Fear makes a man kill what he loves.
What is it about life that makes us resent what we can touch in the now and treasure those things long gone? Maybe some things are better off as memories than reality. Better to wake before the bees on a cool summer morning and remember those things we touched and lost, those people to whom we gave only a few words a passing glance.
Love is best remembered, for once felt we become rapidly habituated, absorbing the feeling like a drink of water, then looking for another.
I can never forget letting her go, how sensible the stupidity can seem when it's happening.
It was a silly impulse to straighten up my clothes closet. Saturday afternoon. And the shoebox fell off the closet shelf. Fate and gravity made it fall to the floor upside down. Fate and air currents made the note glide toward the shoes.
I have a slow motion picture in my mind of the box falling, letters tumbling like a feather pillow broken open. The note landed in the clear, face up, like she was saying the words just then. It was Tuesday's box of love letters. Ones I had written. She gave it to me when the house was sold and all my stuff had to go somewhere.
I wondered then, as I do now, why didn't she burn them? And why did I keep them?
I heard her voice.
My dearest and only Rocco,
You said things to me that are unforgivable. You said things a man should never say to his wife no matter how mad he gets and I am madder at you than I have ever been mad at anyone in my life. But I know I’ve hurt you somehow and you’re probably just as mad at me but I don’t understand why you won’t take the first step and talk to me. Isn’t our marriage worth it? I have tried to apologize to you even though I’m not sure I owe it. I don’t know which one of us should be apologizing to the other. Now you’ve run away and I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again. Now on top of all the anger I’m afraid we’re going to lose everything. I guess I can stand it if you need some time alone. I don’t want you back here if you’re going to be so angry. I just want things to be the way they were and I know they can be even if you don’t think so. Love is supposed to get people through these things.
I thought you meant it when you said you loved me.
She wasn't connected to the earth the way the rest of us are. While we drudged through the muck and smog she floated above us, exempt from the rules we imposed upon ourselves in the name of life. Her's was the poet's life less ordinary, and while we were together those ten years as husband and wife, there was rarely a day I wasn't amazed. Never a day I wasn't terrified. Every day was like watching her sky dive, praying the parchute would open when it jammed right before gravity collapsed the ground onto her, the fly on the windshield.
Maybe I resented her for it. She refused to torture herself the way I did. She lived every day of her life. I can't say I ever did the same.
But there were days I swallowed hard, set my jaw, and went with her--for those I am ever grateful to Tuesday. Despite everything that stopped me from the adventure and wonder I could have, despite all the trepidation I could muster, there were days I flew.
* * *
* * *
Having pieces of that insane vacation show up when we got back to civilization was embarrassing. Pictures started showing up on the Internet, and I spent a lot of time denying we were the couple in the photo to co-workers and friends. For ten years Tuesday and I scattered pieces of ourselves in the wind, and now the pieces were coming back and settling on me like messages in storm tossed bottles. Every time I ran into one I'd cringe and pray there would be a time I could remember them like Tuesday's hippie parents remembered the 60's. For them, pain of time passing has been replaced by the joy of having been there.
I hadn't gotten that far, and doubted I ever would.
On the plane on the way home I was sitting against the window, staring at the void of cloud and
air around. Tuesday was leaning on my shoulder, sleeping, I thought.
She spoke so quietly I could barely hear her over the aircraft engine drone.
"Rocco, did I ever tell you that you were a good man?"
"Did you ever hear me say that I thought you were a good person?"
"I dunno," I said, wondering where she was going. "But you don't have to say it. I know you
think I'm a good man. How about the way I went right along with you? I wasn't even the slightest bit shy, was I?"
She ignored my patting myself on the back. "Do you think I'm a good person? With all the
crazy things I do--am I still a good person?"
"Of course you are," I said, and squeezed her shoulder. "What could ever make you think
"Things. Just things..." She drifted off.
"Well, stop," I said. "You are one of the most caring, loving people on planet Earth. You're a very good person."
I put my finger under her chin to get her to look at me, but she fought me off. It only took a second to see why.
"Hey, why are you crying?" I asked.
"I have to tell you something..."
* * *
She never told me. I never let her. I stifled her crying and in trying to make everything okay I broke all of it. There were too many reasons to worry everyday. She brought all of them to me and I didn't want another one.
I found out about the baby she gave up before we were married through one of her friends. Maybe she never told me because she knew how I'd react.
The divorce was inevitable, I suppose.
And then her death at the claws of cancer sealed everything in concrete and lead, unopenable by human beings.
She was waiting. She told me in that time of the waning sun that she knew one day I'd kill the fear that came between us and I'd come back to her.
But I didn't, and now my heart is sealed by the concrete and rebar along with everything else we were.
And so I'm kneeling in my clothes closet on a Saturday afternoon, the paper she'd written on crumpling in my hands, my eyes full of mist, head blocked with heat and pain, dreading all the years I have left to live in a world without her.
It's always too late for some people. Always too late now.
* * *
"You know all I am.
Feel this moment in you.
Can you teach me to believe in something?"
-The Goo Goo Dolls-
Truth is a Whisper