December 10, 2011

A Beginning (of Sorts)

He and I sat facing the sun. Squinting at the last game of box ball before the June evening sent us all home. The last few kids laughing and screaming in outdoor voices; our voices quiet, quiet, silent. After the screeching and the chasing and dodging balls and snatching afternoon snacks and teasing and tackling - ours, not the fifth graders - we finally knew how to be quiet with one another. I would leave shortly. Cross the stage with diploma in hand and flash a smile for the camera on the way down the stairs - all of it faster than I expected. All of it coming to an end. Across the blacktop the newly reunited, on-again-off-again, wanna-be class couple, his best and my whoknows went home for the evening.

"I am going to be single for the rest of my life." I could have been reading the dictionary out loud, it came out so dry and factual.

He was 16. I was 17. I said a lot of ridiculous things that year. He ridiculed the majority of it, left some of it alone, and every once in a while, let me know everything would be alright. He took me to prom and danced with me like it wasn't awkward that he was over a foot taller than I or that I spit out justasfriends following the yes. He let me slide under his arm and fall asleep on his shoulder during the ride home.

"Emily." He said it quietly. I knew he was waiting for me to look at him. I took my time. He waited. He just watched my face for a moment. Let my eyes fall comfortably on his. "You won't be."

It was calm and quiet and assuring. But it had an undercurrent of sadness. It moved between us and had an energy stronger than my dry delivery. His eyes fell to the pavement before mine and I realized the weight of my words. He stood up and walked inside. I turned back to the sun and the kids. Their screeching and the bounce of the ball not enough to lift the weight.

I held this belief for so long that I did not realize how heavy it became. How often I refused to let anyone take it from me, take it from me and throw it away. Haphazardly, I tossed it in his direction but refused to let him throw it anywhere other than safely back into my hands. I felt safe with it in my hands. But in that moment, when he held that belief and my eyes, I finally realized its weight.

Somewhere along the Atlantic coastline that summer - the summer that gifted days of neither past nor future, but spilled over with hours of just and only and evermore this moment - I moved that boulder, that weight, those words off my shoulders and cast it into the ocean. Somewhere along the Pacific coastline that summer, I learned how false that belief was - my hands were empty; he slipped his hand into mine.

I might have carelessly tossed that phrase around in the years since. But it was airy and light, joking and teasing. I didn't believe it. It held no weight. If I strung those words together during times when I didn't have another's hand in mine, whomever I tossed them at bat them away, effortlessly.

I wrote an email howevermany weeks ago under the influence of disappointment, sadness, and exasperation. I threw that phrase onto the screen with the intention of making it stick: "I am going to be single for the rest of my life." It did.

I read her response on the edge of the platform waiting for the metro ride home. "Tough love," she began. My declaration had weight again, I realized. I believed it. She knew I believed it.

She continued with everything I needed to hear. That I have to put myself out there. That I have to take risks. That it is going to suck. That it is going to be awesome. That she'll be there no matter what. That "everything great in life from love to friends to jobs to EVERYTHING- these great things come with great risks."

I let her email sit. It, too, had weight.

"Why aren't you dating?" he asked me later that week. I stumbled through an answer, citing lack of energy, lack of time, uncertainties in my life, not the right time. I tripped over every word. "It's not that I wouldn't if I happened to meet someone; I just haven't..." I tried for a strong coherent honest finish. I failed. And flailed.

"So he asked me why you were single," she narrated the next day, "and I told him you have high standards." I interjected quickly with a series of half-words that amounted to a partial, unbaked thought. Surprised I had to wrestle with this topic for the third time that week and surprised she thought I had high standards, I could not put together a complete sentence. Mostly, I was surprised that I didn't have any answers.

I still don't have any real answers. But here is what I do know, for what it is worth:

I won't sign up again. 

I know I have to throw away that weighty belief that I will spend the rest of my life single. It has gotten too heavy, again. I know it is the only way I'll ever have the room in my hand to hold to hold someone else's. And for now, that's enough. It's a place to begin.

And I am beginning.
I am beginning.

1 comment:

  1. I love your writing so much Em. So so so much. almost as much as I love you.