By Elyot McCrae.
“Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.” – Mark Nepo (The Book of Awakening)
I had known you for a week when I told you I was in love with you, and you didn’t believe me.
Or you didn’t understand. My haste worried you. Maybe you thought I trusted too quickly, or expected too much. But I didn’t expect anything, and it was not your heart I trusted. It was mine.
Beastly purple-grey clouds skulked along the horizon. Autumn was moving in on us. Warm days chased out by cold nights. Sweaters everywhere. The East Coast was bracing for another unprecedented hurricane. Satellite images warned of its looming presence over the Atlantic as reporters stressed the necessity of flashlights, bottled water, and staying indoors.
There’s no reminder like nature to teach us over and over again of our fragility. No matter how well we shore ourselves up, no matter how comfortable or how safe we become, it’s a gamble at best. One storm is all it takes. One afternoon. One accident. One event for which we could not prepare.
You’d recently told me that my romanticism was unparalleled. Impressive, you’d said. It was a compliment, and I took it. Then I thought of that, of myself like a storm–forceful and insistent, bearing down and falling apart at your shores–and I realized it was just one more thing you didn’t trust about me.
You were about to meet someone in France who was taking you to Spain, a trip you’d planned long before me. It’s nothing, you said. It’s no big deal. In a sense your nonchalance was a comfort. Your heart was no more there than here. In truth I didn’t know where it was. I caught it out of the corner of my eye now and then, in a look you would give me when you thought I couldn’t see, or in the way you’d reach for my hand out of a habit that wasn’t yet formed–something so natural you couldn’t stop it. I suppose I thought it was still possible for you to change your mind. But it was not a decision your mind could make.
does not follow logic.
The heart is a lock
for which everything else
is a key.
There is nothing to measure,
nothing to evaluate,
and nothing to consider.
There is yes or no.
In or out.
Love or fear.
So when you said,
what you meant was,
No. And it doesn’t matter why.
On Monday morning before you left, I stood in Union Station and watched buses pull away from me. Heart like a piston. Engines gasping. Away from me. I want to see you, you’d said. People say all kinds of things.
In my bag I had a jar of peaches I’d canned myself and brought for you. Buses pulled away. I looked at my watch. I had flown the better half of a continent to see you one more time, and with fifty kilometres to go I was having second thoughts. I took a deep breath. I bit my lip. I got on the bus that would take me to you.
At a stop light I watched two street kids harvesting poppy pods from outside an office building. One at either end of a raised bed, twenty feet apart, working towards the center with black garbage bags and gentle sweeping motions. Their heads turning periodically towards each other in an exchange of smiles and gestures. Sunlight skidded off windshields and cut around glass corners. Leaves scuttled through pedestrian obstacles with ease and efficiency.
I wasn’t meeting you in Paris, and I wasn’t taking you to Spain. I had a jar of brandy peaches and a wild, breaking heart.
Some people are prone to losing.
Things like keys, wallets, jewellery, passports
just disappear. Some people lose time.
Some, their way; some lose money, memory,
cats, guitar picks, pens, socks, remote controls,
cars in parking lots.
Some people lose more by the time they’re born
than others ever will.
Some loss is incidental. Accidental.
Some loss is stolen, some
is the same
and you will lose it
over and over
for years of your life.
You’ll hide it away, you’ll
you’ll promise yourself,
I’m not losing this again.
But you will.
carves a path straight through you,
like glaciers through a canyon.
You’ll feel like a bowl whose only purpose
is to hold emptiness.
But that’s not
what makes you
who you are.
Every architect knows
it’s not what a thing holds,
On Wednesday I went to Kensington Market with a friend. We sat outside a coffee shop smoking and talking about art and design. It was overcast but warm. Calm. A man in rubber boots and cargo shorts wandered through the middle of the street playing guitar. Lean and casual. As a young woman cycled around him, he called out: Wow! You’re like Laverne and Shirley all in one! She sailed past us with a broad smile, wavy elegance and long, easy bicycle strides as his guitar notes reached after her.
Beautiful, he said.
You told me once that I was easy to please, but I am just as dissatisfied as the rest of us. Riddled with the complexity of being human — what to do, where to be, how to occupy my hands. If you were here I would wrap myself around you, kiss your neck with open lips, and pull you into something we both might want. But you are not here, and I won’t be torn apart by desire. I don’t want to pace around the corridors of my life searching for the thing that will quiet me. And I don’t want you, or anyone, to be that thing. I want moments of simplicity and wonder: the smell of coffee through an open door, a patio that looks onto a street in which beautiful people are living their lives under common circumstances.
I want to sit somewhere I have never been, or somewhere I’ve always been, and to appreciate. I want the option, in every moment, of love over fear.
However it comes, I am grateful.
While you were booking your flight, I studied a world map on the wall of the Flight Center. Vancouver Island to Europe is…quite far. I shifted my weight from foot to foot. Studied random distances.
Lima, Peru to Dakar, Senigal: 7206 km;
London to Manchester: 263 km;
Tokyo to Trinidad: 14 412 km;
Vancouver to Paris: 7922 km.
Roughly. You know. Airport to airport.
I went outside. Stood in the shade. Listened to waves of traffic breaking over intersections. Also a jackhammer. A car alarm. A disheveled young woman to my right was trying to light a cigarette in the wind. I considered offering to help, but she solved it by using her coat as a shield. It was muggy, sweltering really, and I couldn’t imagine wearing a coat. I went back inside the air conditioned Flight Center, which was also uncomfortable but in a different way. I came up behind you and put my hand on your back. You asked if I was ok. Yup. You asked me to sit beside you. Correction: you asked if I wanted to sit down and pointed at a chair beside you. When I said no, something flashed across your eyes and you looked away.
You didn’t explain and I didn’t ask you to try.
When you left for the airport, I sat on the curb exactly where I’d been sitting when you were still beside me. Throat like a fist. Eyes stinging. Squinting into the glowing, orange edges of a hundred year old brick building. I thought of everyone who might have once lived there. Lifetimes. Generations. Births and bicycle rides, wading pools and snow days, graduations, fist fights, new cars, Christmas lights, marriages, lay-offs, spilled drinks, dog piss on garden gates. Lives torn apart. Lives sewn together.
No one can take from us the lives that we have lived. Not even time can steal the past. We will always have loved the things we loved. You will always have touched my face with your finger tips before kissing me goodbye, and I will always have held your hand a moment too long.
It will always have been worth it.
Elyot McCrae is a writer, carpenter, functional artist, and avid adventurer into the far regions of the soul. She goes big, goes with her heart, and goes all the way. Her blog focuses on transformation, abundance, and wonder, with the aim of spreading more of all three.
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