We are all china barely mended,
clumsily glued together
for the hot water and lemon
to seep through our seams.
– Toby Barlow
He walked from the apartment in the direction he always did, like a recording of the life we used to have, and with a pause and a wave, that achingly familiar wave, a chapter of my life slipped behind a corner and shut, as firmly and finally as anything ever is. Goodbye like a relationship on fast forward, my cheeks so hot it looked and felt like sunburn, my hand still splayed on the chilly glass of the balcony’s sliding door. I was supposed to be finished crying for him, but he is moving away, back south, family matters, a phone call from his mother, an inherited house, and his name remains holy. He hurt me terribly, but he is not a terrible person. We were in love once. Probably are still. The worst thing about losing my wallet was losing his letters. Sometimes that is all that matters.
Once upon a time we were beautiful, a miracle, stronger together than the sun, living incarnations of joy, swimming lions against the storm. I named him, the power of sharp teeth, the domesticity of myth, and he crawled into my heart to sleep, safe and warm, and so, more importantly, to wake. When he betrayed us, it was like he’d chewed his way out. Such a surprise to discover him there still, even after so much pain.
In it to win. We talked a little about it this evening, what we used to be. The french man on the bus who gave us a speech about how nice it was to see people in love, the girls at the sandwich shop who openly cried when informed that we’d broken up. He claimed his responsibility and apologized once again, forgiveness, that tricky thing, welling up like clean water through the barren places he left behind. “Of course,” I said, “it is so very good to see you.” I only wish he’d been by sooner, when I’d asked him to, after I took both of his hands and said, “Life is too short to stay afraid of me or of hurting me.” But instead he put it off, and now it is too late, another piece of home flaking away, he has to leave.
“You are beautiful,” he said, “Thank you for everything. For being you. You are amazing. For bringing me back to the light.” He will be gone by the time I return from my trip, so I will think of him when my plane takes off, maybe picture him behind the wheel of the moving truck, marveling at the beauty of the drive, solid as my faith, as our understanding of each other, as he drives toward his chosen exile, an endless, sunny suburb with his family, as both deathless and lifeless as only California can be.