My mind wanders.
My eyes open.
It’s been three years since I bought you the ring. It was perfect, remember? Like nothing no one had seen before. It was vintage. And it was you. And it felt so right.
Three years since I proposed, and I still can’t sort out the sounds of the beating of my heart you saying yes us laughing the sounds of our kisses the slowing then speeding up of our bodies our breathing as we make love.
The speeding up and slowing down of time.
The image of a wooden box …
Your house is fixed up finally. It finally becomes our house. I have my home.
We fill it with the things that are Us. We don’t live like the Boring Rest.
We are a family. The four of us. You, me, the girls. We are glued, bonded permanently by love and arguments and lessons learned and taught and tears and laughter and talking and weekend night Netflix binges and lazy Saturday morning pancakes, Nutella French toast sandwiches topped with fresh strawberries.
I hold my breath a second. Something hurts. I picture the box again.
The image goes away because we go to concerts, check in to hotels, wander strange cities travel have adventures laugh.
We have our jobs. Our workaday lives. We text each other throughout the day. Just hellos I miss yous silly memes that make us laugh – remember that time?
But that box …
We come home. You make dinner it’s amazing as always. The night winds down showers and everybody to bed and phones away as the girls grumble damp-haired and fresh from showers in soft PJs as they hand them over kiss us goodnight hugs and they close the door behind us.
We cuddle up to each other, saying as we always do – that this our favorite part of the day. Our bodies melding into one comfylump bedbeast. I breathe in the smell of your hair.
We take our medication together.
The dark times behind us.
The feeling empty cold stomach alone in the same room, the old rituals frozen meaningless.
You’ve forgiven me, forgiven the things I did, the betrayal when I was hurt and mad and lost, the excuses, the attacks, the justifications.
I tried so hard to build a cocoon of safety around you, around us, nothing no one will ever hurt you ever.
Until I did.
Until I tore it all down.
Until I lost.
Lost my home.
Until my depression showed me just what kind of person I could be when everything became too much the lies of the secret lives I led.
And I loved you.
I love you.
I will always love you.
And you love me. But we can never put back together what I tore down. And all the past three years have been our dissolution, our separation. And all I have are the what if pasts and revisionist memories of an alternate reality life. The old dry cattle bone shade wood skeleton houses built in the minds of the guilty and the regretful. Built so they can be haunted.
We loved each other.
Love each other.
And I thought love … I thought love …
Love could not save us.
This is not a movie.
This is not a Broadway musical or a fairy tale.
Our love was not stronger than our mental illnesses. We became our poison.
And now, three years later, I know two things with certainty:
I cannot see you again, because it will destroy me, because I see how our scars have scabbed, they scabbed very differently, and we will never be at peace.
And I still love you.
I will always love you.
What a cruel, fucking joke.
When will it go away?
Does it ever go away?
Am I stupid for voicing this thought out loud? Am I naïve? Am I a fool for not knowing something everyone else does?
Still I live on, I breathe, I walk.
I live my life I laugh my laugh.
But in the quiet and alone, in the brief pauses between heartbeats, in the passing shimmer of a shooting star, a thought escapes.
How to close what remains open?
Where do I put all this when it comes creeping out and still brings me to tears?
I have this box, you see.
It’s made of wood.
Upon it’s surface a delicate filigreed, swirling pattern is carved.
It’s not a real, this box.
It looks like one my brother gave me. But this box is in my mind. I place those feelings in there.
Usually they escape. Sometimes I purposely take them out.
They’re so heavy. My heart the sick weight of a collapsing star.
Every day I drag it an inch further away from my heart.
One day they’ll stay in there, those feelings.
One day they won’t come out.
Maybe one day I’ll stop sensing them pulsating within.
And then maybe one day, I don’t know when, maybe one day the box will disappear completely.
And I’m terrified of that day.