Knowing the Value of Our Days
I am trying to be honest with you. To write it just how I remember it. True. The way mountains and forests and rivers are what they are and nothing else.
But when I look back, the light is distorted as if looking through a prism. Memory compounds into streaks of color.
He was here and then he was gone. There are moments in which he is alive and moments in which he is not, but they are all mixed up. There was a point I was trying to make.
There is the dappled afternoon light, patterns in the quilt intersecting the patterns in our clothes. I read out loud the scribblings in my journal deemed worth sharing, something about the shadows of semi trucks as they pass or the halos of clouds in the desert. He sighs, immersed in my world.
(Do you remember the way he used to sigh at beautiful things?)
The rhythm of our days were composed of flowers collected for one another, exquisite little ideas presented before they were finished developing, the cyans, magentas and yellows still forming. We were in love the way artists are in love, also in love with the world and how the other saw it.
The morning before his flight, perhaps sensing how the man in front of me would fade, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a twist tie and secured it to his finger, hoping some invisible fishing line would return him home if he lost his way. But he was so determined to live his fullest life, to chase his next adventure, that he could no longer feel my hands pressed between his shoulder blades. I tried to meet his eyes, but he was already gone.
Then the phone call that pronounced death as a dark ruby on the tip of a tongue. Or maybe more like an encyclopedia that falls with a flat thud. Then is still.
How can I say this so you understand? A body buried in snow, so cold it feels hot. The canon of air that flees from the body. His body.
Did he have time to remember me then? Recall my shape as it once lay next to his?
I am older and wiser now, but in the years that followed I carried the guilt in my belly like a dark stone. I was not able to dissuade him from going. I was not enough.
I distanced myself further and further from the things and the people who reminded me of him. I stopped making art, stopped answering phone calls. My world ripped open, then contracted.
It has taken time to feel the truth of it in my bones, but now I know I am enough, we all are. I have built a home with a man who loves me in the present, by the warmth of the fire, in the soil of our garden, despite all the ways I have scarred up inside by another. He too, looks up into the sky, and sighs. But does not wander.
He sits beside me now as I write. I write. I am writing again, making art again, making space for all the lives I have lived, and all the lives I will live. And in the process I am becoming bigger inside instead of smaller. Opening up caverns inside myself I once closed off.
I am enough and I don’t have to make up for what was lost if I don’t want to. But I do want to offer you, dear reader, this small token of my travels: The truth. We all will die. Everyone we’ve ever known. At any given time. And in accepting this we can live knowing the value of our days.
There is a broken blue shell of a life that I carry always in my pocket. With time it will become no more than a fine dust as my body bumps up against other bodies, as my body crashes into the wind, breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces.
It will always be there. And I will be grateful for it.