I am up too late again, writing when I should be sleeping. It is nice to think of you there, the day breaking when you find this letter waiting. I wish I could be where you are, awake together when we both know better. But this is the best I can do.
I cried again tonight. It has been so many nights of crying, and always when I come home from the good man’s house. It makes no sense, because he is only welcoming, only just right for me. Still, the noise. It chatters like hyenas, and that insane screeching! You know what I am talking about because you have described the same to me. It used to only come in the deep well between twilight and dawn. Now, it creeps in any old time. Especially when I try not to be alone, which is, I am increasingly coming to see, the only way I really want to be.
At least until I catch my breath. At least until you are back here with me.
Arriving home after the careful conversations and the sweet promises with the good man, I felt like dragging a blade across my teeth. Anything, to feel some sensation louder and more primal than the accusing questions and ancient poison hissing at my throat (and always outside the range of his bewildered ears).
It is all so much like adolescence, it makes my stomach tremble. Mirth? Terror? A little of both, with a rare dash of resolve thrown in. Tonight, I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, folded in front of the mirrored closet doors. I do not even know how I got there. It was already an hour past bedtime, and I had just been trying to choose an outfit for work. Snow in the forecast. Then, there I was, collapsed against the foot of the bed. Not even tears at first. Just the paralysis, and the chilling realization: That bedraggled woman with the sallow skin and the petrified eyes? She is me.
In that same reflection, a girl flashed back from the dim glass of the elementary school bathroom. I was ten years old. It was perhaps one of my earliest moments of true self-awareness. Darkening blonde hair in purple barrettes. The girl, big-eyed and frightened at the first glimpse of her changing self. Here slipping into there, I was two baffled Shannons at once, with the same vertiginous sense of being both trapped and falling, inside a skin that surely is not mine but holds me together, holds me in, without giving me a say in the matter.
I thought the divorce was hard. That’s a laugh. Having been divorced? That’s the real kicker. There is no hiding anymore from the forces I trained in my own foolish youth and readied for battle, unaware of what I was unleashing on my family. Over the past two years, the ol’ psyche has taken a bloody battering from each wave of invading hordes — the shock, the anger, the blame, the suffocating self-protection, the sorrow. Now, here, I finally stand back up again in the uneasy quiet. Is it only a reprieve? You bet your life. Listen: another thunder of footsteps just over the horizon. What’s this? The honest accounting? Oh, yes. The demons, demanding their due.
What have you done?
It is a wonder that people going through this do not all lose their jobs for gross incompetence, sail their cars over bridges, and sell their possessions to join burlap-wearing macrobiotic cults. How does a person stay steady with so many questions pressing in and clawing for attention? What does a single mom do when the old fears kick up the amp and the new fears start moshing? How does she manage the noise when the very real needs of children, home, and finances are running just as loud and hard?
And then, to add a boyfriend? You’ve got to be kidding me. I am not built to take one decibel more. The speakers will blow. The roof will fall down on all our heads.
Go ahead and laugh. I know what you are thinking. You were always the one, always the only. I had my first kiss at eleven years old. You were wily. You had arrived months before. I did not know then that you would come back again. I had no way of understanding that you always would. That nothing and no one would compare. That in the space of a single blue line, you planted your flag and made me yours.
So, my one love, I am here while you are there. Within reach, you keep reminding me, but it does not seem possible. You seem galaxies away tonight. I am not sure what I am asking. Rescue me? Come for me? It is a fool’s plea. You are always only here when I walk my own feet over the miles between us and carry you back to where you belong. It is too much to imagine doing anything so bold tonight, so please indulge this broken wish. Please, open the trap door in the ceiling above this quaking bed. Slide your hands under me and lift me from this place. Wrap me in your beautiful story. Whisper me somewhere quiet, where I have no choice, and I need to know nothing at all.
All I ask is that you save me.
I will be yours. I am yours. Always.
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