tuesday post: third draft.
by Michael King
Hey. I’m not sure where to begin. I feel fragile, writing this, writing to you. It’s been a fragile few weeks, like all my bones are made out of glass, and I’ve been walking around with them, breathing and bracing and waiting to shatter and fall apart. But I’m here, and I’m healing, and I’m writing you a letter.
You asked me if I had any questions, and of course I do. On the night you left, they ripped themselves loose from me, involuntary. Roars against the tile, “why’d you go, why’d you go?”
Two days ago, I was putting my clothes back in the dresser drawers I emptied out for you, and I found it. My sweatshirt, folded there, benign, arms tucked away. I stood there for a bit, stared at it like a wild animal, let realization melt over me: You took the time to pack before you left. I didn’t even search for the sweatshirt you gave me; I knew it wasn’t here anymore.
So then I find myself picturing you, on that day, packing away your things in my bedroom. From the mirror, photo strips of us watched you work. Later, I’d come home from work, throw my arms around you, ask you what you wanted for dinner, help you pack your things into boxes and then your car. But, for the moment, there you were, in a place I’d meant for you to think of as home. My God, did you even pause? There, in the doorway, did you even look back?
Yes, I have questions. They are threads in the sweater I’m wearing, and every pull only unravels me further, more unanswered threads, more frayed and hanging flesh. I am fragile and stained, and so very tired of trying to scrub myself clean.
You asked if I had questions, and I suppose the true answer is no. You gave me all the answer I’d ever need the moment you left.
No. You have no right to show up here. What is it about people who leave that makes them feel such permission to come back? It’s enough that we still live in this kind of proximity, that life etches maplines beneath us and they intersect every November, but the way you waltz up, grinning at me, like the scars on my sternum are a joke written in your handwriting.
As you can see, I’m doing just fine for myself. I’m taking all the love you handed back to me and putting it in different soil, and you know, it’s bearing fruit. I’ve been choosing adventure in the days and weeks since, taking brave new risks at work and watching the magic unfold from my palms. Plenty of proof, for you and everyfuckingbody else, that I’m not just a bundle of broken pieces. I’m more than a hurting heart.
And I know it stings you like an open sore. How dare somebody close the door in return. And so you creep back in the windows, graffiti the walls before you go. Dance your way back in my periphery, daring me to turn my head and look at you. You’re calling my bluff, maybe, tossing a rock at the armor I’ve built and watching for it to fall to pieces at my feet.
So I’m doubling down. I’m sealing the windows. Gone are the days where I show up, wilting, ready to hold out compassion for somebody who’s only at ease when he believes me broken. You can go, or you can thrash against the bricks outside, but you won’t find this door creaking open, and you won’t find my palms reaching for you.
I’ll be honest. Losing you was a housefire, and I was powerless to douse the flames. They burned their way through me, my breaths black smoke in the earliest days, and all I could do was hold what I could carry, stare through squinted, watering eyes, and let the rest fall away. I loved you, and I lost you, and that’s the simplest, clearest truth. I’ll write it down, scrap of paper, and tuck it in my top dresser drawer.
I’m grateful I met you, proud of the story we wrote together, at first in both our handwriting, and – by the end – more and more in just my own. I decided to hold onto some images after all: laughing and flipping sand off of towels on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, sparkling grape juice and improvised New Year’s countdowns, a kiss stolen in an abandoned storefront at the town square. These are the keepsakes, the things gently set in a shoebox at the top of the closet.
I let myself believe you were the sun, a reason to wake up in the morning, bringer of warmth and revealer of color, and so I chased you from horizon to horizon. When it fell apart, when you finally found the courage to let me know you weren’t staying, I kept right on believing it. The night sky stretched long, infinite, and all of the everything felt colorless. But, of course, you weren’t the sun, and saying it out loud was a healing confession. You were a man, carrier of both kindness and cruelty, like every one of us.
After the housefire subsided, I sifted through the ash, and I discovered some parts of me are absolute. From the fragments, I refashioned a self, standing in my most certain elements. I am equal parts steady warmth, stubborn hope, absurd sincerity. I look at our story, and I see how my hands contributed both to building and crumbling us. I understand my role in our rise and fall.
Finally, months and months of sorting, and I’ve run out of things to say. I’ve called it off, the search for meaning. I’m letting go of the idea that we owe each other any explanation. You were a beautiful part of a few past chapters, but I’m pressing ink into new pages now. I’m not opening any old doors, but perhaps I’m tacking a note onto the one I closed.
I’m wishing you good things, always, from the distance. I kept the best things and let the wind carry away the rest.