With just a memory

 
It’s been more than six months and I still can’t listen to our songs without breaking down. I keep making mental notes of things to tell you, stories to share, only to remember I have no one to tell them to anymore. My entire adult life has been spent with the comfort of knowing that you were somewhere in this world, and that if I wanted to, I could come home to you and steal some time with you again. That you would always be there, happy to see me, always ready to assure me of your enduring love.

 
I don’t know how to deal with the thought of a world without even the hope of you. I’m starting to think that’s something I will never learn.

 
Even from the shadows of death, you still shine the brightest light in my life.

 
 

 

Maybe someday

 
Before my wedding, I called you. You were happy to hear my voice. Then I told you I was getting married. Because I was tired of being lonely. Because I found someone who loved me and sometimes made me feel the way I did when I was with you. You asked me if I was happy and, unwilling to lie, I told you I believed I could be.

 
You were quiet. Then you softly said, “My girl is getting married.” And I begged you for a reason to call it off and fly home to you. But you couldn’t give me one. You wouldn’t give me one. You wanted me to have a shot at a normal life, even if it meant losing me to someone else. So you wished me well instead.

 
I don’t remember if I told you then that I would always love you. That it would always be you in my life. But you must have known that. If not at that moment, then surely a few days later when I called you again. And every stolen moment on the phone after that, whispering to you in the small hours of the morning, waking up in the dead of the night just to hear your voice again and make sure you were still there—hear you promise you’d always be around.

 
Now I can’t call you anymore. No matter what the hour of day or night, there are no numbers I can punch on the tiny screen in my hand that will bring you back to me, bring back your voice telling me you’re still there. Now you are nowhere. And everywhere. So my fingers still dial the air, and I still wake up in the middle of the night asking you for a reason to come home.

 
 

One thing that’s true

 
I’ve loved you for so long—for so much of my life—that I don’t remember what it was like anymore, not having this aching, this longing for you inside me. Not having these dreams that have no chance of coming true. Insistent dreams that I dream anyway, because I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming them.

 
I remember one night, many years ago, after I had flown far, far from you. I was crying. We were on the phone and I was crying, telling you I was afraid I had flown so far that eventually you would forget me. And you told me to hush, to stop crying. That none of it was true. That you were at the age when you knew what was forever and what wasn’t. And that we would last longer than that, whether you saw me again or not.

 
Well, I’ve reached that age. I’m as old now as you were that night. I never thought you would be the one to fly away, too permanently far to ever return. And I finally understand what you tried to tell me. Because I still love you. And now I know, too, what lasts forever. And forever is too short to tell the story of how hopelessly I’m still in love with you, and how I will always be yours, whether I see you again or not.

 
 

My talk, my song

 
You passed away on a Saturday, on a hot summer day. I imagine your street was filled with the sound of children playing, their nannies running after them to pad their backs with towels to rid them of their sweat. I wonder if you could hear them, or if it took all your strength to just manage one breath at a time, fighting to get precious air into your ravaged lungs.

 
Were you surrounded by the people you loved? Did you see their faces, or did pain blind you to everything but the growing weight on your chest that refused stop until it finally took your life?

 
You left without a word. Someone mentioned you were gone, and because I loved you in secret, I mourn you in secret as well. Except I don’t know how to say goodbye. Not to you. Never to you. And so, if you don’t mind, I’ll go on like before—still writing letters to you that I’ll never send, still dreaming of a life with you that I’ll never have.

 
Rest well, my love. May you wake someday and find me there.

 
 

 

The only thing that I still know

 
Not too long ago, I returned home, greeted by familiar smells and not-so familiar sights. Now and then, when the air wasn’t thick with the sound of the crowd and swarm of honking cars, music would play, taking me to a quiet table near the house of my youth, sitting next to you 25 too-long years ago.

 
We drove to the bay to see the fireworks. It left like a stop-and-start pilgrimage to a place where the sea used to break, making me think of how men have changed the geography of that part of the world. And now they have a place where they can paint the sky like gods. And I thought, why can’t they instead find a way to stop time, or turn it back some. So I can be with you again and my world can once again feel right.

 
I miss you. I dialed your number a few times, the only number I knew. Another man’s voice answered the call. Four years is a long time, an eternity when you think of how life can change in an instant. I drove to your usual haunts, only to find new structures in their place, and it felt like slowly and irrevocably, every bit of our history was being erased.

 
I don’t know where you are. Or even if you still are. But I want you to know I’m here. My love for you still is. And I still sing my songs and write my poems for you, imagining you will maybe one day read my words out loud and tell someone—anyone—that I was writing about us.

 
 

Still now …

 
Postcards
(by Sarah Kay)

 
I had already fallen in love
with far too many postage stamps
when you appeared on my doorstep
wearing nothing but a postcard promise.

No, appeared is the wrong word.
Is there a word for sucker-punching
someone in the heart? Is there a word
for when you’re sitting at the bottom of a
roller coaster and you realize that
the climb is coming, that you know what
the climb means, that you can already
feel the flip in your stomach from the fall
before you’ve even moved. Is there a
word for that? There should be.

You can only fit so many words in a postcard,
only so many in a phone call, only so many
into space, before you forget that words
are sometimes used for things other than
filling emptiness. It is hard to build a body
out of words. I have tried. We have both tried.
Instead of holding your head to my chest,
I tell you about the boy who lives downstairs
from me, who stays up all night long
practicing his drum set. The neighbors have
complained, they have busy days tomorrow!
But he keeps on thumping through the night,
convinced, I think, that practice makes
perfect. Instead of holding my hand, you
tell me about the sandwich you made for lunch
today, how the pickles fit so perfectly with
the lettuce.

Practice does not make perfect.
Practice makes permanent. Repeat the same
mistakes over and over, and you don’t get any
closer to Carnegie Hall. Even I know that.
Repeat the same mistakes over and over, and
you don’t get any closer. You never get any closer.

Is there a word for the moment you win
tug-of-war, when the weight gives and all that
extra rope comes hurtling towards you, how
even though you’ve won, you still wind up with
muddy knees and burns on your hands. Is there
a word for that? I wish there was. I would have said it,
when we were finally alone together on your couch,
neither one of us with anything left to say,

“Still now, I send letters into space, hoping that
some mailman somewhere will track you down
and recognize you from the description in my poems,
that he will place the stack of them in your hands
and tell you, ‘There is a girl who still writes you. She
doesn’t know how not to.'”

 
 

Whatever is waiting for me

 
Today I discovered the gray in my hair. It made me think of time—all the time I’ve spent talking to you in my head, all the times I reached out to touch your hand and found nothing beside me but empty air, or someone else’s fingers.

 
I have aged. I am old. I have seen dreams come to life, hope waste away, faith stubbornly clinging to the faintest of memories, refusing to give up the fight.

 
I am older than you were when we first met.

 
Age is a funny thing. It creeps up on you while you’re busy wishing time would stand still. And the years rush by unnoticed because, in your mind, it’s 1987 and you’re still that lovestruck girl whose insides come alive and tingle just because this tall, lanky thief of her heart walks into the room and smiles at her.