I woke this morning confused.
The drapes were open; I always closed them before we went to bed. The light outside was grey. No sunrise was visible, but the sun must have come. I was fully dressed in a nightgown and sweater; my socks pulled up to my knees, but I felt cold. There was a pile of laundry on your side of the bed.
The house was quiet. I could hear it speak, like it did the first night I moved in.
It took me a moment to remember yesterday; and then it all came back like a wave. Watching you pack with my headphones on to keep your voice out and keep my tears down. I was aware, at every moment, where you were in the house. Gathering up your life to take with you. I just couldn’t watch you do it.
Forgive me for my silence on the drive to the Amtrak station. I couldn’t speak. Keeping the tears down was like trying to hold a giant beach ball under water. It took constant attention and all my strength.
We kissed goodbye in the front seat (It is not goodbye, I keep telling myself, but it feels like it). Each bag you lifted from the back seat tore at my heart. I wanted to scream, “Stop, don’t go! Take me with you! Go tomorrow!”
… anything to keep you with me just a little longer.
Instead of screaming, I got out of the driver’s seat and I held you—as tight as I could. We kissed hard and I felt the warmth of your embrace move through me. I had to let go. If not today it would be tomorrow; no matter when you left it wouldn’t get easier.
I watched as you picked up your bags, arranging the things you would carry with you onto the train. I watched as you walked away. When I pulled out of the drop-off lane and passed the row of cars, you were there waiting. Birds took flight over my car, like a scene from a great love story. I think I said, “Do you need a lift?” I had to say something to keep things light. You blew me a kiss; I returned it. Then you turned around and walked into the station.
I pounded the steering wheel two times and the tears came, the tears I had been holding in for two months: tears of joy for your decision to live your life fully, tears of sadness that I wasn’t going with you and tears of uncertainty because I don’t know when I will see you again. We said we would get a calendar (two, actually) and plot out dates for visits, but we never did.
I made a left-hand turn onto St. Paul Avenue and didn’t look back. I had to drive. The traffic was heavy and my prayers for the cars to part were answered. I was carried on the river of my tears out of the city and onto the highway home.
I turned the radio up loud, kept both hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the road. And I breathed—with everything I had in me. The road rolled on in front of me and I followed its curves.
Just keep breathing.
I remembered that I left the shades open last night to keep company with the moon but the sky was clouded over. I pictured you on the train, your long legs stretched beneath the seat in front of you. (God, I miss the feeling of holding your hand.)
You left your t-shirt behind. I found it on the bed as I removed the extra pillows out of habit, because you only like to sleep with one. Last night I held your t-shirt like a teenager as I fell asleep, the smell of you with me for at least one more night.
I felt like a stranger in my own house as I walked around this morning. I let Jack the Cat out of the basement—I locked him there sometime in the night; I don’t remember. He woke me from sleep one too many times, and each time I was reminded you weren’t there.
After, I made coffee. I cried. I read emails. I cried. I decided a shower might help. You left your shampoo, “designed especially for men” (it says on the bottle). Romantically, I opened it to smell but when I squeezed the bottle it went up my nose. I laughed at the absurdity of the moment—then I cried.
I stripped the sheets off the bed to wash them. Cleaning always clears my mind; and it is time. I found your underwear buried at the foot of the bed. I smiled as I remembered how they ended up down there a few nights ago—and then I cried.
You left a few things behind: your work shoes on the porch, a bag you decided not to take hung in the back hall, the copy of your train ticket that printed incorrectly. Each object seemed to jump out at me as I moved through the morning, and each time I was reminded that you are not here.
For the last two months, I prepared for your departure. I rehearsed the moment in my mind: you turn and walk away. I practiced my breathing. I rolled out my mat and practiced warrior pose, feeling my feet firmly rooted in the ground. I practiced Savasana, letting go and releasing the weight of my body into the earth—surrender.
But today, the morning after your departure, I feel leveled by your absence.
I want to shout, “Is there is a morning after pill for this?” But I know the answer… No. And I really wouldn’t want to take it if there was.
I don’t want to erase what we have; I want our love to grow.
I don’t want to numb the feelings; I am grateful to feel such deep love.
Here is my holistic prescription for our new long-distance love:
1. I will rehearse in my mind the moment you return. Once again, I make the drive to the train station in silence. I arrive early. The birds are there, but this time they take flight as you walk out the doors and back into my arms.
2. Each time I see something you left behind, I will send you thoughts of loving kindness. All these items do belong here. They are here to remind me of you, of all the reasons keeping our love alive makes sense and to make me smile.
3. I will replace loneliness with solitude. I will use my time alone to write, to meditate and to practice more warrior poses. Solitude is a gift, an opportunity to tune into myself; to take a look at what your absence triggers in me and strengthen the parts of me that need work.
Rather than yearning for a pill to take away the pain, I commit to the work of caring for myself and of loving you—from a distance.
It is an honor.
Relephant Read: Making Love on the Train
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jennifer Moore