I’ve always hated unpacking. A full months-old suitcase usually laying on my bedroom floor. I’ve never been good at letting go. Hanging onto the things that hurt the most, as if without them I’d be alone.
Holding on to you, the same poem, as if without you I couldn’t find a metaphor. As if there’d be nothing left to write about if I stopped drowning in the ocean that is your memory and finally made it back to the shore.
Holding on to its every vein and vessel, keeping it close to my chest like the blood was mine.
Again and again, I swallow every alternate ending, every version of what could have been, like it isn’t bitter like it’s the only thing I can put in my mouth that tastes sweet.
Holding you like snow in my hands fallen under the Aurora Borealis skies, like you could melt through my fingers if I left you out in the sun for too long.
Hanging onto the ghost of your memory with white knuckles and cramped fists. Your t-shirt coming away with claw marks, with bits of my fingernails, and in strips.
I built a goddamn home out of all the poetry carved by your memory. I forwarded every bill and every letter to its address. I left a spare key under the mat in case you made the less safe choice and came home to me.
I still remember your dream. You said it was always me standing there, as beautiful as ever, behind a doorway, looking at you with hungry eyes and smiling like inviting you in. You admiring me, knowing you had to walk in, knowing without a doubt it was where you were supposed to be. Waking up before you ever did. You said it meant it was where you belonged. That it was always, and would always be with me. That I was your fate. That you’d walk through the day you were ready. That we had to do it right with a love like this.
The key is still there. The back door has always been unlocked. And I still haven’t seen your headlights come up the driveway. These hands are tired of writing, tired of adding new corridors and rooms to a house that has always been empty. These arms that have never learned how to let you go are tired of waiting.
I’ve got your name branded on my skin, and it’s got me thinking about tattoos, about the things I would have to do to erase you. You said you love me yesterday, today and tomorrow. That’s the only thing you’ve ever given me that I could hold. But words aren’t enough anymore.
I keep reading a story I hold dear to heart, but one that pains me. I’m exhausted from it. I want to create something that isn’t only written in I love you’s and I miss you’s. I realize now that it’s all I’ll ever have with you.
It’s like the song says, maybe I’m too busy being yours to fall for someone new. It’s like I threw in all my effort not to forget you. Like I put all my faith in things I’ve never believed in like destiny, fate, and dishonest men.
I think I’ve been afraid to let you go. To let every memory go. To let it go. To let it all go. I think I didn’t want to forget you. Because forgetting anything that has to do with you would almost ache as much as holding on.
Because I couldn’t imagine not remembering that lopsided smile, the light that would escape the corners of those little eyes when you looked at me and how much smaller they got when you were high. And that mouth. That fucking mouth. The way it played with mine. The way it awakened in me things not from this world when it roamed my body inch by inch. The way it tasted. Like if heaven was real and it had a flavor your mouth would have to be it. The way it lassoed every constellation in the sky with its tongue to come to rest at our feet when we kissed.
I had this fear of forgetting the way you made me feel because no one ever made me feel the way you did. A type of way that to this day still remains indescribable. Because love falls short of a word for what I carry for you. Because I was only every beautiful standing in front of you because standing in front of a mirror it’s never been true. Because even when I’ve been empty, I’ve been too full of you. Because I’ve never been as alive as I have been loving you.
Even when it hurt.
I think I was afraid of forgetting your voice which always felt more like a home than any other place I had ever known. But your home has never been with me. And even if you showed up at this doorstep and picked up the key under the mat, you’d come only to leave and on your way out, and put it back.
Your home has never been with me. Fuck your dream. Fuck what you said. This house has never been enough to get you to pack your things.
I’m leaving it. I’m going to stand in the front yard with a match between my fingers and in front of me and an empty jug of kerosene. I’m going to watch it burn. I’m going to cry and maybe even scream your name, but I will watch it burn, as long as it takes. I will let you go.
As much as it hurts, I’m no longer afraid to let you go.
You can’t build a home out of ashes. You can’t hold on to debris. I’m going from masochist to arsonist.
I’m no longer afraid not to be able to remember what you were for me. I’m no longer afraid of forgetting your face, your hands, or your laugh. I’m freeing my hands, finger by finger, from clinging to your memory. I’m letting go to make room for new poems and for metaphors that don’t sound like your name.
I know someday there will be someone new walls will be erected for. New rooms. New corridors. Someone whose love will water the garden and make every flower you let dry and die bloom. Someone who will inspire in me words that will carve a place that looks nothing like the one I did for you. A home that doesn’t hurt. A place I’m not alone. Somewhere not empty. And I won’t have to keep the key under the mat because they will always carry it on their keychain.
I have to let you go. It may hurt and it may take time to watch every wall fall down, for the ceiling cave in, and for it all to turn into dust, but I’m no longer afraid. Watching that fire rise and then fade will hurt less than the one you left inside this heart of mine.
No, I’m no longer afraid. You’ve never been the sun, and you’re not the only moon.
Just know that when that last piece of ash falls, I will no longer harbor any shred of softness for you.