She is supposed to be his safe haven, the place he can go to when he is exhausted. Didn’t he tell her once that she was the shore, or had she imagined that after he played her a song with such words? Has she afforded him a depth of feeling and meaning that he has never really possessed?
What would it be like if she could see him going about his day just now. The care he gives to others, the attention he bestows on anyone not her. Perhaps, just a little, he hates her. Despises how she has led him down a path he cannot return from. Cannot make up from. He forgets all this in her arms, of course, or when he is alone in another clean, wide-bed hotel room and he has had one too many wines to fall asleep. In these moment she is all he can think of. His dark-eyed lover, the one whose body he has traversed and drowned in and drunk from, all these years. Sometimes the ache for her is no different from thirst or hunger. A primal need her skin and scent satisfies.
Other times, like now, when she sends her SOS from across the ocean, he wishes she would leave him be, thinks of life before her, and after her, too, if he could just say the words he needs to. Why doesn’t she understand? Why does she keep coming back for more? She cannot lose him, he was never hers to begin with, he never offered himself the way she offered herself to him. This is not his fault. What is he supposed to do? Leave his wife and children for a woman he barely knows, barely even likes, if he’s honest?
If he’s honest.
Thanks to her, he feels as if he has never been honest a single day of his life.
~ Elliott, What We Have Left
What we have left, indeed!
This, this was the day your life changed. Slowly, then all in a rush. You used to think it was the day before you met him. You used to think about the lack of hunger, the lack of yearning, the something missing-ness of your life. You got so used to recognizing him, the back of him, in any room, in any anecdote or situation that you forgot who you were the day before. Let me tell you. If I could sit down with you on that last day, when you did not know him, did not think of him in some way.
You were healing, piecing yourself back together. And it suited him to keep you broken.
Full circle. Or something similar.
A memory that sits closer to the surface. A different conversation we dance around. We are discussing what would happen in the hours after Honey, I’m home! How it would be, if we were the ones on either side of the door. We spin an imagined history between us on this sunny, stolen afternoon.
That sure would be something, you say. If life were a dream.
You think my view of domesticity is naïve at best. You do not believe two people could sustain this every day. An intensity of skin to skin that does not leave room for God or neighbours, or tricycles turned over in the yard. Obsession may prevail in moments, yes – but it does not leave nearly enough time for real life, Maggie.
My parents still waltz in the kitchen, I defend. In the midst of chaos, they go into their dance. It makes the chaos beautiful. Or the dance. Even when there is work to be done.
Because not all love is scheduled, I say as you look at your watch.
But the moment is gone. I can see that I have lost you to the clock, once again.
Sometimes, I time travel through their wounds.
I take them back to before. Before the wheels over-corrected, or the under-tow pulled too hard. I take them back to the moment before they said yes to that guy or before they turned that corner – before life began to slide away from where they’d been.
I’m piecing them back to how they were, when they were whole and untouched. Everyone has it. Every body has it. A time before. Some people get further along than others – some get to live entire lives in the before.
Others come with the smallest amount of time and grace, and fall quickly into the after.
Into the after. The new working title for my second novel. To write, I need a literary leitmotif, a melody of words and ideas to thread through the story. I’ve found it here. Now the work begins …
… This name that was mine from the beginning.
In every beginning an ending is written.
It is one of the very first things I told you. When I would lie naked in your arms, spinning my stories. The mind of a poet, and the body of a goddess, you once said against my chest – and I wrapped this description like a gift. It was rare for you to be so gracious with your definitions, Mack.
I did not know that it would end like this.
(It was so easy to name you. I knew him. And then I met you. The recognition was instant.
And you never, ever did send me roses. Just like I forgot to keep my head.)