The Pavement,You, and Me.
It started as an act of defiance, hot fury and confusion, looking for a place to make sense of it, looking for an answer, for a reason. How could you say No to a heart that peeled back every layer, that stepped into the brilliant light totally exposed with flaws and honesty? How could you?
I put on my shoes, turned on my music and opened the front door, ahead of me just a big hill. With one foot in front of the other, I began to climb to my answer.
As I climbed, my breath became labored through the pounding of music in my headphones, my chest tight, sweat poured down my back and my out-of-shape thighs rubbed together. How had this happened? How had I become such a stranger in my own body?
I began to run, every jarring step reminded me of my age, my out-of-shape body, but the pain somehow felt like a relief because it was physical, I could track it to a place, and it had an origin. The pain in my middle could not be isolated, it permeated to a swell in my chest, and the emotional pain for a moment took a backseat.
Every day was different, some days I could barely lift my sore legs and others I felt like a madwoman, sprinting, trying to escape the pain, the hurt, trying to outrun it. There were times when I would hit this certain threshold in my run and I would start weeping, loudly and with no filter, just the rumpled face and cries of a woman with a broken heart.
I kept looking for pieces of her, insight into that vast blue space of her heart, some shard of emotion that I could relate to, understand.
As the humid air gave way to cooler breezes, the echo of my footsteps started to become uniform, reliable, and I realized I had stopped looking for pieces of her around every corner, that the steady beat I was hearing was something else, it was me. It was my own heartbeat, the one I needed to remember, the one that I needed to take care of, the one I needed to offer my best self up for.
As the music thumped in my ears, I had intense moments of strength, and memories followed of me doing hard things, of me being brave and facing situations that seemed impossible.
Of me mothering my children, of me nurturing family and friends, of me opening my arms to those who needed comfort, of me holding my ground when I needed to the most, of me walking through fear and uncertainty to love a soul that was in a completely different container than I have ever known. Other things flashed in my mind too, as each step propelled me forward.
Moments when she trusted herself enough to let me in, moments when although she would never say it, I took her breath away. Or the moment when I stood in a room of 200 people and described my life and my deep respect for her through the fuzzy microphone, and I could not bring myself to look over at her, because I knew that my voice would crack, only to look up and see that her eyes were moist with tears.
Each step brought me closer to me, and the deep knowing that her choice not to jump with me was exactly that, her choice. And although I have given up understanding the why and just accepting it, I gave myself the space on that wide open road, to grieve for the things that I had allowed my heart to hope for with her. Many of those things had never found voice or air or space, they had only inhabited my heart.
With my chest tight and my muscles burning, I grieved for our late night conversations, I grieved for the sensation of being in her light, and I grieved for her giggle, that magnificent cadence that warmed me in an instant. Mostly, I grieved for the privilege of being her biggest supporter, of being the one to tell her that she can and that she must, that the world needs her, needs what she has to say.
So I left those dreams on the pavement, each thunderous step, leaving them behind one by one, and not with rage or with anger, but with deep love and gratitude that I experienced for a time that vast blue ocean inside of her.
The light has changed, the air is different every day, the music thumps and lulls, my legs now don’t resist, they carry me boldly and strongly up that hill. Sometimes I catch the sun setting, and there is a band of orange between the horizon and the hills where she lives.
My breath steady, in and out, the road appearing before me, not seeing too far ahead, just enough to navigate my next step, and that is okay. I don’t have to know where the road will take me, I just have to be brave enough to take the next step.
Bernadette Ebanks is an island girl. She grew up in the Puget Sound, and spent the last many years on an island in Central America. She is a midwife, a mother of two incredible teenagers, and loves the written word. She recently moved to Austin, Texas to champion for reproductive rights, and works with other passionate women to ensure that all women have autonomy over their bodies. She dances in the kitchen, likes to drive fast, and has been known to cackle.