“Once he had told her something that she could not imagine: that amputees suffer pains, cramps, itches, in the leg that is no longer there. That is how she felt without him, feeling his presence where he no longer was.” — Gabriel García Márquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera
Somewhere, I’m awakened by the heat radiating off your chest, my cheek a dozen degrees cooler on the pillow, velvety and silken. My hair damp against your neck, my back searing, your skin feverish, and still, I don’t want to escape your embrace. I can see dawn dancing through the curtains we didn’t bother closing after one too many glasses of Malbec.
You haven’t made a sound, but I know you’re awake. It’s the buzzing inside your veins, the deep change in your lungs when you breathe in my hair, how you interlace your fingers with mine in that place your hand rests on my waist.
I can’t see it, but I can feel that lopsided smile.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
A warmth flows through me and opens me, my soul unfurling, blossoming into petals who ache to be pressed against the pages inside your rib cage forever.
What I’m saying is this: there’s an alternate reality somewhere out in the multiverse where we’re lying in bed together.
You roll over, mindful of your weight on me, hold my face between your hands, slide my thighs apart, and slip in beneath my skin and make me feel complete. We make breakfast – champagne and pineapple juice obligatory on a Saturday morning. You place me on the kitchen counter and we kiss like we have nowhere to be.
It’s noon and you’ve already made me come twice.
In this version of reality I yearn for and can never live, we wake up and make love most every morning.
But I woke up today in a world where you’re no longer even a text away.
Some days, I don’t think of you as much, but on days like today, you’re on every street I set foot upon. I listen to a song and hear the echo of your name with each thud of my heart. I follow its sound blindly into the woods, knowing I should walk the other way. I come upon your footprints beneath the moon’s glow in the snow. They never lead to anywhere but memories. I waltz in tune with their melody, feeling a cavity inside my chest knowing you’ll never lead me with your left hand, your right at the small of my back.
On nights you sail the ocean between us, only to collect one or two shells at the shore of my thoughts, I still feel the sting from your absence, I still go to sleep envious of parallel me in a world where you lull her to sleep.
I’m looking at the horizon over the ocean, you’re nowhere in sight, what’s left of my heart is shipwrecked at the corners of your mouth, but I still wouldn’t change a thing.
“Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks. You tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body.” — Jeanette Winterson, Written On The Body
What do you remember about me?
I’d like to think my eyes. The smoldering ember when you looked into them, how you said they scared you because they looked at you and made you feel like they could see everything, how they made you feel hungry and made you feel weak, how you said they were the sexiest part of a body in any woman you had ever seen.
Do you ever see them when you close yours at night? Do they ever haunt you in dreams? Do you ever look into hers and wonder who is looking at me?
What about that red corset and the matching lipstick? Surely, the black and gold one, though more champagne than golden, the eye clasps at the front, with the ribbon that tied at the back. I think I wore it for you twice, once on a hot, humid, August night, and on a stormy one, years before, in a different town.
Do you remember that night?
You kissed me, not for the first time, but with a ferociousness then that could not be kept in the cage in which it was brought to life – untamed and feral. Your mouth was a match, mine was the kindling. We kept on, tongues dancing in a frenzy, one of us the frame of a burning house, the other the diesel. You kissed me, undressing thoughts I wasn’t aware I had, stripping away at my soul, uniting me with desires kept in the darkest corners of my brain’s inner corridors. You kissed me, turning the light on in every room inside my body.
You saw into me.
You kissed me, wrapped your hand around my throat, how did you know?
You split open a universe.
“Probably someone should take this girl in his arms and hold her tight, I thought. Probably someone other than me. Someone qualified to give her something.” — Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
One day, I will escape this monochrome life and finally take that trip to Italy. I will board that plane without a returning flight home and think to myself, I’ll get back when I get back.
I’ll go chasing myself in the colors, the music, the ruins, the sea, the hills, the wine, and the art.
The first thing I’ll buy will be a rosary for my mother outside of the Sistine Chapel. I’ll throw a coin over my shoulder into the Trevi fountain, I’ll swear I can smell the blood in The Colosseum, I’ll eat pasta and drink wine outside a cafe, then jump on a Vespa in Rome.
In Pompeii, I’ll feel close to those I learned about in first-fourth year Latin, and swear I can feel their spirits in the streets and inside the buildings where time eternally stands still.
In Tuscany, I will feel the desire to fall in love again, I’ll feel alone for a moment, but just for a moment, the night blanketing the sky over the hilltops bringing with it the comfort of a silver moon.
I’ll watch the sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.
I’ll go to Milan just to buy a red dress to wear when I make it to Cinque Terre. I’ll conquer my fear of heights jumping off the cliffs and into the water with the locals in Riomaggiore. I’ll enjoy a five-course meal watching the water reflecting the night sky in Manarola. During golden hour, with a bottle of wine in Vernazza, my skin tan, my hair blowing, my scarlet dress the same red over the clouds, I’ll look up from my beat up copy of Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden. The brown eyes you loved so much will be shimmering in ambers and gold. They’ll be met with a stranger with dark hair, gray at the temples, full lips, five o’clock shadow, and an aquiline nose, smiling and looking intently at me with crinkles around his viridescent eyes. I’ll nod when he asks if he may sit and I won’t think of you.
I’ll join him down to the Amalfi Coast the next day, and we’ll elope in Paris six months later.
He’ll leave me notes in bed every morning. I’ll let him stroke my hair as we sit drinking wine, him unwinding himself through my tresses, me writing him poems to read to him later or leave as surprises in his briefcase.
He’ll give me the children I never knew I wanted, and they’ll blossom in a home with enthusiasm for literature and art, under the love of parents who always encouraged them to be themselves freely. We’ll grow old and I’ll never stop writing. He’ll never stop telling me I’m a talent and I’ll never stop telling him I love him. Our hands will always look for each other and we’ll never forget to kiss goodnight.
I’ll die in a white cotton nightgown like the one my grandmother used to wear. My curly hair wild and silver, my small hands wrinkled; maiden, mother, and now crone. As I take my last breath in the body of a loved, wise, old, woman, I’ll think of your soft, wet mouth on my youthful breast, and I’ll hear your voice again with the same timbre it had the night you told me we make it work in another life.
“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and I’m satisfied with that. Love me a little, I adore you.” — Frida Kahlo
Your absence is loudest on nights sleep eludes me, when I’m fighting against the urge to reach for what’s in my nightstand and draw blood.
I feel dead inside and I somehow still manage to miss you.
I wonder if I’ll always feel this sad. I wonder if I’ll always be this alone.
I think of you in bed, I think of her warm body against yours, how her soft skin must feel under your hands, and I wonder what you think of when slumber evades you.
Does my face ever come across those eyelids?
When you think of me, do you feel a pang in your chest? Do you remember me in fondness or does my memory leave a bitter taste in the back of your mouth?
Do you even think of me?
I’m afraid you hate me for all the poetry.
I’m afraid you hate me for other things.
I’d like to think you meant it each time you said to me, “I love you yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” The alternative makes me feel more alone, even if we never speak again.
“We fucked a flame into being.” — D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
I think my skin has a mind of its own. It stays up at night howling for you, it aches for you, it feels vacant without the bruises and marks you’d paint over it like a Pollock piece when we’d fuck. I wish the ones from the last time would have never left my body, I wish they’d become permanent, because then I’d have something left of you here. I wouldn’t wonder if I made you up.
Our bodies were raked with the need to tear each other apart every way we knew how, compelled to devour and be devoured, I just always thought it was only in the moments we made love. I never thought I’d be lying here feeling like a car crash on the side of the highway, wrecked and missing something that was never mine. You have consumed every part of me that was still alive.
Understand this, I could not help but love you, the same way I could not help but suck when you’d brush your fingers over my mouth.
Our love existed in moments so ephemeral, but they weigh more than the years I’ve had with anyone else. Our moments were small and they were secret, but they were ours. I never belonged to anyone as much as I did to you in those moments where our love existed only within the walls we occupied and below the places your skin made contact with my skin. Our love knew nothing of progress or time, but transcendent it was.
If there is something I could make be known to you, I would want it to be this: I showed more of myself to you than I had ever shown anyone else.
You looked at me in a way that made me want to shed myself and let you take me apart like a matryoshka doll, I only wish we would have had the time for you to have gotten to the most abyssal place inside.
I believed you when you said every part of me was beautiful, I am as certain as I bleed that you meant it, even with the darkness you knew was an integral part of me. There’s so much still levitating over the edges, circulating with my blood, and scraping at my tongue, waiting to be shared with you.
I may always mourn every word left unsaid.
Maybe we were together in another life / Maybe we are together in a parallel universe / Maybe our paths are not supposed to cross twice / Maybe your arms are not supposed to go around me — Fleetwood Mac’s “Destiny Rules”
You kissed me, wrapped your hand around my throat, how did you know?
You split open a universe.
A plethora of possibilities stood at the aperture. I wanted to walk through the one I yearn for with you. My heart waited for you at the door that led to lazy Saturday mornings making love, poetry, passion, fighting, travel, sorrow, happiness, learning, tears, hardship, and everything we could have had together, but you never made it there.
If you’re reading this now, and even if my poems come to say otherwise, I love you yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You’re as visceral as the organs that work in unison to keep my body functioning. You’re as part of me as my skin, my breath, my hair, my nails, my teeth.
I am trying. I am. Someone else’s tongue is on the inside of my thigh, tracing the crease, but I have not a particle of the reaction that the barest brush of your skin would have stirred in me. Maybe I’ll go on more dates with him and I’ll feel like I can get close to someone again. Maybe not him, but the next man I’ll be able to love well enough. Or maybe I’ll end up alone finding sustenance in myself and my art. You’ll give her a ring not too long from now, do the things you never did with me on Saturday mornings, and I’ll never know what our moments meant to you.
You once told me about a dream you’d have of admiring me, as I stood beyond a doorway smiling at you, looking beautiful and hungry for you, and smiling like waiting for you to come in, and how you always woke up before you did. You said you knew it meant you belong with me, that you felt I was your fate, but that you had to walk through the day you were ready. Well, you never did, and you never will.
If this were my book, the ending would be so different, but it’s not. The fact is that you never wanted to write with me, you could have walked through any day, you never even needed a key, but you never wanted to grab a hold of the pen.