“He would have loved you more if you were dead.” She said matter-of-factly, mouth half-full whilst moving pasta around her plate.
“Maybe that’s why I tried to die.” I responded as I spun a fidget spinner incorrectly, remembering how she had pulled me from my bathtub bleeding, barely conscious and completely hysterical just three months prior. I relive this moment often and the words from his tragic, final email play on a loop in my brain though this soundtrack has become less frequent over time (and I actively pray for the day it goes silent all together.) I thought, for sure, that he was it and I was done. I can laugh, now, at how wrong I was and I can see only now that we were dead long before he left (or before I left, a discrepancy that can be argued for and against by both sides but for what it's worth he shut the door and I drove away.)
"If you're not asking me to stay then you're asking me to go. You realize that, right?" I whispered this standing in the doorway of his mother's house. It was 3 am on the anniversary of my mother's death and it was raining so violently that the view of the yard through beveled glass appeared in melting pixels.
"I just...need time." I recoiled from his attempt at touch, my skin vibrating like an old cartoon beneath the thought of his fingertips.
"Ask me to stay. Tell me you want me to stay. That’s all you have to do.”
He remained silent and shook his head slightly, his eyes swollen with almost tears.
“I can’t do that. You know I can’t do that.”
Starring blankly as the rain overwhelmed the sewer drains and barren flowerbeds flooded over the sidewalk, I nodded. Like a spasm, I nodded in defeatist agreement. This would be the last time I looked him in the eyes and this would be the first time I denied entrance into mine. My final words to him were true and remain known only to us and were said unapologetically at full volume.
The next morning I threw a lamp into a framed print of Klimt's "The Kiss" and I slammed my hands into the broken shards, pressing my palms deep into the floor. He was still on the phone, now discarded just south of the glass mess. "Hello? Are you still there? What did you do? Are you okay?" I smoked three blood-soaked cigarettes in a row, keeping him on the line at any cost even if it meant talking in circles, repeating his words back to him.
"You've never mentioned wanting kids or a family or marriage and now you're telling me you want those things just not with me?"
"You're saying I don't come to mind when you think about the future?"
"Yes, Jesus, I mean, I don't know. Why are you doing this?"
"You want kids? I'll pop them out right now, man. I've got a dress and a ring and I'm good with kids you know I'm good with kids and I would do that for you. I would ruin my body for you."
I sat on the floor with my back to the door as two years rewound furiously from behind my eyes, his silence stinging against the static hum of telephonic distance. I begged him through the snot, my words garbled and gurgled, "Please, please, please, please, please, please-"
"Stop it. Take a breath and fucking stop it."
I obediently complied.
She cleared the dishes from the table. I balanced on one foot, petting the dog with the other as I still tried to master the spinning gadget between my forefinger and thumb.
"But you didn't die. Your whole life is different." She said over the sound of running sink water.
She wasn't wrong. I uprooted my life (though just a few miles.) I started writing again (though just a few pages.) And I opened my heart (though just by pulling the cracks a little wider.)
"God, I love this stupid thing. I totally get the hype." The blue metal disk whirling in front of my eyes. I was quick to discredit the turbulence of this impossible recovery and I was just as quick to resist accepting that I was responsible for navigating this doomed ship towards calmer waters.
"I'm going to be okay, right?" I put the spinner down and leaned against the counter.
She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel made to look like the American flag, "The worst is over. You made it through."
I tapped my rings on the stem of my wine glass. I was early by about thirty minutes. I had swiped right weeks prior with no intent other than to feel something that wasn't complete, immobilizing despair. And well, maybe to get laid but mostly the despair bit. Two glasses of wine later and he arrived almost on time. I saw him pass behind me through the mirror behind the bar, taking the stool to my right.
A few hours later I found myself pressed against his backseat in the parking lot of the bar. Dizzy with release for the first time in two years, I came. It felt dangerous, but not cheap. It felt sincere, not desperate. Timing was subjective here because just as quickly as I came I had arrived.
A gifted toothbrush, side B of disc one and what has now been lovingly called "my side of the bed" and here I am. In the arms of what was worth waiting for, I am never pushed away, only am I ever drawn closer. It is through this trust and this risk that I can accept that maybe I really did die. Though it wasn't that panicked night in the bathtub with a razor blade and Radiohead's "True Love Waits" on repeat, it was long before then. I existed that way, haunted, hollow and vaporous long before him. It takes time. With any great loss, it takes time. I love him most, now, for setting me free.