When I fell in love with street names in this corner of the city. When time zipped and chugged around a decaf americano’s solitude. When January’s pavement smelled like spring and the snowdrops thought about waking up. When the ocean beckoned but I was on the wrong side of town. When the mountains screamed with snow and my feet stomped through the absence of puddles.
I was too laden. Too aware of the wrong things. Like dust piles, carpet stains, unwashed laundry. A molehill of midlife. Lacking wine and live music and all the places we should have found on road trips to nowhere.
We are isolation. Unvoiced thoughts. Darknesses we can’t walk through together. We slosh and clink against this tippy-toed talk. Chasms always yawn as we converse in half-light, full-light. Your nodding head tells lies and believes them. My tectonic plates slip without a surficial shudder. We pretend to speak of drowning while we smother in the collapse of unshared spaces.
I had a summer of life and death. It sounds melodramatic, but that’s how it was.
For the first two weeks of August, I said good-bye to my father-in-law. Amid numerous complications of numerous illnesses, he chose to discontinue treatment and meet death on his own terms. The family spent those two weeks (and longer) drifting back and forth from the hospital. I experienced a mixture of the reluctance to let go and impatience to move on that I understand is common in these situations; the days pass slowly and there is never enough time. And in the end, I am grieved as I cherish the memory of that very special man. I loved him for all the quirks of his personality, and for helping to make my husband the man he is.
Through all that, I was in the first trimester of my first pregnancy. Trying to find food in the hospital cafeteria that didn’t trigger intense nausea, and anxious under the influence of the first hormonal waves. But excited sometimes guiltily, sometimes purely. The timing felt wrong and right at the same time. Everything changes so monumentally the moment you find out you’re pregnant. Yet for so long, it looks like nothing is really happening. The whole situation was exhausting, but I was able to find the reserves of strength that allow you to move as necessary through each day.
This all adds up to the feeling that I missed the summer of 2012. Besides the four or five weeks of overturned routine that surrounded the death, I’ve had to forego the patio ciders, gin & tonics, and wine that punctuate lazy summer days. There were few hikes, few long bike rides, few camping trips, few evenings on the beach. No fireworks. And now fall is settling in with its slanting sun and crunching leaves. I’ve always looked forward to fall. But it seems that turning inwards is less satisfying when you’ve had none of the hectic inside-out of summer.
At the same time, regret is pointless. The situation can’t be different, so I won’t waste (too much) time on wishes. A summer of life and death leads to profound moments for the soul. You can’t buy that with 100 perfect summer days.
It is not the specifics of you. Though your voice creeps down my ear canal with cello-string stealth and leans arms-crossed smirks against my tiniest bones. Though your mouth twists from cynical symphony to delighted melody in unexpected wit. Though our words bounce in complex rhythms against the dried taut skin between your mind and mine. These are not why.
You are part of an awakening. I blame the spring, the green, the shedding of insulation. I blame new eyes that are old eyes. I blame the stretching, strengthening muscles that mean less than an unfolding of a reconstituted heart. I blame sounds and songs and remembering how to play. Like this. I blame eyes and lips I may have loved once upon a time and never reconciled.
You are catalyst and coincident. Forgive me I can’t give you more than that.