Saudade

For some time now I’ve been stuck in this place of longing for people and things I know I will never experience again. It’s a cruel kind of nostalgia that extends beyond memory and into a realm of existentialism that I can’t come to terms with. I’d say it’s a form of melancholy where tangible photos do not exist and love letters have no value.

In reality, the lights have snapped on, and everybody’s home or dead. There is no resurrecting the past.  

…And he said, “Didn’t we have a good time?” So I said, “Yes, the best,” and it was as if we’d never parted but also as if we’d never really known each other. I remember the night perfectly yet not at all. Music blasted into the crowd and lights caught us dancing in the glow of a euphoric, shared experience that lingers somewhere inside of me.

It’s the details that slip—what was said, the time of night, the exact order of events, and how we ended up. There must have been the drive there and back. But did he spend the night at my place or did I drop him home? Was that the night we slept on the floor because his sheets were in the wash? Did we eat cold pizza from the cardboard box in the morning after I traced words on his back that begged him to guess how my heart was flecked with love? It was the kind of love held hostage because our language lived under the covers instead of in the air.

There were so many entanglements then. He’s miles away from me now, so none of it hardly matters. This can’t be a love letter because married women can’t reminisce like that without consequences. This is a memory. A feeling. An irony. One of many sadnesses I carry that taste like good whiskey. Like a toast to things that once were but can never be again. And it’s beautiful just as it is. So I wouldn’t go back even if I had the chance. If I keep him suspended like that, he’ll always be mine and I his in a perfectly parabolic arc, fading away over distance, time, and space.

Dear Auntie,

david-taffet-563064-unsplash.jpg

You’ve been gone for almost 18 years, and I miss you every day. There is so much I would tell you if you were here to challenge me to a game of Scrabble over a box of donuts. Remember the day we practically made ourselves sick? We didn’t eat all the donuts. We had some semblance of self-respect, nibbling a little on each flavor to take it all in without literally taking it all in.

Remember the day we shoplifted earrings and makeup from Woolworth’s? We used our stealth, our sly desire for cheap, criminal beauty to slide those silver, dangling things and plastic-wrapped lipsticks into our purses. I was a thief but also a bolt of lightning, coming alive under fluorescent lights, following your lead. Ethics aside, you taught me to lay down my fear so I could hold excitement in my hands. At your apartment, we counted our loot, and somehow, the lipstick I’d lifted didn’t make it home. We retraced our steps to the car and under the seats and floor mats. I didn’t acknowledge then the irony of my dismay. I didn’t deserve that lipstick. I hadn’t earned it. But what I got was the memory—the sweet rebel memory of being with you.

When we discovered you’d died, Phil and I arrived at your place to clean it up and divide your belongings. Strangers had already been there, rifling through your things like trash. The air in your apartment stunk of death—you had left, but you still remained. You lingered there like a foul perfume, like a soul angry about the life you’d lived and furious about when and how you’d died. I held my breath as I stepped over the stain of you, the spot where you fell, trying not to get you on the soles of my white Adidas. My mind rattled—and my teeth and my chest. I heaved and tried to pass through the thought of you like a shadow through the mist. My task was to clean up, clear out, and move on as if you’d never existed. That was how I was supposed to get it done.

Phil and his friend Tim rented a U-Haul, and they had everything under control—everything but me—so I left them standing in your space, their hands on your glass animal menagerie, Elvis vinyl, and the couch where Mom tried to strangle me in my sleep. I left them alone because they had each other, and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t be an adult, couldn’t be responsible enough to do the stoic and objective job of throwing you away.

When I look back on that moment, I wish I’d been made of stone and steel. My brother grieved the loss of you, too, but he was built out of resolve and duty, love and respect. So he let me go. He knew that your death had broken. I wish I’d had that bolt of lightning in me so I could have blasted through the project, lifted your precious items from your home, and reinforced my love for you with inner strength. But I was weak and small. I cried in my car, letting the 80 degree weather layer through me like the fire of great loss.

You were my favorite. You, with your frizzy hair and chip-toothed smile. You, with your easy laugh as you danced to Gary Numan’s “Cars.” You, with your non-judgmental eyes and unconditional support. And your untimely death showed me a new kind of loneliness.

Sometimes I daydream you’re here with me. We stroll through the mall and lift lipstick and shiny earrings delicately from unsupervised counters. We make it home with everything and each other. And there is no death, no fear, no facing the day without you. But those are dreams. You’re gone, but the memory of you is so thick I can almost touch it. Thank you for hanging on. Don’t ever let me go.

Love, Me

photo: David Taffet