“Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” ~ Maya Angelou
Yesterday, I hiked the path we always took when we needed to move our legs but couldn’t commit to the entire day.
It was the one with the elbow bend that loops around and brings a body back to reality, the one where we shared a special moment because it was the most expected place on the most unexpected day, and it doesn’t remind me of anything.
Nothing reminds me of you.
Not the sun setting or rising, not the moon or the clouds or the trees, not the puddles in our driveway, not your weight bench, not the tools in our shed, the one I cleaned out to make a little writing space for myself, just to be closer to you while you worked, the one with my flower box and welcome mat, the one that was way too hot and ultimately a stupid decision but looked cute anyway. The one that just sits there looking pretty without function anymore because you are not there, behind the old, creaky door.
In the quiet, plain hours, I still see you. I see you there. I see you bare.
I see you raw and empty and yet so busy, your mind like 365 butterflies flapping in a cage, dodging each other, moving from corner to corner, never stopping. I see you striving for something I could never give.
During the day, your wheels were always turning, you filled your life with people and things and different jobs and places to be, and even me, until I came to know the abandoned child who steered your wayward ship. I knew the needy you, the motherless you, the you who yearned for a father, the you who pined for something he could not see or touch. The restless you, picking fights, and acting out, the you who ran with scissors and did not play well with others.
I loved the way you stroked my hair, the way you gently pushed a swath behind my ear, the way you told me you didn’t like physical touch, but you couldn’t stop yourself from touching me because I was perfect in my acquiescence, because I was in front of you, a tangible, touchable, vulnerable, energy.
I walk the way we used to go when we needed to get to town, when we needed books and coffee and a sunrise, when we needed some sort of bustle, something to do that didn’t require a bit of thinking, something different from days spent alone with each other. I like this walk. It brings me a bit of peace and I hum our favorite Chris Cornell song; I walk to the beat of his beautiful cover of “Wild World” and there are many days I remember you with a smile instead of a frown.
I find that nothing compares to you and I on our best day, during the best parts of our love story.
Our expensive bicycles still sit in the corner of the garage.
And now I have too many towels.
Your side of the bed is neat as a pin.
Our stacks of books remain, gathering dust. I do not wish to open those pages anymore.
Still, in the quiet plain hours, I see you. I see you clear.
I see the curve of your body when you were laying on your side, looking at your phone. I see your hair getting too long. I see you ignorant. I see you being kind while orchestrating a few witnesses to your kindness.
You, working on something magical. You, not finishing, putting your tools down, calling it a day. You, procrastinating. Me, bringing you a cold, delicious IPA and sitting for a bit with you on our little porch at the end of the day. Me, listening and nodding.
I see you pacing, your thoughts racing. I see my eyes absorbing, not agreeing. I wanted it to just stop so I buffered and placated. Simply put, I was your yes. I allowed, and submitted, and held it in. I made space for your emotions, but like wild weeds, they overcrowded mine and I wilted. Like a thirsty, loyal dog, I lapped up every drop of anything good you sent my way. And I almost took my last breath.
You, ruminating, filling up a room with hot air that never went anywhere. You, flexing your sinewy muscles, trying to make me laugh. You, reaching for my face tenderly.
In the quiet, plain, naked hours, I still see you. I see you at your best and me at my worst, before I found a pound of courage in the deep but illuminated place where my own little broken child began fighting for something more, before I raised my own balled up fist and walked out the door.
Now, when the silence becomes too loud to bear, I remember why I left.