It’s not about love.
It’s about death.
It’s about both.
I stayed with Emily and Jason way out in Brooklyn in the winter of 2010. My best friend John came too. We smoked, drank 40s from the bodega below their two-bedroom painted old-blood brown. I woke up the next morning to John crumpled up with sleep, sweaty-damp like a child beside me.
Keith Sweat was pouring through the windows of the neighboring apartment. It was January, but it was very warm. We barely needed our coats the whole five days we stayed because our bones were already pre-chilled by Minnesota’s January bite.
Jason and Emily were in love. Always touching, hands looking for the other’s presence at all times. They sat so close it was like they were conjoined twins with skinny pale tattooed arms. They were in love for a long time, way longer than I’ve been in love with anything other than myself. It’s the kind that is supposed to last forever, the lock-and-key kind of love, the big bleeding swelling dripping heart kind of love. The kind you ink on your skin in black and red.
His heart gave out.
A heart attack. His heart attacked him, and he died.
Do you love someone who died young forever, because they can’t fuck it up? They’re dead. They can’t ruin anything. They don’t exist besides in pictures and as fragments in the ground. Dead is forever, and love, usually, is not. And when someone is dead and gone – or just gone – those feelings have nowhere to go. They float around out in the open, lethal. It would be easier if you could bury them too, but instead they flit like ghosts around your head and plant spikes in your heart.
A man gave me his credit card this morning and his last name was yours. He probably watched whatever emotion I had at that moment – too quick, I don’t remember it now- flicker across my face. I smiled at him, wished him the best of the day, as he left. To those people, I exist only in the confines of the store. When they see me out in the real world, they look confused. They don’t believe I live, breathe, get coffee, fill my car up with gas like regular people. When I’m not part of their turning world, I don’t have a place. I’m erased from their scope of real, the movie of their lives. And when the store is closed, I vanish into empty space and they do too.
I’m not good with that.
When I’m home, I pretend my grandma is still in her house across the yard and maybe I just don’t have time to stop by for a visit.
I’ve been trying to bypass things that are real, waking up clawing myself out of nightmares that shake me awake, concentrating on California hills and the light of my phone. Concentrating on the little rosary beads of love in my life. The gravel roads where I grew up. Trying to forget the little glass shards of reality.
I don’t know how Emily feels. I can’t imagine how Emily feels. I can’t even try, really. I imagine she feels bereft, more than grief.
Bereft is a good word for that empty space.