Bleeding heart is a good label for me right now; my heart certainly feels like it’s been bleeding for a while. Actually, it feels like it’s hemorrhaging so much I’m leaking red out my eyes and mouth and leaving a trail wherever I linger. I don’t know how to stop it. I try ignoring it but then I slip in the unexpected puddles. I try staunching it with prayers and spells and good deeds but they soak through too quickly. There’s no change I could effect in the world big enough to fill this hole so I just keep bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. Is there a source to this fount? Will I ever run out? Or will I just keep overflowing with sorrow?
I go through the five stages of grief every time you leave; by now I’m such an expert I can pass through them in record time. Denial – I search for you in music, in books, in dreams, in words, but you are nowhere to be found. Anger – I think how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you? Bargaining – I apologize profusely for imaginary slights and consider leaving you offerings of whiskey and cigarettes to curry your favor. Depression – everything goes gray and silent and meaningless, and I stop writing completely. Acceptance – I realize this is it, this is the end, there’s nothing more to fear because the worst has actually happened and there’s nothing I can do about it. And then without warning you return, acting as if you’d never left me to fend for myself, and I am expected to play along. And I do, because the alternative is to risk you never returning and I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
He returns to the alley too often. It is not a gravestone, after all, but close enough and all he has. Sometimes he sits on the cold concrete, recalling the night they met – though he sits on the far side, never beneath the darkened streetlight. Most times he just paces back and forth as he lights, smokes, and discards cigarette after cigarette. Their burnt ends litter the cement, are ground beneath his shoes and grow soggy in rain puddles. He hopes some shred of fate still lingers here. He hopes he will catch his lover’s tragedy, be infected with whatever curse or punishment took the man from him so he can experience the same pain, the same misery, the same slow death. In this place where everything started, he seeks the beginning of the end. It is the only way left for him to feel close to his beloved. He hopes he will die here; living is a betrayal he cannot bear much longer.
It’s been ten years. Three thousand six hundred and fifty-two days. In that time, three years of college; three of Americorps; three with a ‘real’ job. Two degrees and one diploma. Four years with the woman I love, who you will never meet. Forty-two foster kittens. Some hundred thousand miles on my car. One car accident, zero broken bones. Two trips to Washington DC, one to Yosemite, one to Switzerland. One new Jurassic Park movie, which you’ll never watch with me, and too many Tremors sequels. Three tattoos, going on four. One wedding to plan and one to attend. Three times a bridesmaid and once a bride. Zero fathers to walk me down the aisle. Zero dads to dance with. Zero you but countless dreams and too many things I’ll never get to share with you.
“You Would Have Been 70”
In 2007, I missed telling you about my history classes.
In 2008, I missed you helping me buy gear for my fieldwork on Mount Rainier.
In 2009, I missed showing you the rock samples I collected in New Mexico.
In 2010, I missed seeing you at my college graduation.
In 2011, I missed introducing you to my new favorite band.
In 2012, I missed hiking in Yosemite with you.
In 2013, I missed introducing you to my girlfriend.
In 2014, I missed you helping me move into my first official apartment.
In 2015, I missed discussing Ray Bradbury with you.
In 2016, I missed showing you my engagement ring.
In 2017, I will miss you walking me down the aisle.
amid a small town
a rusting iron fence;
amid fading gravestones
dried flowers and pine needles;
amid a broken wind chime
a porcelain unicorn;
amid the red carnations
a date range carved in marble;
amid the living’s thoughts
a little girl long lost
(rest in peace, little one, whoever you were)
“Aren’t you going to tell me not to do anything drastic when you’re gone?”, I asked him once. He had shrugged and said, “I won’t give a shit what you do then.” I wonder if that’s true, though. Do you give a shit now? Can you, wherever you are? And if so, are you disappointed in me? I know I am. I used to wonder what I’d do after you were gone, whether I’d pick something flashy like jumping from the roof or something classic like hanging. Turns out I just went back to what I did best before I met you: killing myself slowly with alcohol and painkillers. Not really flashy or classic, I guess, so much as just pathetic. There’s no urge to do anything else, though, you know? I don’t have the energy to climb up to the roof. I don’t have the desire to decide which tie would make the best noose. I don’t even feel moved enough to take the whole bottle of pills and wash them down with a tumbler of Crown. I just keep getting drunk, getting high, getting lost, waiting for the morning I finally don’t wake up. Does that disappoint you? Were you secretly hoping I’d make some grand final gesture, or at least that I’d find it impossible to slip back into my old life so easily? Or do you still, even now, not give a shit what I do or how I do it?