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Rye and Ginger - Monday, Jan. 20, 2020
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019 @ 12:34 am
Before and After
Last year I woke on Christmas with an aching heart. I lay on the couch in front of the woodstove, in that old wooden home in the mountains, and I told him about my sadness, about my wish to be with my family. A melancholy longing. Snow falling outside.
“Why are you doing this? You are wrecking Christmas.”
I hugged myself more tightly and cried. I crawled into my bed in the attic and pulled the covers over myself, protecting my tender heart.
He followed me upstairs. Yelled at me.
The turkey sat on the counter, pale and cool, waiting to be stuffed.
Later, I came downstairs.
I don’t remember the next sequence of events, but I ended up sitting in the car in the driveway. Calling my mother. Crying.
“I want to be there, with you. I don’t want to be here. Everything is broken.” I cried some more. “I just want to come home.”
He made the turkey. We silently made the side dishes, working together in the kitchen seamlessly. Years of practicing the kitchen ballet.
A photo with forced smiles, the tree shimmering in the background.
I wasn’t hungry.
The death throes of a relationship. The longing for something better. The emotional gridlock. Unable to meet each other’s needs. Pretending that everything is fine.
I never wrote about that day. It hurt too much. It still hurts to think about it, the sadness of feeling interminably alone on Christmas. Of desperately wishing for a warm, loving hug.
I wake up in his arms. He kisses my cheek and brings me coffee in bed. I don antlers and bring my smile into the living room and say good morning to his mother. Open gifts and laugh and watch him open his gifts from me. He calls his brothers and nieces and nephews and proudly introduces me and shows off the gifts that I made for him.
We walk along the seawall in the winter sunshine, wearing matching antlers, and other walkers smile and talk to us. My cheeks round with joy and rosy with love.
Dinner with my family, my sister, my mother. My father so proud of me. A fire crackling. A pile of Chinese oranges in a bowl on the table.
I roll up my sleeves and wash all of the dishes from the nine-person meal. Hug my mother.
One of my gifts to him was a poem. Written how I write here. Sharing this part of myself with him. I wrote it on the back of a photo of the two of us climbing together on a granite bluff. I watched him look at the photo, turn it over, see writing on the back. I watched him reading quickly, then slowing down his reading, taking in the poem, the shape of the words..
My heart, his skin, the overgrown wildness of making love.
At the end of the night, heading home to my apartment for the first time in a few days, I kiss him goodnight.
“I want to hear you read me your poem,” he says quietly.
The ocean is glassy and black behind us. A handful of stars in the clear night sky.
Of all of the gifts that he gave me, this is the best. That he wants to see more of that side of me, to hear me read my words aloud, to discover what lies beneath.
A tide shifting. Deepening. Who are you? Who am I? Who are we? Where are we going?