In the wake of your absence, I’ll at first balk at the world. I’ve been asleep for hours to forget you but when I open my eyes it’s as if I’ve been up for too many. So long that the way the light comes in through the curtains is grating, the playing, happy children don’t know something important, the dog’s life is too simple, the food is too sweet, too savory, how can I eat, the sunrise too early, the sunset the purveyor of all that is true; it will end, it will end, it will end.
In the wake of your absence – and truly I have woken – I will know it is time to knit myself back together, into something tighter and warmer and more concrete than the frayed, disparate jumble of a thing I am now. It is time to find myself – except that I am not yet here to look for. To look for myself now is too ghastly, like emerging from my bed from the flu and stumbling to the bathroom, seeing a pale, sweaty, hair on end, lips chapped version of me in the mirror. To look for myself now, I see a snake’s skin, shed. The thriving, beating heart version is still with you, still in the arms of the person who hasn’t yet lost interest, and the snake’s skin in my bed only makes people avert their eyes.
In the wake of your absence I am a fragile yearling out in the cold – but I am there. I have started to see myself and I look for myself in the way my teacher grades my work, in the way I read a whole page of a book today, in the way the waiter smiled at me, in the way that I found a pretty duvet cover today and did not think of it being pretty like it being pretty made me pretty; like if I bought it and lay on it the right way, you’d think me beautiful and girly and lean in to kiss me. No, I thought of it as pretty because the flower pattern was nice, and I remembered that I liked flowers.
Not just because if I picked one, you’d want to see it behind my ear. I once liked flowers before you. I once liked that dress before you put your hands on it. I once liked that song before you sung it to me in a voice soaring higher than the original singer did, wobbling lower too, I once liked my lips before you found them kissable, I once liked the colour green before it was the same shade as the shirt you wore when you first called me beautiful, I once liked the trees before they made me think of change which made me think of grief which made me think of you gone which made me think of you here which made me curl up where I was, wherever I was, to cry you back to me.
In the wake of your absence I’ve found new dresses and flowers and trees and greens and lips, lips I didn’t care about, lips not shaped like yours, lips without a mole above, and on the very day I cared; on the very day when I cared about everything and most of all me – the tight, comforting self I’d knitted myself into – I remembered you going.
And I realized I’d gone with you. The old me. And that we lived on together, in the perfect infinity sign of some other reality, but that I’d carried a new me forth, into the cold reality of my life here alone, and that my life here alone had no space for you.
But one little space for you. In the little lies my memory weaves, a comforting, tight, snake-skin thing, and that you were with me there, and here, and inside of me too. If you ever come back, I’ll be older and colder and more me than I ever was with you; and if you are older too, more you, then I will shift over. I will make room.
If you are not – well, I am not a yearling anymore. You may have broken my heart first, but you built it stronger, too.