We broke up this week, you know.
Last Wednesday. It was fairly anticlimactic, a fact that honestly I was thankful for, considering how my last two relationships ended: the former with the police on my porch, the latter with a nasty right hook, the germination of which left a rosy red shiner under my left eye, a shiner I wore with a perverse mix of shame and pride for the better part of a week. This breakup started with a frank discussion on the couch, where we sat with various body parts touching and straddling each other: her leg over mine, our fingers and arms intertwined. It was the familiar positioning of a couple, but there was also a platonicism to it, and why not? We knew this would be the last time that we would find ourselves in this familiar and, up to this point comfortable, arrangement.
The discussion was frank because it was both honest and short. We covered the ground that needed covering: we currently exist in different walks of life, I with my kids and custody and full time job, she with her roommates and friends and adolescent dreams that had yet to even coalesce into something resembling reality, just shapes in the dark: men as trees, walking. I don’t use the word adolescent to demean, as in something infantile, but as of something young, and innocent, and still growing. As it should be. And my life is as it should be as well. Mature, fully formed, standing upright; and if there was any envy as I considered her position relative to my own, I commend myself for not allowing it to enter my conscious mind, or at least not to let any similar emotion linger for too long.
We talked about being friends after a while, and we both believed it.
Our talk concluded, we stood up, faced each other and hugged. I told her that I loved her, and I did, and still do. She told me that she loved me, which she does, and maybe still does, but I’m unsure about that fact, she did mention a few times her uncanny ability to cauterize quickly, to sear shut the wound of an aching heart and move resolutely forward. Not that I need her to love me still, really. She loved me when I needed her to, which was when I loved her, and that is enough for me. Of course you hope to leave some lasting impression on the person who you loved and who loved you, no matter how long you were together, or how long you are apart, but I would settle for a nostalgic pinprick every once in a while, when she hears a song that we both liked (or one of us liked and tortured the other one with incessantly), or when she passes a place that we visited, or when she swipes by a picture of us on her phone, or when the sun comes up the way it did when she woke up in my arms with her head on my chest, our warmth intermingling and creating a heat greater than the sum of its parts, a heat both of us were loathe to leave or lose to the outside world, or when it rains, or when a car drives by, or when the doors of a grocery store slide open in front of you, scattered by your hasty approach, or…you get the point.
We have a need for that, don’t we? To be remembered. Most of us won’t leave a legacy in this world – most of us will die without the attendant honor of our nation’s flag at half-mast – and we accept that readily, but we’d like to think that we are at least worthy enough to leave a legacy in someone’s heart, to know that we’ve left them forever changed, and there will be one, or two, or a dozen times in their remaining lives when we will flit through their mind and a nostalgic ache will seize them and then let go just as quickly. And, shaken by that, they will smile or cry or wonder where we are or who we are with and whether we found happiness in this often colorless and cruel world. That will be enough for most of us.
So you. Know that I plan to remember you that way. Of course it’s not a conscious thing; I won’t call you out of my mind on purpose, like I can summon you the way a psychic claims to summon spirits. But I know with all of my heart that you will rise unbidden, some day, even today, and when you do, I will smile, and cry, and laugh, and ache, and remember you and wish you well and yes, I will miss you desperately and remember the feel of your hands in mine but I will also remember that I agreed to let go.