From the time I was a child, I learned to fixate upon what I loved.
My parents would find me late at night sleeping inside the playpen that housed my favorite dolls,
Fingers curled into their straw-colored hair, wanting fiercely to protect them from the dangers of the night, I learned early to invest
All my affection in the things that made me feel like I was home
and I had never considered it a problem
Until I learned to love you that way, too.
There was the summer that we learned to scuba dive,
With sandy fingers and tired hearts
And we would curl up to each other late at night, soothing sunburns and swapping stories
About the favorite things we’d seen that afternoon –
It was a Thursday when I found that coral reef,
So clearly blue that every part of me was transfixed
I must have circled it two hundred times,
Pulling my hands close to my body to prevent myself from trailing
rough fingers across gentle reef
I refused to move on and keep swimming because
I had found what I loved
so why not stay there?
That night your hands shook while you strained our dollar pasta,
There’s an ocean, you insisted,
And it stretches so much further
than that one reef of coral and stretch of sand –
I want to see it,
I do not want to stay stuck
Circling one unchanging place.
How could I ever explain,
As I rubbed your aching shoulders back to health,
That I didn’t know any other way,
How could I possibly explain that you were that coral reef,
And we’d been swimming in circles for years?
Two months into your radio silence,
I practiced diving past the sights that I loved best,
Telling myself there is an ocean
beyond all of the spaces you love most.
And if I have to give you credit for anything,
it’s that it turns out you were right.
There was an ocean
That stretched on after loving you –
brimming brilliantly with corals and reefs
and completely encompassing your wake.
And though I still miss our stretch of sand sometimes
when the water gets murky and dark,
There is an ocean that stretches out before me
And it turns out I was always meant to do
things so much greater than simply loving you.