In the simplest terms, we were a jumble of puzzle pieces. The kind of puzzle pieces you find in a dirty old bag hidden in the basement, forgotten by ruined families and careless people. The kind of puzzle pieces that are faded, tattered, missing edges and, once in awhile, utterly beautiful still. The kind of puzzle pieces that get pushed together in an attempt to form something, anything whole. And so that’s what we were. Puzzle pieces forced into each other, time after time, until something finally works.
I loved you before I knew you. I loved you when I spotted you in a crowded lecture hall, head down and trying to be a ghost. I loved the way you would push your hair behind your ear when you took notes, the way you took your breath, and the way you smiled at me when you caught me staring. It took 46 seconds of shaky breathing and awkward smiles to say hello, followed by five seconds where nothing else mattered when you shook my hand. It was the beginning, and of course, the end. It wasn’t until months later that my mind wandered over the millions of other possible scenarios that could’ve happened, the ones that get to take place in other time line’s where we both get to be happy. And so it hurts me all the same.
You taught me how to build bird houses and how to lay underneath trees for hours in silence. You watched old movies with me and listened to records with me. You wandered between the aisles of dusty book stores and run down thrift shops, always finding something worth buying. You showed me that bed time stories don’t have an age limit. You showed me how to hold hand’s in such a way thay it never became a bother. You showed me that cheap carnivals and dollar movies were the best thing in life. You taught me about kissing, and how soft kisses could never be beat.
It escalated very quickly. Friendship turned to love turned to relationship. I saw you as this perfect creature that could save me from all the things I was running from, the things that we only talk about in locked bedrooms and under the night sky. I never asked what haunted you though, and that is my biggest regret. I was so busy trying to find my way home through the shattered glass of your eyes that I failed to remember when you told me you were no sanctuary. You were my steeple, my home, my all. Only after did I see it all. The smoke that lingered behind your windows, the paint peeling and fading from the walls, the broken stairs and achey walls. The rotting structure that was months from collapsing. I wanted you to be perfect for me l, and I for you. I didnt realize that I couldn’t love you enough for the both of us.
The distance that grew between us came in midnight hours and silences that lasted too long. It came when you would no longer dance with me under the stars, when you put back every paperback I found. When you told me that all music was the same and we were all sell outs in the end.It grew in empty theaters and emptier hearts. It came when you were with me but miles away. It came full circle when you whispered in my ear that no one knows anyone and that ultimately we are the universe’s loneliest creatures.
You left on a cold day in the middle of winter, on a day that I was beginning to realize that something once lost can never be fully regained. The wind bit at my face and the whispered ghost songs in my ear. The trees were naked and seemed to be ashamed of how open they were, their branches twisted like arms covering their bruised and broken remains. Even the streets were empty, all the people hidden away in their homes and protecting their family histories. Yet, despite the silence around me, my head was full of thoughts and sad voices.
I almost didn’t notice the ambulance speed past me.
I approached your house, police lights and ambulance throwing off shades of red and blue. My mouth became thick and heavy, and I felt a disgusting warmth in my throat. My hands went numb and my knees gave way, my feet trying to maintain balance as I ran across the gravel. My body crashing through the front door and pounding up the stairs. My knees giving way when I saw your still frame on the ground, surrounded by clothed officers. The tears and screams of pain and anger and the desperate meed to hold you, to be with you. Beating my palms raw on the floor as I tried to crawl to you. The comfort of blacking out.
It made the local news when your father went on trial. I missed the entire thing. Most days I hid away in my room, only coming out at night to eat. He went to jail, and I couldn’t feel a thing but anger. He never even apologized.
We buried you at sundown in the dress you were supposed to wear to prom. It was a small service, with a few friends of ours and the shop owners we frequented. Everyone cried. The pastor said a few words, and them I found the courage to apologize and tell you how much I loved you. Everyone cried some more then. I stayed until they made me leave, then came back for a week straight. The grief counselor made me promise to try and visit less, because that’s what you’d want. I told her that she didn’t know you, and it made her quite sad. I don’t think I’ll be seeing her again.
I still wander through the city streets a lot, and the people always talk to me. They offer me sad smiles and sympathy. They don’t know if I’ll get better. I am still searching for you in back alley book stores and run down thrift shops, and most times I can still see the ghost of you wandering between the aisles. And so the things I lost became the things I carried, with you always in my head and filling up my heart.
And here among the living, I can still feel you all around me, though it’s clear the ghost is me. I’m trying my best to be what you know I could be.
And wherever you are, I know its a better place. I know that you are there, watching old movies and reading dusty books. Andwhen it is my time , I know that you will meet me at the gates.
I will meet you at the gates.