Do other people say primly, ‘I’ll think about that tomorrow when I am rested’, and then draw on a hoped-for future or an edited past like a child playing with violence against the inevitability of bedtime?
~ John Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent
This is longing. As I write the word, it becomes clear, how much longing exists inside of me, and cannot be shaken or soothed by anyone else. Even by you.
Still, I wonder so many things about you when night is dark and I’m afraid of everything.
I used to be around you enough to feel down to my bones that the world would make sense one day. Usually, I am just fumbling toward meaning.
So, I decide to sit here and fictionalize you. I conjure up a person I can shower with questions, because you have been so many things to me.
You have been so many stories around the edges of my life. You are always here in that way, even when I can’t find you.
You don’t need to answer just because I’m asking. But neither will I stop myself from putting these questions out there into the night.
These questions come from here, where you are not. They (don’t) reach you, where I am not.
Yet the not reaching is so full. The looking-at, of you as I write, takes me a few steps closer to everything I have, which is my heart, which is where I need to be. I thank you for this.
Is it dark where you are, too?
I long to know: who are you now? Does the moon, which I am looking at right now, still make your head feel cracked in two, but without any pain?
Who will you be in the morning? Are your dreams still with you? Remember how you used to retain so many more of them than I ever could? How they used to terrorize you, even though you laughed this away?
It never disappears, wanting to know you. This desire still moves through me. I want to know how you move around in your space, if you like where you are. I must have been born in a state of wanting to know you.
Sometimes I still grab at life, like I’m waiting for it to do something back, like it’s a person. I forget where I am, and I talk to strangers, and indulge all my questions.
Like, who will you be tomorrow? Will it be an ordinary day, or will you be doing something spectacular? I don’t remember anything about you being ordinary.
Who will you go home to when the day is done?
When you came home to me, your stories consumed me more than my own lapsed hours ever did.
I forgot my time in yours. Every time.
Who will you be next week? Maybe you’ll be out in the rain at that exact moment that transforms the earth and creates a revolution in the seasons. You’ll watch winter turn to spring, because that’s always been your gift.
You’ve always been in the middle of things; I’ve always been the one watching you.
And a year from now—how many relationships will you have left behind? Will you still be in the middle of things, but maybe a little further out, alongside the road in the gravel, with thick browning grass behind you, bristling your skin? Will you be between cities, happy to go either way?
If I could join you, I would probably not be wearing anything you’d recognize anymore.
In ten years, would you tell me that you sometimes have trouble recognizing yourself in the mirror? But that you like the lines on your face, because they have been with you as you walked so far away from where you started?
You would probably tell me that I, too, have walked far, maybe farther than I’ve been able to see.
And at the end of your life, who will you be? You have always been travelling, I’m pretty sure of this.
You have given yourself that chance. This is how I’ve known you, though I don’t think I knew you in that deep-inside place.
I wonder if you will always wander where the myth of the open road screams the loudest with sad, haunting, crazed life. Where no one can quite catch you but where we all dream to be. I wonder if you ever get tired and where and how you decide to rest.
I still wonder what you choose, which marks you’ve left, like it might tell me who I am.
As I wonder, though, something happens and there is movement. I am turning from you (maybe you’re always here, like you are never here) and toward a universe that swells with a completeness that shocks me awake.
As I move within this universe, I become.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own