Don’t blame him for his choice. I’ve seen what that place does to a man. I’ve seen the ruddy glow of life pale beneath harsh fluorescent lights and ammonia stench. I’ve watched plastic tubes siphon the will to fight back. I wouldn’t have wanted it either, had I known it would do no good; had I any warning or choice or power at all in those final days. I didn’t, though – but you do. So honor his choice. We aren’t meant for our last sight to be cold white walls, the last sound we hear shrill machinery, our last sense a thin mattress and linen washed to tissue paper. We aren’t mean to pass our last moments in a place where our loved ones can’t hold us. Don’t let that place take him from you even before death does.
I could not share you, not even a sliver. Perhaps that makes me selfish; perhaps that makes me wise. I try to imagine you laughing with someone the way you laugh with me, for once truly at peace, and jealousy tightens around my lungs. I try to imagine you cooking dinner for someone else and running into their arms when they walk through the door and my heart constricts. I can share you with friends and family. I can spare you for the hours each day we both have to work. But stand by while a portion of your affection, your body, your love is gifted to another? I would shatter. I would crumble. I may not believe myself worthy of your devotion, but I’m still selfish enough to hoard the candlelight in your eyes and the poetry on your lips. Those are mine. You are mine.
I can’t save the world. I can’t change society. I’m only one person, after all. I can improve the lives of maybe one hundred people on some miniscule level. Twenty-five significantly, in all the years I live. But one life, your life, I can change completely and forever. I can wake you from your nightmares. I can tell you you’re beautiful, even if you’ll never believe me, because you’ll still know I believe it. I can give you a cottage by the ocean or a farmhouse surrounded by fields surrounded by forest, and dogs to run in that forest, and vegetables to grow in those fields. I can show you a happiness you never thought possible for yourself and in that way I will change the entire world for you, and that will be a legacy worth leaving.
She says to write about myself but I don’t know how. If I try to look too deep all I see are the individual pieces I’ve gathered like a crow building its nest; scraps of sound, shards of sight, pieces of texture and taste and temptation. I lose my sense of self to the mosaic until I forget if I’m a girl or just sea salt and fog and candleflicker in dark windows. When I turn within myself and ask “who am I?” no voice answers. All I hear is the susurration of the ocean and the wind through pine boughs. When I turn within myself and ask “what am I?” all I feel is the heartbeat of mountains and the stars revolving overhead.
Some days I don’t want to be beautiful. Some days I want to be a monster, frightening and furious. I want to cover myself in armor and spikes, hide every bit of pink human flesh beneath ink and metal, grow claws and fangs and horns. I want to dye myself colors that warn poison! poison! so no one comes near. I want to be too strange, too foreign, too dangerous. Too different. Not beautiful. Not dependable. Not the good girl. Just wild.
(But on some nights, every night, I want to strip all that armor off and crawl naked into your arms. Be small and weak and unadorned; just a girl, neither good nor bad. Even on the days when I want to be a monster, I want to be only myself with you.)
If you must go away, at least leave me a trail to follow for the day my heart grows too restless to restrain; breadcrumbs, blood, tears, bullet shells, shards of glass or pieces of the moon, it doesn’t matter what; I’ll know what you have touched, so just leave me something and I will follow the day I can no longer bear to stay behind.