There are some words I never want to hear again. This is one of them.
This word is you. This word spells your name, only in different letters. Letters that belong to an alphabet of a language I do not speak anymore because the only other speaker no longer speaks to me. It is a dead language. The way I am a dead person inside a living person’s body.
There are other words too. Words of longing, of despair. Words of anchoring and marooning. Words of falling, floating, and then crashing head first into soft white sand. Words of missing that feel like blindness. Feel like choking. Words of inconsolable grief for which there are no words, really. Just harpoon holes in your skin that leak saltwater. You cannot bleed forever.
All these words are also about you. So many words in the world and so many about you; no wonder I have fallen quiet. There is not much to say in a void. Echoes are wearying after a time. Your voice stops returning to you.
A writer once said that if you get hungry enough you start eating your own heart. It’s been a famine here and my heart so full, it would have been bread for a hundred. Each night you can break off pieces of it and by morning my bastard heart is whole again. How long is grief? I have rope here. I can measure it, or take a life but not both.
You live, I think, in my stomach. That is why the churn, the heave, the lurch. The perennial nausea from being on a ship too long. I have been on this ship for over thirty days. All I taste is salt on the front of my tongue, bitter at the back. I don’t know which of it comes from the sea. I do know that I haven’t tasted anything that doesn’t taste like cardboard ever since you went away. That joy fights to enter my life and I simply do not let it in. That beauty abounds: birdsong, trees, the warm, fat fingers of children, hugs that don’t let go first, songs from 1999 that still warm your blood… it comes so close but it doesn’t touch the hair on my skin.
Last week, I sat on a bench with my naked feet planted firmly upon the earth. I willed myself to grow roots once more. Not in a person, not in an impossibility, but here. I asked the ground to take me twice: once now. Once when it is all over. I looked up above me and discovered new constellations for all the places you left me.
Day after day I return and refresh every place our lives crossed paths in the virtual universe. But now you are invisible in plain sight, as ghosts are. There is no button I can press to undo this. My past self and present self are still one person. One moment we were together, and then we weren’t. My head is in my hands and I smell all over of, “What have you done”
I once had a love so great, so deep, that I could think of nothing else. When I lost that, I could think of nothing else. The minutes do not need counting. Or the days. Goodbye can last a long time. Longer than numbers. Longer than words. Longer than memory.
I remember. I remember.