I woke from a dream about you this morning. I was in your sister, Kath’s, bedroom in the Applewood house, looking in her closet, and all of your down jackets from our years together were there. The orange one you wore when you worked on microwave towers, held together with duct tape, the dark blue vest, the purple one I loved and you hated and wore anyway because I bought it for you…they were all there. I wrapped my arms around them and breathed deep and for a second, I could smell you again. I was so sad, though. I kept saying aloud to no one:
–He needs these…he’s cold.
We met when I was 17, remember? Your sister, Barb was my best friend then, and she told me about her big brother, her perfect in every way big brother, all the time. I’d met the rest of your family…you were away at university, busy flunking out. Barb and I filled our Senior year days at school, riding y’all’s horses, playing tennis in the backyard, doing the things girls did back then as they ticked away the days until they were 18 and out of High School. It was one of those Fall days, when we sat playing Cribbage at the kitchen table, when you walked in for the first time. You had on jeans (Levi 501′s), freshly washed hair, a towel around your neck and a wicked grin.
I was lost.
I spent the rest of the Fall joining into your family activities–skiing at the lodge, ice boating, sleep-overs, Cribbage competitions (where I scored a perfect hand), laughing, discussing books and movies and politics. My own family didn’t miss my presence, and your parents welcomed me, so, I was content for the first time in my life.
You asked me out for New Year’s Eve. You were the first man to kiss me, ever. You moved away after that, Barb and I moved back into horses and tennis and eventually graduation and summer jobs and college and out of each other’s lives.
My phone rang nine months later. You were back in town, asked me out. We were together from that day on. You remained glorious, a natural athlete, one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, endearing,polite, funny as hell, giving. I remained insecure. When, at a party, a perfect blonde looked shocked at the fact I was your date, and announced in a loud voice how could I be with you…you responded with a smile and said were you not the luckiest man there?
One night, while we sat smoking, drinking coffee and reading, you said:
–Do you remember the first time we met?
–I heard your big laugh when I was getting ready downstairs and I followed the sound. There you were with your head thrown back, laughing away and I thought, I am looking at my wife. Will you marry me?
And I cried and said:
We married six weeks later. There was much love, much laughter, a close bond with your family and mine adored you. Your friends were mine–I’d cook, remember? And, they’d come and eat and eat and we’d play cards and drink beer and talk and laugh into the wee hours.
The gatherings grew more frequent, the drinking heavier. Drugs were brought in. Not just pot, but the heavy stuff–LSD and coke. I didn’t approve, would scold, be shouted down and take myself to bed.
One night, you hit me. You cried the next day, begged forgiveness, swore it’d not happen again, but, it did. It became a rule rather than an exception, yet…yet I loved you so much and I knew you loved me. I also knew you needed help I couldn’t provide and I needed to be safe, so, I left and we divorced. I called you the day the decree was signed, we both sobbed on the phone of our love, of the knowledge it wasn’t to be and we moved on.
It’s years later, I’d remarried and have two children. I’m separated at the time, struggling to keep it all together. Driving home one evening, my Mother makes a stop at a grocery store she’s never used before–she’d taken a different route home, she needed tomatoes and milk, and, she stops. She’s testing tomatoes in the produce section, a policeman standing next to her, when a voice says:
–Officer, check that woman’s purse! She’s a known vegetable thief!
Cop and Mother both look startled. Mother breaks into laughter. It’s you! The cop shakes his head, walks off. The two of you have dinner. You finally ask about me, she’s hesitant to say anything. You held her hand and told her you’d gone far down the path of self-destruction, but, you had been in AA for a good many years, and, as atonement for me, gave self defense classes for women. You give her your phone number, letting me have the power.
We talk quite a bit more. Hours of talking.
I’d forgotten I could love that much. There was nothing physical beyond a hug that lasted an eternity, breathing in your scent, hearing you draw in mine. We cried. We talked even more.
We carry on dating, moving into weekends when the kids are with their dad. Finding that place of peace and love where we can spend an hour together, not speaking, and be content and happy. We decided not to bring Anne and Bud into the picture yet, to wait until a divorce was done, until they felt a bit more settled. You didn’t want to love them more than you did already because they were mine. You met Anne by accident when you dropped by Mother’s place, and you said you lost your heart to her. You said it was as if you’d met a well loved me when I was small.
The children’s dad found out, started courting me, we needed to be together for our children, he said. I wavered. I prayed. I spoke to you, and, you said I had to go with my family, make it whole. My heart broke.
You moved to another state, dropped out of AA. You didn’t drink, but, you gave up that support system you relied upon. You wrote and told me not to ever contact you again, you were shattered and couldn’t take ever chancing seeing me again, thus, the move. I asked for forgiveness, you never responded. Once The kid’s dad had his family back, he left us for a girl 18 years his junior. It was all a ploy. By then, I couldn’t reach out again–it wouldn’t be fair.
I woke from a dream about you this morning, where I smelled your scent on your coats, and I worried you’d be cold without them.
Over the last year, you stopped taking your medications. You grew even more isolated and angry. Kath showed up to talk to you, you barricaded her out, and, as the police pulled up, you shot yourself in the head. This happened in May of this year.
I found out when I felt such discomfort from my dream, I Googled and discovered your obituary. I was on the phone with a friend, and I wailed in grief. I spoke to your nephew–remember when I took him to see The Blob and it scared both him and I to death? We laughed about that during our conversation–who apologized I found out this way…they didn’t know how to find me, didn’t know my married name. I have cried and cursed you and cried and I am so angry. You only had to call me, you know that. I’d have been there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. I’d have held you and we’d have talked and gotten through this. And, saying that, I know your demons were so dark, you struggled each and every day. I know there was no getting you off this path, you talked about it decades ago.
Even with you in another state, I still knew where you were, you see. I had your phone number you gave and asked I not call. Your address you provided and requested I not write. I knew where you were. I knew you’d always loved me unconditionally. We never could work out the time and place, and that made it so fucking tragic. Regardless, I knew where you were and now, you are ashes on a lake, gone. I have the letters you wrote, the books we read and the memory of that glorious young man, standing in a shaft of sunlight in a pair of Levi’s, a towel, and a smile that lit up my Universe.
Find peace, my beloved. Find peace.