The day you leave I put on a white dress and sit false daisies over my crown so that when you think of me later, you will remember me in white. I have a notion that this image will seep into you and I will be the memory that wins. I will loom large in your miserable memories of Chicago, the only circle of light.
I don’t need to put on the white dress or pull the daisies over my crown because I have already succeeded in being remembered this way. You have told me that I peeled back your layers, that you’ve never felt safe with any one else, that I saved your life, your manic pixie dream girl. I have helped you see that life is a grand and beautiful story that the stars design and author with us all.
You’ve asked me to come with you to Portland multiple times, where you say life will be made entirely of candy floss.
You say that because of your excellent new job, I wouldn’t have to work right way, maybe not even for a year. What could be better than being a librarian in the land of Beverly Cleary, my personal goddess? And who knows what would happen in a year? We could have dandelion haired babies, three, you suggest, though you’re frightened of passing on your genes to anyone. We would have a pug named Pig and two bulldogs named Mewtant and Mootant. We would be safe and we would be warm. Winter doesn’t come to Portland, not really.
It’s a delicious little dream, once I hold in my palm and admire to distraction, but don’t bother studying.
We both know I won’t go.
The day you leave I wake up next to you and cry out in pain, my back contorted in a fierce knot after the stress of such a horrible week has finally caught up with me. Later, I lay gingerly back on my fainting couch barefoot in the white dress, trying to ignore the pain and read Loose Woman, the spring breeze stirring the room through my window. I know the poems by heart, so I mostly just stare at the text as you work behind me at the table, making last minute arrangements for the move.
It is too sunny.
I stare alonedom in its face as I skim “Thing In My Shoe”. I was alone for such a short time in my pretty little first apartment before you came into the picture. I am good at being alone, and relish it, but today it hurts to look at. Today I am not particularly interested in being brave, and I know this is okay. But I’d like to feel strong and in control, return to conversations with myself, depend on my own hands and hours. Be good at it again.
You leave to go to the car. You’ll be right back for the dreadful thing we must do together, the thing we don’t want to face. I run my eyes over poems absently.
“This me that is me that is mine all mine” whispers Sandra from the page
And I breathe in, get up when you return, cry with you at my front door, wet the front of your red shirt, the tear stains burgundy, kiss your knuckles, say the right things: “I don’t say goodbye, I say thank you, ” and “You are not losing me, we are just changing,” because we will still be friends and call each other Piggy and Moo and Pugsly, you’ll just be there and I will be here.
You linger. I finally nudge you away, exhausted with this feeling. My last image of you is hearbreaking, your eyes swimming, a pause in your step but it is still a step away, away.
I crumple against the closed door for a few minutes, until I’ve heard you blow your nose down the stairs, you pass through the courtyard. I sit on the sofa and blink around me at this sun-filled room like I’m seeing for the first time. This return to me myself that is mine is overshadowed by the growing pains that are assaulting me.
I spend the rest of the day at the chiropractor, in a block long line to see Sandra Cisneros at the Mexican art museum without getting to see her, in a broken bundle in my parents bed that they forfeit to my pain and quiet grief. I miss you already, badly. Every time I eat I get sick, my middle seizing on itself. This misery continues into the next day, sending me home from work after three hours.
But the next day, I bake olive bread that I must knead three times, which feels like a special and magic number that will save me, and I light a fresh candle.
This is the day I begin again.