Upcoming Little Book–to be published Summer 2015
What I Kept From You
Listen, I’m the type of person who likes to spit out gum before it loses its flavor, and I told you that from the very beginning. Remember? I was upfront with you all the way through the end–it was only after we broke up that I began to keep secrets. For example, that winter when we were living out the remainder of our lease, I fine-tuned this list:
Top Five Pet Peeves
- When you misuse the word “literally.”
- When you slow to a dead stop before making a right-hand turn.
- When you hum off-key.
- When you speak inaudibly in that voice that sounds like a cartoon villain.
- When you start a sentence and fail to finish it.
Another secret I kept is that I died that February. Maybe not technically . . . but I did experience the calm adrenaline of dying. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt a peaceful panic in a quiet moment, a zooming out, an intense shift in vision, but it was the first I recognized death in the sensation. If I’d tried to explain it to you back then, you would have been dissatisfied with this description, skeptical of the details, and questioning.
It was 2AM and I was walking on the bike path, winding along asphalt through a shallow layer of trees that barely separated me from backyards and city landscape. When I crossed the bridge over the busy street, the lamplight glowed, crackled, buzzed, dimmed, and vanished. My vision snapped to black and I died for the smallest fraction of time. Into the cosmos.
The old cliché is that humans go towards a light when they die but I have it on good authority that that’s just back-light. We don’t walk towards the light of heaven but rather, away from the rear-view projection of the life we just lived.
I’m still hesitant to tell you about the person who I did meet that night. You might ask what she was doing out there and she’d become suspicious. Or you’d ask what color skin she had and she’d become a stereotype. Maybe you’ll ask “what are the odds?” and she’ll become just another figment of my imagination.
It’s your fault I was out there. Remember? It was the last night I ever woke you up in hopes of comfort. The night I said, “I’m going to take Shadow for a walk,” hoping that you might say, “Are you crazy? It’s past midnight and we live in north county! Are you feeling okay?”
“Aw shit!” Destiny said excitedly. “You in love?”
“Um, no not anymore,” I said.
“I ain’t ever been in love yet but I know it’s gonna be epic. C’mon then, what was it like?”
“It was good,” I said.
Destiny stared at me with the expression of a bull-frog: eyes bulgy, expectant, and patient. I looked away. Our dog was watching the creek intently but I couldn’t determine what he was so focused on–there was only litter, glowing artificially in the moonlight. I tugged on the leash but he wouldn’t budge. Meanwhile, Destiny had kept up her stare, so finally I tried expand upon the statement, ‘love is good.’
“Look,” I said. “It’s hard for me to even remember. It’s been at least a year since I was in love, and then I only realized that I was out of it because I thought . . . Well there was maybe going to be someone else, but they turned out to just be some shiny distraction. So now love just seems like this dark force that’ll trap you and throw your whole life off-track—a temptation best avoided. You’ll probably feel it when you’re about seventeen and then never feel it that intensely for the rest of your life.”
Destiny nodded slowly. I expected her to ask whether you were a girl or a boy, the way people try to simplify our narrative based on gender stereotypes, but she surprised me.
“Well at least that’s better than the shit these folks got to say about it.” Destiny held up Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. “My math teacher gave me this book and I was like, ‘Damn, that looks like some bull shit from the 90’s.’ And sure enough, that’s all it is.”
I chuckled. Destiny nodded at me with a wise-type facial expression that made me laugh outright, then she cracked up, too, and for a moment we shared in that punchy laughter that can only come after 2AM. Do you remember when we used to laugh like that, how good it felt?
I spent the next day falling asleep, dozing and snoozing with three moments of waking up. First, I woke under a bridge with daylight surrounding me, cars whooshing above. Second, I woke in our backyard, our dog standing on my chest and his tongue licking my face. Last, I woke in your passenger’s seat, you doing all five pet peeves, and me loving you & then letting go.
Art Credit: “The Other Time Piece” by Remedios Varo