“Tell the truth.
Then obscure it with fact.”
body, remember #manifesto
We know what we have is finite, we know it has to end, but we stumble just the same because knowing is not the same as believing. This, then, is our fatal flaw. The way we consider our maybe next times and our second chances, our opportunities to change things. We plot and plan – redemption, revenge, renewal – because we never truly accept that something can be lost to us. We tell ourselves that we live in a world of infinite possibility, that time heals everything and we assume that tomorrow will give us another day. We waste so much time believing in the benign nature of time itself, in the idea that it will somehow expand to contain everything we want of this world. If we just keep going. If we never, ever give up.
But you are gone. That which was endless is suddenly contained. The ending has been written, and even if I travel backward through all that came before I will one day arrive at the point where the beginning resides, where there is nothing new to discover.
I can feel the real loss waiting for me here. When I exhaust our memories I will be left only with what we never knew. There will be no new words to decipher, no clumsy mistakes to ponder, no new arguments on which to stake our silence. No new white-flag smiles and no new resolutions. No new landscape awaits our exploration – we will have mapped our love entirely.
You had such an enduring faith in tomorrow, Mack. So much so that you never had both feet planted here in today. And now you are gone. What happens to tomorrow without you there, waiting?
When it was tomorrow I liked it more – and thought it just might be the dream I slept over so easily the night before …
Image: Joanne Piechota
Our friendship is a triumph over suspicion. We’ve both been building barriers our whole lives and we court each other in kind. She forgives me for how we met because the relief is too strong, it hits us both, the immediate understanding that we are both connected and somehow in this, less alone.
All that we do not ask in the first tentative weeks, all that we do not say because the words are not yet ready to hit the light, will define it. We continue to meet every morning, we sit side by side and share the paper and pass the sugar. We barely speak. Shoulder to shoulder, the occasional leaning in. If we start to talk something will be broken. We both have too much locked up inside to risk the breach. But we sit together every day and the barriers start asking to fall.
By the time we get there, when we are finally ready to tell our stories, they will arrive as recognition, as reminders of what we already knew. We will trade histories that wind and weave through different tracks, occasionally coming close, sparking off each other before heading off in a different direction. Two lives in a city of millions that ran parallel at times, and the ignorance of each other’s existence until one morning when Lucy Mason goes for a run and I drop the coffee jar with a crack on the floor.
Here our lives stop and turn. We are oriented toward each other in this irrevocable moment, the gears changing on both of our lives, as her love and mine collide.
It will take months for the stories to surface. But for now we show up for coffee every morning before work, and on the weekends there is a type of longing until Monday swings back around. Thirty minutes that become the sanctuary of my day, the only place where I can hold you close, and feel that somehow, someway you are mine to keep.
You belong to both of our secrets now, Mack.
(An excerpt from the beginnings of the friendship between Maggie and Lucy – the woman Mack was trying to help when he died)
You say – your body is so beautiful. And I think living under the sea must do strange things to a man – but I look to see, just the same.
Sheets lifted, a coy appraisal of flesh marinated in the salt and oil of a borrowed summer, this skin I will shed in the grey back home. The chipped red of holiday nails, grains of sand in the curve of my foot, nerves that still pulse in flexing toes. Pliant muscles and the startling white of hidden parts. The ways the ocean has left its mark.
You can’t keep your hands off my fault lines – they start their journey over as I kick off the sheets. You taste of rum and cherries as the tremors build, and you say my body is beautiful when it breaks apart again.
You are not the only one who has emerged from the deep (we are both made beautiful in the early morning light).
You are not the first to say it. I have encountered a variation on this theme my whole life. Never at the beginning – rather, it seems to come as something of a surprise, arriving with the first disagreement, the first negation. When I lose that dreamy quality to reveal I have in fact been listening all along. It somehow feels like a trick – my personality sleight of hand.
Challenging. You say I am challenging. Not a challenge – no that has a different connotation altogether. That suggests some sort of game to be played, a battle to be fought and won. You can prepare for a challenge – it belongs squarely in your understanding of the world – you always could stay the course. But a challenging woman – that presents another risk entirely.
You find me confronting. My honesty in particular – which I thought was merely conversation. It gets us into trouble time and again after those first blinkered weeks. I am barely at the beginning of us, the unraveling is why I am here but you want to press pause, to keep your impression of my best parts. Like a painting best viewed at a distance, I will distort if you get too close. This is how you like your art.
Perhaps I should have left you sooner – left you with your pretty picture. I certainly would have come off better – the girl that could have been, the one that got away. You would have never known my contradictions, my lightening temper, the knife-edge of my discontent. I would have been the curious, compassionate lover, not the difficult, demanding shrew. But you placed the pedestals opposite each other, and I climbed right down from both.
You have an idea of women, I know. All the things we are meant to be. We are allowed to feel passion when the one who reaps the reward is you. But if we provoke, if we poke holes in your sanctimony, if we catechise – it’s challenging. It isn’t nice. And nice is what you go home to. I am reminded of this every day.
But here’s what I know better than you. We each contain multitudes – the glimmers and sparks of disparate parts. Every effort to confine our contradictions is a disconnect. Not just from each other, but from our own essential nature – a far worse schism when the lights go out. You have to look up close, you have to examine the inconsonance in any character. That is where the honest individual resides. Every cell connected. The sum greater than even its nicest parts.
(They have told you lies about the human experience. It is always, always worth challenging).
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
and human love will be seen at its highest.
Live in fragments no longer. Only connect …
Image by Joanne Piechota.
It took you three full days. Then the little red flag and your name.
‘Did you get home alright the other night?’
‘I was thinking. I should have walked you home …’
‘Oh ha, that’s okay. I can take care of myself’
‘I’ve no doubt. Still, I probably should have. It’s just …’
‘It might have been more dangerous with me there’
A full hour and then:
‘I might not have stopped at your door’
This is is how it begins. A little dance of words, each sentence extending an invitation to the next. One offering accepted and then another until your fingers are tripping over the keys in your eagerness to propel this thing forward. My response was immediate. I had waited three full days.
‘I like living dangerously’
And that was it. The beginning of us. Seduction can be so banal.
The dream is always the same. It is always about reach, about skin and breath and compacted air, how any distance between you pulses with the memory of touch. There is a softness to the desire, and a recognition, because in dreams it is about return, about visiting the caves of your sub-conscious and finding the little pieces of history you’ve hidden there. You get to spend hours in these dark rooms together, turning over your memories, sinking in to the want they hold. There is such ache to the bone and longing in the muscle here – in the reach, on the skin – the hunger saturates you until you are soaking wet, and you can lick the sadness from your fingers as you part. It tastes of all that is lost in waking hours and it lingers like an echo through the rest of your day. The dream is always the same.