It Is Not the Storm That Slays Me
I saw you today. The dark clouds gave way to thunder and when the lightning chaser sparked up the sky, I saw your silhouette.
I'm not sure how many days you've been gone. For the longest time I kept count by the calendar, but somewhere along the way I forgot to keep track.
It's been three and a half hours. It's been four years. It's been no time at all. It's been forever.
I was bulletproof, you see. Secure in my safety vest that kept danger at bay and prevented hurt from piercing through. Such illusions we surround ourselves with. We think that if we earn enough, if we build enough and own enough that we'll add strings to our bow of invincibility. We think that pain won't find its way to us.
My mind has never been able to recall the exact words they spoke to me when they told me you'd gone. Those moments are forever lost to me. But my body holds the memory. My skin still remembers.
Through the muffled noise, in the empty chaos I felt as though I'd been shot. The gun came preloaded with pain. Bullets burned through me.
I was still standing upright yet it seemed as though I were falling to the floor, cold concrete pressing into my cheek as I willed the world to stop moving. Of course you hadn't gone. That was unquestionable. Unfathomable.
I needed time to understand. A moment. A century. Never.
Later on, I learned that I had behaved quite calmly, spoken rationally, made sense. Apparently the screams in my head had stayed silent. It was only I who had been deafened by their roar.
There was a defining moment, there in the first throes of grief. A moment when I knew that my world had irrevocably altered.
The weeks that followed were fragmented. Layers. Loss. Devastation. Decay. Every time I tried to untangle my mind, more thoughts came flooding in. There was no room for them, but they came anyway. I looked for meaning in everything. I found solace in nothing. I didn't know who I was or where I began.
I had nowhere to go. I had nowhere to be. All I could do was follow my restless feet to the next moment.
Seasons have come and gone since then and I have envied their ability to cease and recommence as though death were no thing to them, as though living were easy.
The days without you are like strangers I don't want to meet. I have no interest in their empty embrace. The scent of every sunset haunts me, I cannot stand to see the curtains close on another day that you weren't here to witness.
The world continues on, as it always has, as it always will. The woman on the subway pushes past me, the newspaper vendor stares through me, the coffee barista smiles at me.
I am stunned at how unaffected they are, at the ease with which they move. It is inconceivable to me that there is a person on this planet who has not been changed because of you.
Summer days are the hardest. The contagious joy that manages to infect everyone else is unable to catch me. Here, in the crowds of everyone and everything, I stand alone.
I welcome the winter and its blanket of snow. It covers what I can no longer bear to see.
The nights are made of you. Every fractured hour. Every broken dream. In the starlight, beyond midnight, I cry out with a raw rage that only the darkness can hold. I die a thousand times before the rays of the sun finally find a way to break through.
There is some relief in the shadowy hours. I am not so seen. I can peel off the pretense and set aside the disapproving comments that I should be over this by now.
In the mornings I armor up. It's become a familiar routine. Layer covers layer. Motion follows motion. It's robotic and hypnotic all at once.
It is not the storm that slays me. It is the calm. The endless drops of silence that threaten to become an ocean of never ending nothingness. I cannot bear to sink into their depths. I am too terrified of what I might find out. About who we were together. About who I am without you.
I'm the shipwreck that is still throwing down an anchor. Still trying to secure my shattered pieces to something stable. If I can just hold on to something solid, I'll be whole again.
I'm told I will get through this, that I'll move past this. Those words are a waterfall that washes over me, barely leaving a residue. I don't want to get through, I don't want to move past. I only want you back.
It's more than I understand, more than I know how to feel. Loving you and losing you have been the lessons of my life.
Those shots of grief that ripped through me never quite found their way out. There was no exit wound. The hurt remains inside me but I have found a space for it where it has settled into something less devastating.
I speak to you often. The air around me holds my monologue with acceptant hands. Although your voice never calls out in reply, I am saturated with the sounds of you. There are echoes of you everywhere, faithful notes that never leave.
Still there are times when a memory hurtles unexpectedly towards me, slicing my breath away with it's too-sharp steel and once again I am floored with grief anew. But right before my center crumbles, something else steps in. A knowing. A resoluteness.
It's an alchemical moment. What was transforms into what is. And pain cannot live in that moment. It's a quiet, graceful second of extraordinary. A beautiful bare skinned tribute to truth.
It is from that truth that my comfort comes. Your story has etched itself so deeply onto every page of my soul. Your love lives on inside of me and I hug it to me like a precious, timeless gift, taking you with me wherever I go.
Image courtesy of Brenda Clarke