I thought of you the other day when I went walking by myself on the trail we both believe is ours alone, amid the abundant ferns and rolling water, the one where you pointed out various knots in trees and animal homes while I concentrated on my feet and silently ticked off all the ways I would break your heart.
You were young then, and so was I. You called me “ma’am” and I called you “sir,” and we thought we were clever in that way, cute even, seeping with desire for one another and the great, big, outside world, but also carrying a bit of angst along for the ride in our long black coats, me in my red docs and you in those time travelling, vintage Nike’s you said you’d never throw away, even if the soles fell off.
I remember the way your face felt in my hands, clean, no beard, your cheeks moist and smooth under the coolness of the tree canopy, and I loved the way your mouth moved, your jaw, and how you casually quoted song lyrics as if the storage container inside your brain held no bounds. I wanted to slap you and kiss you at the same time. Did I hate that I loved you? I think so, maybe. You were sweet that day, and every day, and I would like to think you still are. I was arrogant and unsatisfied, but I’ve changed.
I imagine you now because that’s all I have left of you—my imagination—and I imagine that you are still humble and reserved, and quiet, and you are busy, as always, creating works of art from nothing, from inside yourself, and you are happy. Yes, Michael, I like to imagine you happy. Are you happy? What is it to be happy?
When I think about it, I am perplexed because we humans spend our lives searching for something that should come easy. We ignore and shun what is directly in front of us. I remember the thing you always told me, how you said I overcomplicate my own thoughts, which is a simple truth wrapped in a bomb.
I hummed the Chris Cornell song to myself, the song that feeds my pining. It’s the only song I hear when it comes to you.
Doesn’t remind me. I sing it because of the irony. The truth is I lost you, I let you go, and everything reminds me.
Every. Damn. Thing.
Michael, I wonder if you still have those Nike’s, what they look like now, if they’re sitting on a shelf, or buried in a box, if they are still on your feet and maybe you’ve had to change the laces, and do they still hold some space for you, do they matter at all any more, and does your memory of me still matter, and if it does, Michael, I’d like to say thank you from the woods.
I sat on the rock that looks like a person with hair. You pointed it out and laughed, while I watched your eyes dance. As heartbreaking silence took turns with living sounds, sounds that echoed and bounced back into the wilderness, that piece of you lodged inside me still offered a delicate beat.