There is always the first time someone lets you down.
Always the first wound, and even if they tend to that wound after, even if they do everything to make up for what they inflicted, it’s hard not to hold on to that very first time. The first time you were a bright spark of hope, and the person who lit you up looked at your light, and asked you to lay down your torch.
There is always the first wound. It remains where it formed; it remains locked deep under the skin. Scar tissue is never as supple as that which it replaces.
(How hard it is to undo our mind once we believe something to be true. Once we’ve committed to an idea. Even when it’s the most damaged idea we’ve ever had).
I broke what we had, and it’s our love that is in fragments. So what if a piece or two stayed lodged in our hearts. That’s more like a wound than love, in the end.
In the end.
When do you get to the end of love? The moment it breaks apart? Or is that just another beginning? I don’t know anything. Or I know this. My love for Ash has been revived like some Frankenstein’s monster, a gross, distorted version of what it was before. A version where I break up his family, take him from his child, from the friends who wouldn’t choose his happiness this time, because they wouldn’t trust it, wouldn’t trust me. That version, the one I’ve cobbled together since we met up again – at a bar not unlike this one, come to think – that version is why I had to leave, and why I am more alone than ever, here in this never-sleeping city.
In the end.
In the end, you can’t get back what you’ve lost. You can’t bring back the dead. There is a girl who died today, and I don’t even know her name. I will need the police or the papers to tell me. I will need them to tell me the way she died. Even though I was the one who made it real, even though I was the one who finished whatever was started last night, or this morning, when someone smashed in her skull, when they left her on the rocks, half-naked and waiting.
I need another whiskey. I can see her face. I know she wants to tell me something. I know she has something to say about all there is to lose – in the end.
I head back to the bar, passing the nuzzling, love-soaked couple and their shared couch cushion. Wanting, suddenly, to stop and tell them that I’m so very sorry for everything that will surely come their way.
I never expected to have the kind of life they put on Christmas cards. I knew there were times ahead as dark as the ones already gone. I knew I would not suddenly glide through life, as if on ice skates in some soda commercial. I’m the kind to bump, and fall. I knew I’d have many, many bruises to come. But I wanted them. I want them now. I want the stain under my skin that says things are alive and warm in here, and parts can die, but the rest of you lives on. I’m even jealous of paper cuts now, of all the sharp, surprising stings. The way every nerve jumps to your surface, the protest of it. The way that when you hurt, it means you are alive.
I’m not going to make it.
Time is its own slowing beat right now. My life before is being lived again, and the life ahead, the one I haven’t had a chance to reach yet, that’s playing for me too. I see myself two years from now, five, ten, twenty-seven. I’m not even old by then, by the time I’ve accumulated all that extra living. But there are entire lives I’ve lived to get there. A kaleidoscope of people and feelings and mistakes and love. I see it all ahead of me, and I know I am not going to get to live it.
I am already dead, perhaps, in the way that parts of you die first, before the rest of you catches up. I can’t find any rope to hold onto, anything to pull myself along, to get myself back into my body. The body, it keeps the score. It knows and wins or loses without you ever really getting to say. That man has killed my body. I am untouched in other places, but my body is now splayed out on the rocks, and he has gone, and soon there will be a lonely girl who looks down and out across at me. I see her coming or see her already here and she’s sadder than I’ve ever been, because all of her sorrow is simmering still. It hasn’t boiled over and scalded her life, so she can’t say for sure just what it is that happened to her.
I’ll still know the date you said yes, still see the girl with her hand to her mouth and her back to the wall, surrounded by love and alcohol – these midwives who birthed her grief, and carried her, carefully, back into the world.
I’ll still know those next years by your door and its swinging. The calendar of words and reaching from either side, and the times we didn’t speak at all. How I left a trail of breadcrumbs all over the silence – and how you didn’t follow them home.
And I’ll know the times you did.
I’ll still know the last time I saw you, love. The last, last time, and I’ll count away from this day, as if it is my midnight, the end and the beginning of everything. Wondering still, in the dark of this hour, if the way you couldn’t love me – meant I couldn’t be loved at all.