The brown corduroy jacket, still hanging in the closet was, even when she was alive, more beaten up, more creased than even my face today! It’s fading, and long past its fashionable sell-by date. But the jacket is what she will recognize if I’m to finally do this. It seems somehow appropriate that I should don it one more time; say goodbye to her wearing the jacket I first said hello in.
So here I am, waiting. I chose the old denim shirt, as old as the jacket and still with a tear in the sleeve. I remember I apologized to her for the tear in the sleeve on our second date. ‘It’s who you are,’ she said, ‘and more importantly, who you want to be.’
Waiting now, I feel as clumsy as ever, dressed like a drunk, a man trying to fit the clothes of a living ghost. I swore I’d never love anyone but her; burned by passion, secure in her faithfulness, shot through with pride every time I looked at her, yet here I am, waiting to tell her I’m in love with another.
I’m tired of worn out, and badly written poetry? I’ve been open for the finding. Hallucinations simply fail to work anymore. I’ve said a thousand farewells, stomped a hundred shores praying to God to give me back her stinking flesh; bring it home among the tankers garbage, the flotsam, and the beer bottles. She never came, not on any shore I ever stood.
There is no explanation for the magical sophistries, self invented, which got me through days of exquisite pain. Even this one.
Is that her face, or the one time has created? A question I have asked ten-thousand times during those five-minutes of uncertainty, somewhere between the moon’s rising and midnight. Tonight it’s not there at all. Nor do I remember the softness of her skin, the purity, or its familiarity. I try to recall it all the time, but mostly when I’m pouring cool milk on summer cereal.
I’m shivering, waiting here for the wind to take her away. Take her and lay her somewhere I don’t know. No, not really. Why would I think that, damn my stupid talk.
My courage has folded its wings and dived back into humility. Into regret.
Then, to the sound of the ocean’s petticoat shores, she’s here.
‘I’m so done with you. I’m done with the world. We can quibble about this for another fifty years, it won’t change a thing.’
I turn away my head, eyes brimming with tears.
‘Do you know why you can’t look at me? Because I’m salt and tide. You’ve lost me, still you invent, and re-invent. It won’t work. Don’t you see that? I never thought you’d use me this way; not when you were my inspiration. I was never your sole reason for living; now you and your brilliant arguments are no more than literary madness. I’m deader than a fossil, yet you continue to claim unfathomable things. It’s a waste. You’re not learning anything. Visions are never educational. I’m in my own ecstatic flight through things unheard of. Nothing you can ever imagine will help you understand where I am. The ideas and forms you conjure up simply restrict me. Lay my memory to rest. Let me go lay among bone hardened coral.’
I want to scream; suddenly the pain is too much. ‘Don’t talk like that. You’re not dead. You’re all forms of love to me. You only want to exhaust me with your poisons, coming to me faceless, having the soul of a monster, wanting to graft warts on my heart.’ But my throat won’t allow the scream an exit. ‘And to add insult to injury you wear the very clothes I couldn’t bear to see you in!’ She smiles, letting the dawn light cross her face. ‘I’m okay, honey…let go…’
She’s dead. I know that. But I’ve never been able to lay my memory of her to rest.
I mumble something about how love has found me again. The breeze changes direction, now pushing away from my face.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been standing here as I feel the gentlest of squeezes, a little finger tucked into mine. My chest quivers, eyes feel blurry, and now her voice is as real and as soft as a velvet curtain.
‘I knew I’d find you here.’ My new love has come to stand at my side. ‘She’s out there, I know that, and I know she’ll call from time to time.’ I feel the palm of her right hand warm on my chest.
We turn from the shoreline to face our future, accepting completely the ecstasy of the unknown. The chill of memory fleeing to Cimmerian shores. We walk, tiny fingers entwined, while the tatters of corduroy memories fall in shreds behind us.