Sunday morning at 7 a.m. A November Sunday – grey, cold skies. The light creeps through my self-consciousness. One eye opens, knowing but still half in the previous dream. Both eyes open. Confirmation now. You’re not there.
A quick check of the systems. No, not hung-over. Then remembering: I’m sober. Didn’t drink last night. Or the night before last. I’m sober, and the big bed is empty. Has been for a while. The rip in the comforter from where the dog used to sleep in between us stares back at me. Dog is gone too.
Not being able to help myself, I reach over to the spot where you used to be. A gentle pat and it’s time to get up.
Sunday morning. It’s good not to be hung-over, right? The whole day ahead. Free and clear. But you’re not there. Liquor store opens at noon on Sunday, you remind yourself.
Every morning is the same since you left. The memories, the pain, the guilt, the utter loneliness – all unwanted guests in the forefront of my mind – arrive right on cue. Sigh. One day at a time I am told. Yeah, right.
This time last year we were in the sun, owned the world – shorts and flip-flops and I so love your blue bikini – never imagining a time when we wouldn’t be together. We fought so hard for it that it had to work, right?
We dared even knowing what doing so would bring. We even tried hard not to for a while, as if we could avoid the kiss that changed both our lives. Forever.
What are you doing? I asked one day on g-mail. A pause before the comforting (1) appears. Looking up May to December romances, you said. I smile broadly into the small screen. What have you learned about them? Another pause. Another (1). Well, and now she spaces out the letters: the sex is unbelievable! Smiley faces follow the exclamation point. An image of lying next to you – down deep under the big comforter, feet entwined – wondering how I got so lucky. Now I’m really smiling. Dear God you make me happy, I think.
Your body. The way it fits mine and mine fits yours. This is like nothing I thought possible. Your perfectly imperfect smile and the wonderful way you scream in my ear. Never. Never, ever, ever before, you say, still short of breath, eyes aglow, until your words fail and my arms draw you close.
We made love before the fireplace in the winter. We made love while the warm Pacific lapped gently outside our open windows, the trades blowing as the Humpbacks glided silently, somewhere out there. We shared books and interesting things we had read from the Times (me) or on-line (her). We watched movies while soaking in the tub together under a mountain of bubbles. She always shut her eyes during the scary parts of The Walking Dead. We were comfortable with silence. We both loved Pachelbel’s Canon.
Our first dance was under a warm Hawaiian night. Lightning flashed in the distance. We are perfect together, you whispered. You’re my angel, I whispered back.
How do you say I love you in Tagalog? I wondered one day. Mahal Kita, I am told with that smile, the smile I loved so fiercely. That’s cool, baby. That’s really cool.
Up through the normalcy of everyone else we swam. Up through what you’re supposed to do to what we wanted to do, dreamed to do, and ultimately did. A mind that is brilliant, and fragile, and perfectly made for mine. Indeed, it was her mind – her intelligence and curiosity – that I was most attracted to. Still am. Beautiful women I’ve known. But there was simply nothing like her.
I always cry when the dog dies in movies. You said you loved that about me.
Up and up we swam, through all the different stages, through the lust turned love turned friendship turned my best friend in the world.
That and the vodka. We’ll have two, very dirty Vodka martinis, please, Leonard.
We turned heads everywhere went. The unfeigned envy, the disapproving looks. It’s all the same to me. For I am my beloved and my beloved is mine, you would say. Of our difference in age? We hardly, if ever, noticed. Perhaps it was because it was precisely what we both needed.
She was the pragmatist. I was the dreamer, the rebel. She came to secretly love my belief that rules are suggestions; that the word “can’t” simply won’t do. I came to secretly love her logic, her organization.
I would do anything for her.
Anything, it turned out, except give up the vodka.
We lived, laughed and loved with a passion. We did planks together at midnight. We spent hours at the Pai Gow table. We bopped the strip in Waikiki, trying on dresses and bathing suits.
Just the beginning, I would say, except it wasn’t.
I hated when she went out with her sisters or friends. When she went to the bars in tight jeans and low-cut shirts. When she flirted and danced with others. Made me feel out of touch. Jealous. Are these the new rules I wondered?
But I loved it when she went out with me, looking the same. I loved it when she made it plain to all that I was her guy. I loved how she loved the little things, the little gestures, my tendency to be goofy and playful. I loved how I could make her laugh. When the hurricane knocked out the power, I found coffee. Milk. One Splenda.
I really like when you’re sober, she once said.
Hard to say when your resolve began to give way. Perhaps it was it the first mean, drunken text, or it might have been the 50th. Maybe the first hospitalization, or maybe the fifth? The first time I let you down, or the last?
So give away it had to.
I helped you move. You wrote and said you still believed in us, in our dream. I still have the card. It’s next to the ring stain on my nightstand.
I’ve moved on, you wrote months later. And then sometime after that the knife through my heart: I’m seeing other people, the text leaping out from the screen in a punch to my gut, the kind that doesn’t go away. The kind that time does not heal.
Sunday afternoon. The twilight closes in.
Do you want another?, the bartender asks. I shake my head.
Let me ask you something, Maggie, I say, rising from my stool in that safe space between the waxed wood of the bar and where Maggie stands waiting for my question. Are you ever too old to have a broken heart?
She smiles quietly – sadly in that Irish way – and looks me in the eye.
No, she says.
I am sober. And you are gone.