love letters: a list in eleven parts
i knew you as a child. or do i say i once knew you? can we know one another, all these years later, when everything in all the worlds has changed, and yet yes. i would say yes. we can know what only we can know. the strange shapes, distorted. the picture of the girl in the blue sweater, smiling. the questions that were burned in the fire that night, and so too the image staring back.
but what do we name it?
the memory. steinbeck. the finding. the wondering if everything that exists is its own language.
will we call this a first love, or a haunting, or the only one who could ever absolve me?
when i heard you speak, something in me fell out. or entered in.
and how was i supposed to perform the ritual of piecing myself together again when all i wanted now was to be pierced, construction happening only in the act of disruption?
to the blank page and the blinking cursor. to the words that want to come and sometimes get stuck somewhere between imagined and mouth. to the first time i heard my own language. to the rage that was released. to the slow and unspectacular, the messy and earth bound, the hours of knowing i am lost and not caring. to the night. to the typewriter. to the titles. to the cadence and the sound and the way some words come stark like branches exposed. to writing.
i love you.
you wanted something broken. i wanted to be whole. it was a match made in need, and we made marred marks and beauty of it.
when i walked into the room for coffee, the room with those vaulted industrial loft ceilings and the exposed brick that broke off in your hands, i could not stop turning toward you. because my back felt arched a new direction and my tongue now tasted like sun, and i could not bear how hungry and beautiful it was, the things that would follow. the blond of your hair, mostly matted, and the sundresses and sneakers you wore without shoe laces, and the shape of your hands pouring water over your legs. the cookies you made with too much butter. the recklessness of want. the terrible grief of finding what we need when we cannot yet say yes. and i wanted, so much, to say thank you. and i needed, so much to say i’m sorry.
in my dreams, there is the smell of roses. rose water. and it fills my hair like a nest of moss and medicine. there is the iris. and there are these large rocks. and there is quartz that i claim as diamonds. and there are mountains. there is chocolate and pie crust and blackberries. there is dish soap, and an torn apron, and hands that hold needle and thread and in the dream, i slip through the eye.
you said i was the sweetest girl you’d ever seen. and i said, you’re full of shit. i don’t like sweet. and then we kissed by the truck, and there was no music but the air was so loud, the force of it, the restless way it came over the road and how i thought to myself that in two days or three weeks or maybe a month, i’d leave you in the night and you’d never know what happened, and it did not even matter because in that moment, everything hurt but you helped.
the first hands that touched me after the cancer came and then left. except no. it didn’t leave. it was brutally attacked and destroyed, and this was the goal and so we celebrated as victory, except no. it destroyed something of me and in me too. and so after the cancer came and occupied me and then there was no more cancer and only the empty spaces in in me it left behind. after this, yours were the first hands that touched me. and the first mouth that made sense to me. and i couldn’t look at you. do you remember this? how i couldn’t look at you because it was too intimate. and you didn’t leave.
to the one who told me no. thank you.
to the one who tended to the wounds. thank you.
to the one who stood there while i cooked dinner and pressed thin filo dough onto parchment paper and baked baklava, and then spoke into the silence, thank you.
to the one who ran into the woods with me. thank you.
to the one who let me get away. thank you.
we were sitting in the student union, on those wood benches, heads bent over paper napkins with pictures drawn in dark pencil. your hair was longer than mine, and my learned defiance was large as continents. and there were symbols sketched, that would become ink branded forever on skin, that would remind me in some unalterable way that meaning is not found, it is made.
there is not a single morning in which we have woken, where i don’t look over at you and swallow soft the unrelenting wave of luck to see you there, next to me. and after all the times. and the years. and the loves. and the losings. all the makeshift slings to set the broken parts inside, and the questions as to how any of us are ever to understand the way this works and goes and gives way to cracked wings flying home. and yet. still. somehow. the love that is light walks with you to the lake and you open a door, familiar as if already known and yet always unknowable. and somehow the answer is yes, and the orientation is inarguable (how i could not navigate a world now without your imprint everywhere), and the struggle is worth something, real and warm as the gold worn around your neck. and i want to say, i know you. i want to say, please, come here to me. and i am always finding my way back to you. i want to say, it is you, it is you, it is you. my love.