My mom turned 85 last Saturday, and I drove to Knoxville from New Orleans for a last-minute party my brothers and I put together. We’d really done it up for her 80th and told her she’d have to wait till 90 for another big celebration. Continue reading
I’ve moved to the porch now, where cell reception is better. It seems warm for December, although fall, winter, and spring temperatures in New Orleans can be mercurial. Only summer is a constant: hot, damp, and still.
I’m sitting on the steps, where we sat with martinis and wine after every day of Jazz Fest, where I sat the day you sent the brass band to beg me to stay with you. I’m leaning against a column, my elbows on my knees.
“Well,” I say, “I don’t suppose you’re interested in a farewell cocktail…”
“So…are we just never going to see each other again?”
There’s a pause, but not a long one.
“Not on purpose.”
I take a breath and let it out slowly.
“That’s really sad.”
“It is sad,” you say, and your voice has a pitch that I recognize from past conflicts—higher than your normal baritone, and guarded. “It’s not what I wanted for us.”
This time the pause is long, moving well into uncomfortable.
“Ok,” I say, finally. “So I guess this is where we say goodbye?”
“Goodbye,” you say, and the line goes dead.
I sit on the porch a bit longer. I am surprised at how little emotion I am feeling. I didn’t expect this phone call, didn’t expect that you would want to sever all ties. But I don’t feel the desperation and panic I have felt earlier during this long breakup. Instead, I feel… released.
When I go back inside I realize I haven’t cleaned today, so I pull out the vacuum and run it across every floor and every rug in every room of my house.
“Can I call?”
I lie on the floor with the phone on my chest and the Bluetooth in my ear.
I feel the vibration, then hear the beeps.
“I’ve been thinking about it…
And I can’t envision a scenario in which we could remain in each others’ lives.
You’re friends with my ex, and if you are on the periphery of my life,
What would stop you from saying to anyone I met,
‘Let me tell you about your new boyfriend.'”
And you’re right.Your ex and I are friends now—and yes, I would feel tempted to warn away
Anyone I saw sucked into the orbit of “wonderful you.”
But even as a friend, I could never trust you now.I’d always be waiting for the other shoe to drop,
For you to say I blew up your chance at happiness…
After telling me I was your ticket to paradise.
If I lost you, I would lose the person who saved my life. The person who—in spite of receiving what can most generously be described as a shock— immediately shook off her own hurt to take care of me. Who gave me information I never would have had. Who was in constant contact to make sure I was ok. Who put herself back in the line of fire on the slight chance it could help me come to terms.
But eventually my drama wore you down, too reminiscent of your own, I know—I’m sorry. If we could build a friendship on just us, I would treasure it forever. If we can’t get there, I’ll understand, and I’ll treasure forever your kindness to a stranger during a dark dark time.
And although eventually I will forget him…I will never forget you.
If you’re waiting for regret, you can take a seat.
I have none.
The taste of regret—sharp and dry, like salt—will not linger on my tongue.
I spit it out when you spit me out.
And I did what I did
Without looking back.
When you said you never loved anyone
As much as you loved her —
Why did I pursue?
Why did I think I could
Make you love me more
By being kind or calm or patient
Or whatever else you saw in me that moved you?
And then, when you didn’t,
Why was I content with second place?
Did knowing you loved someone more
Give me some secret thrill,
Keep me guessing, keep it fresh?
Clearly there is a place for second place
That I have yet to understand.
Who am I and who are you?
How many secrets do we hold within ourselves that no one can touch?
I was certain I knew you, but I didn’t have a clue.
How could you be that good?
And—am I, too?
You said: “You’re in my heart.”
And I said: “Like a heart worm?”
And you said: “Yes. And if you let me in I’ll be your heart worm too. I’ll settle deep into your heart until I’m a part of it and I will take care of it.”
And so I did …
And you didn’t.