We talked about you for weeks in a hushed and jumbled mix of past and present tense, and I wished for you to speak up – for you to tell us you weren’t deaf and you weren’t dead. Instead, you were shut up inside yourself in a way that I have never known you, but I am realizing day by day all the ways that I have never really known you.
They gave me a pamphlet called “Gone From My Sight”, a matter-of-fact black-and-white breakdown of each day that you had left. We passed it around, made jokes about the order form in the back, and laughed to keep from crying. I used it as a bookmark, not as guidance – your life simply couldn’t be reduced to a solemn list of all the ways your body betrayed you in that bed.
Watching you slip away has left me with an overwhelming sense of being homesick all of the time. I hear your voice inside my head, and I know that once it fades, the silence will never seem so loud. But for now, this will have to be enough – celebrating your life with the people who knew you best, and loving you as fiercely as you loved all of us, and I can’t remember if I told you, so thank you for helping me grow up.
Our expectations exceed our effort; it’s been true this whole time, but now there’s no denying it. We limp along and when someone falls, the crowd tramples overtop, screaming that it’s our right. Eight months ago, we assured ourselves that we were better than Italy, better than everyone, but KEEP AMERICA GREAT!!! is the emptiest slogan of the modern times, suitable only for memes and not suitable for children. We are at war with ourselves while the world watches. Our expectations exceed our effort, and the only thing we do together now is fail each other.
We drove for hours to get there, to get to the middle of nowhere, with no driveway and no electricity, but when we made love by lamplight, you held on like all you needed was me. Later, much later, you froze me out, and all I could think about was that I should have burned us to the ground by the lit fuse of your kerosene lamp.
Our last moments together feel like a tragic misunderstanding now; I thought that you were high as you wiped sleep from your eyes, so I turned around and walked out. It wasn’t the last time I saw you, just the last time I saw you alive, and I wish that I had tried to see you, simply you, underneath it all. Instead, what I remember most is finally getting that call, dropping the phone and driving for miles, but not fast enough. It was never enough – not enough time, not enough strength, not enough love. I have enough regrets to last a lifetime, but none of them are a lifeline that will ever bring you back.
We control what we can right now: bandanas on our faces, even if we can’t breathe; winter gloves on our hands, even if it’s seventy degrees outside (because who can find latex ones anymore); mindful distancing between ourselves and people we don’t know, and sometimes even people we do know. But it still feels like too little, too late. It still feels so far out of our control: the people who won’t cover their faces even though it’s now a law; those with free fingers, touching every available surface in sight; limits on the amount of food we can bring home even though we’re supposed to stay home as much as possible. We try to remember to wash our hands all day long until they are raw. We try to remember not to touch our nose our mouth our eyes, even if it kills us – because it actually might kill us. We try to remember that this can’t last forever. Until it’s over, we just wash our hands again so they are clean while we wrestle for control, six feet apart.
-L.R.Y. (based on the writing prompt of “control”)
Selective quarantine and three crazy dogs; no one has been eaten yet, and we are keeping the peace. I mean, it’s only been two days and we have to last two weeks, at least, but I told you we couldn’t get married until we lived under one roof, so I guess this is a good first step, especially since you brought me breakfast in bed.
You are my earliest memory, the piece of the puzzle that changed me in an instant. I made up names for you before you were born, and told you stories from the vast imagination of a 2-year-old. Later, I created games where you were a martian in a skirt or a pretty pretty princess, and for a while I could bribe you by claiming you were my best friend. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was the truest thing I’ve ever said.
Some things are tangible, quantifiable: the miles between us, the number of texts, the hours until I see you next. The important things, those are harder to describe in amounts we can touch, like the fact that sometimes I feel like I already love you too much. I tried to keep it contained by saying “two weeks”, but there was no point to it; we both already knew it. I had told myself that next time, I would stall the fall, but you’re not the next time I expected. You are softer, kinder, easier to trust, and I think maybe that must count for so much more than all the times before. I focus on the beginning now, and hope that somehow we’ll never make it to an end.
The first one is often strange – a linear black and white glimpse of a person I’ve known tangibly for the briefest span of time, but line after line, your shape fills the page like it is filling my days, and because of these words, this is now the way I will remember you always.
I used to let you do most of the talking, but now I have so much to say and I just don’t know how. Silence settled in between the screaming, and I know I’m only dreaming we can work this out now, but I’ll keep trying until you say “when”. I’ll do the talking if you won’t, I’ll love you even if you don’t. I know what I did wrong, and I wish I’d known it all along, but I’m trying now. Does that count at all? Maybe not, but I’m not ready to let go, I’m not ready to stop.