Days without mail
Every night, someone thinks of you before falling asleep
I chose the last one.
Here’s what I wrote.
Here’s to color-coded flower gardens and bright yellow dining rooms. Golden Retrievers and six-year-old friends who use water bottles as dumbbells. Evenings in Irish pubs I’d never go into if it wasn’t for you, although they’re right here in my own neighborhood.
Here’s to turkey bacon and fried egg sandwiches on English muffins, Russell Stover coconut nests holding bright jellybean eggs, and Tavares singing, “Heaven must have sent you, Baby/To love only me”—the album whirling around on your green stereo in your room with the flowered drapes.
How did we find each other in this lifetime, and how did we sink down into that adolescent chaos together without losing our sense of humor? What parts of her did we both get enough of to survive losing her, yet still allow ourselves to love over and over again, even with the knowledge that loss is the risk you take with love.
We both know how these little bodies we live in are fragile.
I do not have your energy, your sense of abandon, your milk chocolate-brown eyes, but when I answer your phone, everyone who loves you mistakes me for you, even our brothers. “It’s me,” I have to say, standing at the granite counter where I have prepared so many meals. “It’s me,” with a little bit of you, and her, and him too.
Are we more prepared to be old together now? Now that we’ve become well versed in collapsible wheelchairs and catheters, now that we understand cataracts and hearing aids and soft foods? We’re two kids who already understand what it means to be old.
Show me again how you already know what I’m thinking, how we communicate without words. Tell me again what happened that day I almost drowned, and I’ll tell you my version. How I sunk below the surface of the lake, how I struggled to get to the top but just kept sinking. My breath floating in bubbles toward the sunlit surface, green and yellow; my six-year-old heart pounding in my chest. I began to panic, then inhaled a big gulp of cloudy water and simply let go.
Drowning is peaceful. Everyone says so. You just drift away in one breath. But you wouldn’t have it—only twelve-years-old and gangly as an adolescent boy—you dove in wearing only one flipper, and scooped me back into the air. Was it you or I who said, “Don’t tell Mom,” fearing the wrath of who was more irresponsible: me for going into the water alone, or you for allowing me to go.
Maybe we should have told her. Maybe she would have been able to see the miracle of how we always are together: unwilling to leave this earth without one another. Connected like Van Gogh and his brother, even across a continent. Keeping each other close by, just in case.