I Was The Tinder And You Set Me On Fire

shadow with a flame and a sunset
Aziz Acharki

I want you to know that you didn’t break me.

(It’s important to me that you know that you didn’t break me.)

You called me tinder in a world on fire, and I agreed. I’ve always thought this world might chew me up and spit me out, with my soft edges and my bleeding heart, but in this regard – and only this regard – I did not think that you and the world were the same thing.

If I was tinder, you were ash. The world had already gotten to you.

You held my hand on the sunburnt streets of a place I’m now afraid to visit. I’m afraid I’ll see our shadows there, haunting bookstores after close and counting stars on ferry boats. I’m afraid I’ll hear your laughter on the back of the wind, that I’ll be reminded and reminded and reminded that you didn’t hold my head under so much as I gladly let myself drown.

In you, in us.

I hated one thousand miles of a straight line across the country. I counted down weeks and days and hours and minutes, and every one in which I was not with you felt wasted.

Most of them were not with you.

To this day, I don’t know if distance was the thing that broke us or if it was the only reason we were able to pretend for as long as we did that we had a chance.

You did not leave me well. You left in a sudden rending, in a landslide of a blindside that took me until now, that will take me until past now, to fully understand. You left and you never looked back, but if you did, you would have found me where you left me for a very long time.

You would have found me in your truck, on the drive to the airport, trying to understand the words you were saying, watching rain fall from the sky and willing my tears to stay in my eyes. You would have found me flinching under the weight of words like “you deserve more” and “will you please say something?”

I’m not there anymore. I finally climbed out of your truck, some six months after you dropped me off, after you drove away, after I cried in the airport bathroom and stared out a plane window watching everything disappear and landed somewhere that no longer felt like home and tried to resume the life I had without the person I wanted to spend it with.

I move forward, but not on.

But still, there was that night, on your couch beside the glow of the Christmas tree, when you held your hand up to mine and marveled at how small mine was. I should have told you then that though it is small, it can hold multitudes. It could have held whatever you needed it to.

But still, there was that time I was uncertain, that time I was afraid, and you said, “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.” And I became certain, and I became unafraid.

But still, there was our plan, our grand adventure plan, to find a place where the world could never find us where you could sing and I could write and everything already threatening to tear us apart would not be able to find us.

But still, there was your hand in my hand in the dark movie theater, your thumb painting circles and stars and promises that my skin has not forgotten.

But still, there was the morning, the morning of the night you decided we were done, when you played your guitar and sang a lovely country song, and I stood in the hallway and listened and knew with a staggering certainty that there was never going to be anyone for me but you.

There was that morning, and then there was that night, and the certainty stayed with me even though you didn’t.

And now every morning I drive past the place I last heard your voice, and it rings out with your apologies, it sings out with my goodbye. It is soaked in tears that never seem to dry.

All of this is to say that I loved you and you left.

You left and I still loved you.

You’re gone, and I want you to come back.

You’re gone, and I need you to stay gone. TC mark

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Image Credit: Aziz Acharki