Love it if we made it

We sit on a low stone bench and watch the dogs walk by, their owners caught tautly at the ends of leashes. Look up. The massive and purple evening, already hinting at the tearful stars. Look down. Along the rind of the world, the pines are growing in, gloved in dark green. I’m resigned to this situation; in fact, after nine months in the belly of the beast, I think I was born resigned. I blinked away the blood and came to terms with what I saw. The full moon is a maw. My emotions paw at the ground.

I vacillate. I travel between extremes. I think, feverishly, of the grand speech that could save us, and then, fed up, I abandon my plans. I’m tired, and we haven’t even started yet.

A quavering voice rises out from the crevice of my mind, in that place where I descended years ago, gloved and hatted, curled around a ratty rope, determined to consign my heart to the protective chill of the caves. An injury can live in the abyss forever, I thought, and while it would not heal, it would not continue to decay. That was, believe it or not, a gesture of hope. On the return journey, my ribcage ten ounces lighter, I stopped to etch our names on a bank of ice with a scout’s knife, below a sky so totally unblemished it could have been cut out of cornflower-blue construction paper. I sat underneath it and wished for better days. Some colors have a childlike glow to them—the playful insistence of red, the bashful innocence of blue. Know what I mean?

Flash-forward twenty years. Sitting on the couch with my feet up, drinking ice water from a PET bottle, a band-aid on my ankle. An ache in my head like a worm in the soil. I pluck it out and let it lie in my palm. An amulet of my segmented flesh. Do you remember the flavor of our mother’s voice as she spoke on the phone behind the locked door? Conversation that tasted of cigarette ash. The rain is like a car wash. I down a bright orange drink. Do you remember how our father, with the fanaticism of a cultist, would log the nutritional values of our meals in a spreadsheet? I wash my hands over and over. Then I cup my hands to rinse my mouth. My eyes in the mirror are red as carnations. Two blooms on a long windowsill of a face. Today, the pills they buried in the soil bear sour fruit.

Something crawls out of the crevice, blood-soaked. I had thought that by growing up we had managed to escape the worst. But now I realize that I relaxed my guard too soon. I ran a victory lap on the one track in my mind, ignoring the thousand sores on my tongue. I left you at the starting line. I turned around too late. Now, I watch you travel the same path I traveled, and I endure my punishment poorly.

I never saw them do anything together. Even when they were together, they were separate. Know what I mean? The only time I saw the power of their togetherness was in their final act as a couple, and it was almost a work of art. The kind of destruction they enacted took a team effort.

Break away, I beg, though I know this message, written in the stars, is lightyears away from getting to you. Wherever you left your own heart, take it back. A feeling is not forever. A feeling is not forever. A feeling is not forever.

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