“The story is always better than your ability to write it.” — Robin McKinley
It’s been just a bit more than a year since we last talked.
Some days I don’t think about her at all, which is the way life and memories work. I know this because there are days I don’t think about drinking. And if you’d have asked me three years ago if I’d go a day without thinking about The Muse or The Drink, I would have smacked you across the face and declared jihad on your intelligence.
For 16 years, she was the one against which everyone else was compared. She got me in ways that I wonder sometimes if I ever understood myself.
Along the way, though, we got lost. As people do. I drank and sank into a world she couldn’t – and didn’t want to – go. And she searched for something that I couldn’t – and didn’t – understand.
But we never let go of each other, two engines revving in different directions.
By the time I got sober, starting to climb out of my pit, I thought – we thought – that it wasn’t too late. That we could drop the cars into neutral for a bit and slide into reverse. Moving back towards each other, finding that place where we could – where we were supposed to – be.
What we didn’t know, though, was that all those years of pulling in different directions had already broken us. Beyond repair.
There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold. – Frodo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
In the end, we had to go away from each other. We were the relationship our parents warned us about.
Still, I think about us from time to time. About her daughter. About the kids we talked about having. About the life we thought we would – should – have together. About the damages I’ve done. The decisions we made that pushed us inexorably away from each other, our flaws working against each other.
I’m reminded every day, viscerally, that the small decisions we make in our lives have lasting impacts beyond our reasoning. We never know where the end lies.
And I think about her last words: “You’ll notice that I haven’t called.”
The bitter-sweet end to an incredibly fucked up and beautiful relationship that trampled through our lives.
I never believed in ends before her. The world is too small to close books. But this end – our end – felt permanent. We said the goodbyes we needed to say. We wrapped up the loose ends that needed wrapping. We closed the book that needed closing.
Still: on nights that I sit alone, writing, my mind wanders to her. Always. Not to the broken reality we created. Instead, my mind floats to a different world, where we chose better. Where we were more careful with each other. Where “my pretty words” as she used to call them weren’t the weapons she came to resent.
Where we are here: