Dear Fiery One:
Ever since I spoke to you on the telephone today, I can’t stop thinking of you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking of you since you left, but in the beginning, I thought of you mostly in flashes. When I made myself supper, I remembered you because I was cooking for one instead of two. When I woke up on the couch at 2:00 am, I missed you because you didn’t wake me up and march me off to bed like a sleepy child. I wore your wedding shoes to work and thought about how far away you were walking in another pair.
I told you on the telephone this afternoon that the pain of missing you is worsening as your coming home draws nearer and how strange this is because I had expected that it would lessen. I told you how the loneliness feels like it is ballooning within me. It stretches me, creating new spaces with which to fill itself.
I think I know why this is now. I went for a long walk after work and took pictures along the way. I took one of a young woman with a curious limp, a series of orange signs with arrows pointing in opposing directions, the moon rising over a roof and behind trees. When I show you those photographs, they will be nothing more than objects: the limp will disappear in the still frame, the reason why the arrows on the signs are funny will not transfer as well outside the moment, the crack of my hip signalling winter as I jump down from a sign on a business’s front lawn because the moon was too high will have been heard only by me.
At the beginning of your long trip away, there was not much for us to have missed together. A few meals, a couple of movies, books, some writing – all of these things are easily caught up on. But too much time has passed now. So much has happened, both small and large, that loses its edge in the re-telling. I feel like there is no catching up, that we can’t catch up, that this time has been lost and we can never have it back. I think this ballooning in my chest is my grieving.
And that is why it hurts more and more as the time of your return draws nearer. With each day, I become more and more aware of how much I will be unable to share with you when you walk through our door. My awareness of this is not only on an intellectual level; my heart, my emotions, my body are aware of how eager they are to see you and touch you and feel you and how much of my life cannot be there as a part of that moment’s experience with you. Am I making any sense here? Pieces will be missing, and we can’t have them back. I miss the parts of you that your experiences have become that I cannot touch because I don’t know where they are.
When I was little, my father would sometimes give me a big hug and then bite my cheek hard. He never bit hard enough to leave marks, but I could feel the aching shape of its impression on my cheek afterward. “Love hurts,” he would say. I thought of that when I was taking that photograph of the moon. I am being bitten away, hollowed out, by the empty space in our bed, the unheld hand I shove in my coat pocket, the kisses that go unkissed. I used to think he meant that it hurt when you love someone and they break your heart, but now I know that it can hurt anyway. Love can hurt even when the other person still loves you back.
Did I tell you about the day that I almost told everyone I spoke to that I loved them? I nearly said the words “I love you” to all these people: my office mate, Friday, a couple of mutual guy friends, the cashier at the convenience store, my boss, an acquaintance on the street. It was funny all day until I came home and cried. I hadn’t said “I love you” out loud to anyone in person for so long that I was brimming with it, boiling over, and I had no physical you to give it to. I was alone with it. I can tell you I love you over the telephone a thousand times but never press it against you in the way that only my eyes and lips and arms and body can.
This grief of living without you is a picture I will remember. It is a placemarker that says here is where she loved so much it nearly consumed her. Here is the time and place of her Longing. Look at the red segmented circle on her cheek. When I am old I will point to it and tell the story of how much I loved you, the wet pillows, the lost weight, the poetry written inside when you wouldn’t leave my thinking. Look how brightly passion can burn the least thought.
I feel that when you walk through our apartment door in six days I will collapse, I will cry intolerably, I will find myself bereft of speech, I will hold you too tightly, I will eat you alive to keep you here forever. Because I can’t bear the thought that you will go away from me again. Because it hurt more than I thought grieving your absence could short of death. Because hot baths are the only thing I’ve had to keep me warm. Because nothing in this life feels like you do. Because there is no recipe to mirror the salt of your skin. Because the food you cook never makes me feel guilty. Because you play the best music. Because your stories make me laugh. Because you teach me how to feel things I have forgotten. Because you make time mean less. Because your musk is seductive. Because I have fallen in love with you one hundred thousand times. Because I love you.
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new– e. e. cummings, 1925