he came closer while I was being pushed away

I am left by the side of the road, a fugitive leaning silently against a wall as I listen to his truck drive away. I’m tired, he said, of being the one who always has to be strong, and in that moment it was like he had wrapped me the most beautiful gift even as I crumpled, destroyed by the echo of those words leaving my own mouth, over and over again. I wanted wings, then, to furl around him, great feathery things, mythical and incredible, powerful enough to erase pain, the better to protect him from the world. Pinions that scraped the ceiling. Instead my arms found him, found him and held him, while a part of me shattered, horrified, against the promise that I would never be that person, as I resisted the sour memory of times that should never have been.

And so, standing in the street, solitude, the desire to howl down the moon. Anger at myself, at the past that robbed me of what this could be. Such a gift should mean more to me, I should be thrilled, yet here I am, incapable of carrying it, too weak to shout, too weak to even speak, too beaten down. Years of inequality choking me, I rest against the wet cement blocks of an anonymous warehouse office and try not to hate. If such a treasure had been presented to me a few months ago, I would have been beyond grateful, filled to the edges with joy, a flower in bloom. It was the only thing I wanted, just for myself. I would have been able to cradle it, this admired jewel made of fire, but now feels too late. Instead I have been broken. The devastating distance I tried so hard to survive has finally claimed me for its own.

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