Staring out the window her back’s against the wall.
She no longer wants to love him, but she couldn’t stop the fall.
Now she’s like a penny. Back and forth between heads or tails.
She knows she has to choose soon, but she’s falling through the air.
There’s a letter on the table. She wrote it weeks ago.
He never noticed it at dinner, and she doesn’t let it show.
That she doesn’t want to be here - the pain is etched behind her eyes.
She longs to hear “I love you,” but keeps getting hard “Goodbyes.”
She had another lover. That was many years before.
When she almost felt the ocean breeze, and smelled the salty shore.
Fingers held by hands, wrapped in arms, and locked by eyes.
She never thought that she could go there, so she never really tried.
Convinced that the commitment would trap her in a cage.
Now realizing she’s on the inside. She could have broken free that day.
Her lover is on the mend in a tiny artist's bungalow.
Her husband is on the dance floor eying a girl she doesn’t know.
There’s a chance that she was wrong back then. There’s a chance she’ll never see,
That the love she could have had was an unwritten mystery.
Her breath lies cold against the glass, another winter spent alone.
She leaves the letter on the table. She knows he isn’t coming home.
Pulling back the blankets, she’s fighting back the tears.
She’s tired of keeping it together. She’s been doing this for years.
Silence settles across the room. Her steady breath, the only sound.
And in the distance, a rolling ocean wave, before the tears fall crashing down.
You ruined my favorite song.
You ruined it just by calling it “ours.”
Because after that day,
I started listening to the words differently.
As something we shared they carried new meaning.
The words were no longer waiting to be filled by an experience.
They were already whole. They were
Promises hanging in the air like strings of Christmas lights.
I remember the time you told me
our song came on over the loud speaker.
The words danced around you,
And you were so moved that it brought you to tears.
Those words felt so overpowering.
To mean something that strongly.
To love someone that completely.
I understood exactly how you felt.
This morning it played in my car on the way to work.
It was well into the chorus when I realized I was crying.
I forgot how it felt to be forgotten.
How the words echo when they are empty.
When they no longer fit inside of your mouth.
I forgot how many promises had to be broken;
How many lights had to flicker out
to lose a favorite song to an almost lover.
You must be a magician, because the way you would disappear
surprised me every time. I would wait there in your empty space,
waving my hands around, grasping for something tangible,
unbelieving that you would ever walk away on purpose.
This morning you finally text me after four weeks of silence.
but my fingers haven’t quite made their way back to respond.
There really isn’t much to say to “I’m eight weeks pregnant, it’s his,
I’m keeping it, I’m staying here, and I hope you understand.”
I can’t help but feel like maybe I’m the one who is crazy. Who really
believes that they met their soul mate at a summer camp when they were
nineteen years old? I am not angry with you. I have no intentions of staying
friends, but I don’t resent you for the way you treated me. That would
take far too much effort than I am willing to give to you right now.
I stood there, over and over, fielding problems, taking punches
and you kept throwing them my way, certain that I’d still be there
when the last one was thrown. You were right. I’ve paid dearly for it.
What you didn’t know is that I have kept a journal every single day
since late April, where I’d write to you – telling you my feelings
in a way that wouldn’t overwhelm you until I had you here in
front of me and could wrap you in my arms to ease your anxiety.
And that I have spent hours since you vanished making lists
of things that you should know when you moved to California.
The best places to get your oil changed. Neighborhoods that are
worth avoiding after dark. All of the best vegetarian restaurants
Los Angeles has to offer. I kept telling myself that if I held on
long enough, that you would come around. That when you finally
arrived you would see that someone out here really does love you,
and that California is a great place to make a home. What I didn’t know
was that you had already found that in the arms of a man-child
under strobe lights and false pretenses. Still, I am not broken.
After each ragged breath I remind myself that this does not change
who I am or what I am worth. That just because you didn’t know
what you found in me, doesn’t mean that the next woman
will make the same mistake. I tell myself again and again that
when she asks for my heart, I won’t give her an excuse, or a sad
story about the time that I let a stranger break it, but instead
I’ll give her my hand. I’ll tell her that hearts and hands are
closely connected and that every fingertip intertwined is a life line.
That the oxygen pumping from my heart to my fingers will always
circulate faster when she is around, and that if she wants proof she
needs only to look into my eyes. A place that you never dared to go.
Speaking of fingertips, mine have finally made their way back to my
phone. It wasn’t really news I appreciated getting via text, but we were
far past common courtesy. I type out “Good luck.” It feels so impersonal.
I delete it and try again. “The thing I don’t understand is how you didn’t care
enough to tell me four weeks ago so I could move on.” That doesn’t feel right
either. Slowly, I type “I understand. I wish you all the best in your future,
and I hope that you have found in them everything that you were looking for.”
I hesitate. I don’t want to send this. I don’t want to understand or wish you the
best, and I can’t imagine any world where he would ever be better for you than
I would have been. I erase the words. I sit my phone down on the desk, and
go back to work instead. Here, I can remember what to do with my hands.
“Baby,” my grandmother used to say to me, “Now don’t go making mountains out of mole hills. You’ve got far enough to travel without creating your own peaks and valleys.” I’d stand there with my elbows propped up on her knees, nodding my head
like I understood, and she’d laugh; her poufy white hair bouncing in unison. She had come a long way since being born into the great depression. With Wheel of Fortune playing in the background, she’d paint her carefully manicured nails one by one,
reminding my grandfather to “use those nice crystal coasters Jim and Betty got us for Christmas in ninety-two.” He’d scoff and lift his beer the two inches from wood to glass, murmuring about how that “woman” was always telling him what to do.”
Everyone knew that he loved every minute of it. He was a lucky man. In her prime, she was the most sought after woman within fifty miles of Corinth. Coined the “Crossroads of the South” it was there that the railroads running east and west from
Charleston to Memphis crossed the north and south railroads of Ohio and Mobile. The older men used to sit out by the station sipping on their bottled coca-colas, watching the women shuffle in and out of the beauty parlor across the street.
Granny once told me that they used to place bets on the young couples sprinting to the platform hand in hand – hoping to make it on the train before their parents realized they were headed north to get hitched. The day my grandfather proposed
to her, she had to return an engagement ring and two promise rings to three other suitors. One of them was a lawyer’s son, and her Mama told her she must be damn crazy not to choose him, which was a mouthful for an upstanding lady of the church.
She might have been crazy, but only about my grandpa. He was a country boy with a slow drawl and a blue collar. He couldn’t give her much, but he promised her an adventure. He drove a big rig from coast to coast for nearly fifty years, and she’d
pack up herself and the kids and they’d all head out– stopping at different landmarks along the way. Even after he retired, she’d convince him to take a trip up to the city every now and then just to see the lights. He loved that woman more than
I’d seen anyone love anything ever before. And she loved him too with his tall lanky self and early-graying hair. I never saw them kiss, but occasionally I’d catch a glimpse of his stare as he watched her in the kitchen. I hoped that one-day someone
would look at me that way. At twenty-one years old, I’d find myself sitting alone on barstools trying to make eye-contact with strangers accidentally on purpose. I couldn’t have known then that those looks he gave her came from years of feelings I
had never felt before. Feelings he got from their first kiss. The moment that she said yes. The day she walked towards him down the aisle. The night she gave birth to their firstborn child. Those looks came from a long history of love and commitment.
I was in England the day we lost her to the light. As much as I hated I couldn’t be there for my family, I was glad I didn’t have to see that look. The one he would give her before they shut the casket. The one that told her goodbye for the very last time.
I haven’t seen that look since then, but I remember it. The slight smile on the corner of his lips. The way his hand rested against the wall as if he had to hold himself up in her presence. He doesn’t speak of her, but sometimes I notice him gazing into the
kitchen, and I can almost see her too, wearing red lipstick for absolutely no reason. She’s opening another 7Up, and asking if he’d like another beer. When he says yes, she gently coaxes, “Now don’t forget to use those nice coasters Jim and Betty got us.”