What do you do when the person you’ve been in a toxic relationship for 16 years dies and you find out a day later? What do you do when for the last ten years that person has kept you as a secret?
You cry. The tears seeping out rather than pouring. You tell yourself to get up but you lay in bed for a few moments more and cry. So you click on his Facebook page, scroll the first couple of posts and click to make your own. You try to say your goodbyes but you can’t. It is too fresh, too raw and you are a secret. You fear that your words will be deemed disrespectful, an insult to the woman who was by his side when he died. The woman who called him the love of her life and rightfully so. He made a life with her. Her grief more legitimate than yours.
Then you hear the words of a beautiful friend whom you heard say if you are afraid to write about it then write about it.
So you lay in bed and cry some more. Then you get up. Find your way to the kitchen, make coffee and eat raw cookie dough from the fridge while your real breakfast warms. You say morning to your family and let your dog out. You say nothing about what has happened. The kitchen caught in the twilight of morning does not give you away.
And then you climb the stairs and begin.
Do I begin with the fact that even though I broke away from you more than once and you broke me a dozen times that I thought about you everyday? Dreamt about you? No, then where?
Because now, you are lying cold in the morgue a thousand miles away and I will never get to say goodbye or hello as I dreamed about? There will be no trips to the big city to see you. No waking up with you and exploring your city? Because no matter where you lived, you were a New Yorker through and through. No trips to see that cabin, the one you inherited from your mom. Now there is nothing but your shell, memories and a thousand things unsaid and done.
No, I will begin with this.
I love you. Not loved, because I acknowledge that no matter how far apart we were, you always lived in my heart and mind and will continue to do so. My heart held that loving you close to it. She remembered how your voice wrapped me in seduction and coils around all the happy memories. The day that you first kissed me. You directed it like a play, setting the stage and moving me into place. I said my lines without even knowing it. My heart, and lower places, remember the passion and excitement that never dulled. My mind, she clings with claws of steel to the harsher things; your long absences when we were officially a couple, the phone calls accusing me of cheating, and the text messages accusing me of not understanding your pain. My mind holds on to those like I bitterly held on to all of our text messages as records of the truth.
The truth that you loved me. The truth that you hurt me. And the truth that I allowed it all to continue.