t really have to wonder… it’s the natural progression that my life has taken. I have become rooted and grounded in my ways. I have become dependent on ritual and routine. No longer do I hang from trees soaking in the sunlight. Now I’m up to my eyes in cow manure, always reaching up towards the sun just trying to break through to the surface. Yikes.
I shouldn’t make it sound as terrible as that last paragraph makes it seem. I love the earth. I love the feel of solid footing. I do not like uncertainty. I am not an impulsive or reckless person and I’m certainly not as young as I used to be. Maybe I’m just bitter that I can’t wear a bandanna as a top (what in the hell was I thinking) because I now look more like a potato than a banana. Heh. But I miss that girl. I miss that fountain and I miss that friend. I don’t want to be the same girl that I was at 22. I’m happy at 31. The life I have now is better than I could have imagined it would be. I am blessed on so many levels that I cannot begin to express. And I certainly don’t want to be a 31 year old acting like 22. But 22 was so good. So free. And it feels good to remember… I can almost feel the sunshine on my face.
–adjective incapable of being replaced; unique
I was having a conversation with someone about whether anyone in life is irreplaceable. It’s a slippery slope down which to start, especially when your brain defaults to melodrama and a little self-indulgent depression every now and then. It’s very defeating to think that everything and everyone in life is replaceable.
On some levels, it most definitely seems true… With training and time, anyone at work could be replaced. They could find someone to complete my given tasks. In all truth, they could probably find someone to complete my assignments more efficiently or more effectively. I’m not perfect, none of us are. And while I understand that to be true and it helps to keep what little ego I have in check, I don’t entirely agree with that statement.
In order to defend my position I’ve got to go out on a limb. It’s a place where I spend quite a bit of my time, so I’m okay with it. See, I don’t believe we are simply the sum of our actions. I feel like the reason we are here, and why we are in the precise location that we are at any given moment is because of our re-actions and inter-actions with others. We are all intertwined in a tangled web of give and take. I give to you you, you give to me. We feed and feed off of each other in a way that is unique to each combination of people. No other person in this world will have the exact relationship to me as someone else.
Take love for example. I have one love in my life. He is the answer to my question. The peanut butter to my jelly. He and I have both loved before and God forbid we ever face this, but I am fairly certain we could each love again. So when you look at it superficially, we are in essence replacing something else and ultimately replaceable ourselves. But we are replaceable as a noun. As a lover, as a husband or a wife, a partner. As one of those things individually, yes. People have multiple husbands or wives. But no one person could ever be the exact combination of all of these things in the way that someone else was or will be. Nobody will ever fit into my life the way he does. No one will hug exactly the same or lean into a kiss the same. You can kiss and hug a thousand people…. it doesn’t matter. Substitutes are not replacements. I am not however inserting commentary as to whether a substitute is better or worse than its predecessor. Hands down, my love is better than the ones who came before. And no questions asked, just about anyone would be better than my friend’s sleazy husband.
But yet time and time again, it seems to be so true. We live in a disposable society. We no longer fix things, we simply buy new. From little things like coffee makers and toasters to bigger things like dishwashers and refrigerators. Is it broken? Awesome, an excuse to get that new model I’ve been eyeing. Unfortunately, this has permeated into every aspect of our being. Relationship problems? Time for a new one.
I should insert a disclaimer right here and now: I know that some things, especially relationships are unfixable. I am not, nor shall I ever suggest that anyone should ‘stick it out’ in a broken relationship. That’s a whole different soapbox post for a different day.
I find it important to add that my parents who will this year celebrate 35 years of marriage have had the same stove for approximately 30 years. And while the stove will inevitably break beyond repair at some point, there’s something to be said for that. Or maybe there isn’t.
My point is in here somewhere… Where the hell did I leave it? Okay. Back. So where I connect one side of my argument to the other? How do I get by saying everything is replaceable in our disposable society yet nothing is actually replaceable? It’s that little addition to the definition. An aside, almost…
What makes us irreplaceable is the fact that we are unique. And what makes us unique are our energetic interactions with each other. The way the molecules in my body change when I’m close to someone I care about. The way that the trajectory of a day can change based on one interaction. That is what makes us unique. That is what makes us irreplaceable.
Coffee makers are not unique. They come out of the factory exactly the same. I am not a coffee maker dammit. You can not replace me. But I sure do love my newest model…. until something better comes along…