Suppose we have the best intentions.
Suppose it is Thanksgiving.
Or it’s Tuesday.
Suppose no specific day matters.
It’s a day. Inside a week. Mummified by a year.
Suppose you are taking me away from this cruel, harsh sector of an unforgiving planet and absconding me to a secluded Caribbean destination, where we drink coconut-friendly tropical refreshments with biodegradable straws, monkeys climb into bed with us at night, and multi-colored birds squawk us alive in the early morning hours.
Perhaps we are simply trying to figure out how to stay inside a relationship – our relationship – and figure out how to physically exit the space we currently inhabit and enter another.
Suppose we are ready.
Or between where we know we are and where we would like to not arrive, but move.
You never did appreciate my indecisiveness.
We don’t have plans, but we are planning on going.
Where to, we don’t quite know. But the time to travel there should not take up too much of the journey. Yet I keep pointing out places on a map and you keep shooting them down. I tell you you’re acting like Ted Nugent when you keep shooting them down, and you tell me to shut the fuck up. On occasion, I substitute Ted Nugent with Charlton Heston, and you don’t catch the reference, so I just laugh inside myself, and we continue trying to figure out places in the world where we can go, where human beings trust each other enough they don’t settle arguments or land ownership with the right to bear arms.
But I often protect you. With my bare hands.
Confession: I often write and get confused when I try to use “bear” and “bare” in sentences.
And my bare hands can cut through pineapples, as I sharpen them every night before bed.
My bear hands can protect you from just about everything, except when you get cramps and want to drink fresh orange juice or tea at weird hours of the day, and when you need food first thing in the morning, and when you feel so anxious being in the same room as me you proclaim you’re going to walk somewhere, alone, and don’t ask why I need to do this, and don’t follow me, and don’t worry about it because I love you, and this is what people in love are good at understanding.
But I am uncertain of what people in love are good at understanding.
Or am I.
And other ice cream sundaes of varying flavors of horseshit.
There is a place you go to. An arena. Sick people seek guidance and restoration from the confines of this place.
I have never asked you to take care of me, as I know what hours you put in, what turmoil awaits, and what you bring home.
We have nice things at home. Our hallways are haunted, but that was not our fault.
Or what if it is.
What if we are haunting the halls with an elusive, invisible feeling, or feelings, and when things go wrong – when things most certainly will go wrong – we are unable to make sense enough to understand what is happening.
We are immune to the vaccine of recognition.
Our thoughts start to haunt the halls. Were we careful enough? Was I prepared? Who else is at fault? Did we not properly communicate? Did you always want things to end this way? Will I ever have a chance to make things right?
The haunted hallways of our future are always tricking us, in that they understand why we are surprised things have ended up this way, but no one could prophesize the outcome.
All your dresses you never wore.
All the nice, expensive shirts I left on their nice, expensive hooks.
Your heels still left in the boxes you purchased them in, and every time I open one expect to find an ancient archaeological find, wrapped in dusty loincloth, an inscription somewhere inside, a sales receipt, a note about where this item was first located, who the natives were when we were there, how the air tasted, whether or not it was sunny, if there was music somewhere nearby.
I grab each box and fling the lid open and sift through the contents, expecting to see something inside reminding me of us.
A map. Some image or illustration helping to provide directions to the memory of us.
Soft piano behind the doors of yesterday.
Watching the Mr. Rogers documentary without any socks on, wondering if the rest of the world was ever this happy, this content, this needless, with someone else in their arms.
And there, in one of the boxes, is an old smart phone. There’s no telling how long it has been in the box, sleeping, breathing, recording, pensive, awaiting the moment for someone to grab it and remember that even though it’s screen is cracked into ten thousand little jagged directions, it’s still very much alive, quiet, patient, very scared of the dark world its been suffering from this whole time.
I pick it up, knowing you almost threw it out, over one year ago, and I convinced you to keep it, as I have kept every cell phone and driver’s license I owned before my current one, for no other reason than to say, I think I remember him.
The screen lights up immediately. For a moment I am confused, as there is no security password requirement, until I realize the saved homescreen is actually a calendar page, which is a note you saved for yourself, an event you created, with the words “LET HIM IN” written in the events line, and the dates are starting the day you entered the reminder, and the reminder is set for every single day at nine in the morning (when you often woke up), and it is scheduled to repeat every day.
The bottom of the homescreen is the bottom of the calendar page, which offers the option “DELETE ALL FUTURE EVENTS.”
I write things down. In small books. I don’t know exactly what compels me to do this, to continue documenting the matter, as I write them down so I don’t forget, but even still, I forget where they were written. And when.
I forget about you.
Yesterday, I watched a group of tourists standing on a corner, all hovering around a map. One of them blew into their hands, rubbing them together. Another cracked his knuckles and bounced up and down, bending his knees as though he were an unconfident downhill skier. The woman holding the map kept her finger in the same spot, not moving it at all, and I waited, wondering how long she was going to keep her finger on the page, if she ever had children who needed direction, if she had work that ever produced results, if she was the most breakable human being on the city block of curiosity, in the county of possibility, in the overpopulated state of my imagination.
I can hear you, three years removed, your nose bothering you enough you have to sniffle and fight off sneezing until you get a chance to blow your nose, but there’s no Kleenex where you’re at, waiting in a doctor’s office, your childhood a part of the flickering memory in that shared space, the phone ringing in the medical office, the dog-eared magazines somehow familiar even though they’ve only been published in the past two weeks, the carpet, the walls, the surfaces all sterile enough one could eat gummi bears, elbows out, with fine cutlery off every square inch.
I hear the way you shuffle in your seat, uncomfortable the way you get when sick and under the weather, under the weather, under the weather, the way that sounds so predictable to people who share the same bed.
That same hallway. Years ago. You, gone for two days. A work trip, which felt more like a secret getaway to figure out where you wanted to be. Me in my own skin. Trouble on my mind. A toaster I never use. An earring I thought I would have to explain.
What is the term for being so occupied one loses sense of time?
What is the fear of not having a drink nearby in a social setting?
The worst parts of us were not what we did to ourselves, but what we avoided doing.
When we speak now, we don’t so much communicate as we connect through reminders. The weather is a reminder. Family is a reminder. Art, music, film, television. Food. Drink. Relics we juggle before they become fossils. I remember your efforts to gather recognition from my silences, but we both know how loud some silences can grow: did we leave the lights on; where are my car keys; where is my phone; I can’t find my phone; who is calling you at this hour; why don’t you come to bed; are you still awake; who is texting you at this hour; who is that; who is that walking back and forth across the street, and what do they want, and why don’t we call the police, and if we call the police we should ask them about the phone calls; where are you going; when are you coming back; will you get some toothpaste, Kleenex and batteries for the flashlights; should we just order pizza, or should we order smart food, or should we try that pasta place that’s always closed; why can’t we just watch television without alcohol; why can’t you kiss me without beer on your breath; why do you smoke pot in the backyard when I take a shower; wouldn’t you feel better if you took a shower after smoking pot; wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to fall asleep before making love, and we could snuggle for long enough we drifted into togetherness, and we had time to be ready, ready for water, ready for love, ready for losing ourselves for a little while, ready, finally, for sleep, and dream, with all the nocturnal appetizers awaiting us, before, finally, our securities thwart us enough we are consumed by the most vulnerable edges of each other, and there, within the mindset of being true to our beastly selves, we then change our skin, or I change our skin, first mine, and then yours, while you sleep, so when you wake up, you are uncertain of who is lying in bed next to you, eyes open, watching you, familiar but only through a small twinkle in the way they quietly stare back at you.
If less is more, I hold my breath and close my eyes.
If the soul benefits from purity, I burn the memory of me, and attempt to find us.
If absence is art, I consider letting go of you.
Under the weather.
Under the wind.
Under the lips we once used to communicate.