I don't have an impressive chain of iniquities growing heavier each day with new links, at least as far as I know. I do, however, have a bracelet that has taken on more and more symbolism as time (and life) passes by and with these thoughts, I drove down the hill and slowed as I usually do to see if you were outside. You were but your back was turned to the road and you didn't see me, which is good. I know you're angry and you need to work it off. You're also wearing that orange sweatshirt that you keep insisting you don't own. I got your message and thank you for at least responding and for not saying what you could have. We go back a long way and I need you. I need all my friends but I need you because you're real in my life and not some phantom on the other side of a screen.
You told me to go to that jeweler so I did and he fixed the clasp beautifully. There was a screw-up because the clerk forgot to write down 'written appraisal' so of course there was none although I'd asked her three times if she wrote it down. I thought it odd that it would cost so little for an appraisal but I did ask and when I showed up today, I should have known.
The owner himself slipped it on my wrist and as he walked away I asked about the appraisal and he was mortified about the mix-up and I took the bracelet off again and told him I needed it anyway and would come back for it. He gave me a price, told me how long it would take and turned away but then turned back to me and said, You know, I can give you a ballpark of how much the diamonds are worth, how much the gold is worth, how much the resale is if you sold it privately and how much it would cost to buy retail--but ballpark only, and I shrugged and said, Okay but I will bring it back because I intend to sell it. My eyes filled with tears but he didn't see it because he'd already turned toward a light and had the loupe up to his eye, examining the stones. He called back to me asking if it was one or two carats, explaining a real appraisal would involve actually weighing each stone and I told him it was absolutely two carats and after a few minutes he gave me the figures and also waived the repair fee because of the snafu. The value of the bracelet was more than I imagined (should I sell it privately) and I thought of the person who was so totally worth selling it for so we could spend a month driving around the south seeing friends and giant balls of lint and waterfalls inside caverns. I thought of ghosts.
I passed the entrance to the security gate of the community I live in and instead drove on to the state park nearby. I was listening to sad soft music and felt exactly that, sad and soft and lost and vulnerable and plaintive and pathetic and I pulled up to the lake and stared out at the water. I'd brought my Kindle in case I felt like stopping at an overlook or sitting outside and getting some air but I didn't even bother taking it out of its slipcase.
Alone in the parking lot, I leaned back and realized I really had to adjust the seat because I had gotten smaller and farther away from the wheel and would ask you, if you ever talked to me again, to help adjust it, just as you programmed the GPS for me, just as you popped the hood of my car, and demanded I go to this mechanic and that pizzaria, just as you always called me every morning so you could hear my 'sexy sleepy voice' and thought, you may never talk to me again. You're that mad. I've never seen you so mad, so quietly seething. I always said you were cute when you were mad but I knew that was just temper and irritation and it was true anyway but this was different and I didn't know how to make amends. I still don't. I think because I can't. Because you want something you can't have that I won't give and you know it, you know it and you can't have everything and I won't let you make a choice even if you wanted to. I'm not a dessert or a side dish. I'm not an indiscretion and you were right the last time, that we would both want more and I deserve more and I didn't start this again! I stayed away for ten fucking years to give both of us a chance BECAUSE of how I felt, because I didn't want you to feel you had to choose and nothing would ever be legitimate between us if you did and part of what I loved was your loyalty to her and I'm sorry you can't understand that.
You said you had to be crazy because you keep coming back like a bad penny over and over again and you couldn't stop and I said that's one of the many things I loved about you, to calm you down but I didn't expect the anguish in your voice saying I didn't love you, didn't love anything about you, it wasn't true but it WAS and is and you were so angry I had to hang up and now you brood and sulk.
How could I tell you how much I felt when I know that whenever I tell ANYONE how much I feel they get overwhelmed and run and then you say that's because they're asses even though I know I'm the common denominator and you say it's not true because of you and you're right but that doesn't make it any better. It will never make it any better. We can never begin what you want again.
There are leaves that still cling to the birches around my car and spring hangs in the air, expectant and fresh and clean and I see one leaf finally give up the ghost and let go and float away on the water. It makes way for new buds, new growth, new life and I wonder if it still clung to only what it knew, would the new grow around the old or did the old need to go for the new to arrive? I drifted with that leaf and thought of another.
You are a changeling that occupies the body of the man who stood at the altar with tears in his eyes promising me forever. The most gentle man I ever knew became the cruelest and I never knew why or how I became the object of your hatred the more I loved you and begged you to love me. I clung to the skeleton of our marriage and lived with this ephemeral effigy and punishing poltergeist and fled that tomb that reeked of desolation and never let the sun in, the sun I craved and would die without. I left in the middle of a storm but your name haunts me though I never have to go there again but I lived with your ghost for so long that with one swallow I almost became one myself. You are cut off and cast out. You are the ghost that I left behind and exorcised from my life forever.
Then there is you, the second ghost, the one I knew least but loved most. I wrote about you all over this place and have notebooks full of scribbles and journals filled with screams of impotence because I am no more to you. Meaningless and invisible. I have been erased from your life for whatever reason, no goodbye, like a death, no final words, not even a fuck you, just dead air and me screaming in my own head. I hate myself for every single tear and curse every reminder of you and they are everywhere because you are embedded in my life now, engraved like a tattoo and everyone knows it. People want me to hate you and I could never hate you and though you used to pore over every word I wrote, you don't anymore and will likely not read this so I can safely say no matter what, I will never hate you. I will never forget you. I may curse you to the end of time but I will still love you and you owe me a song you fucker. It's my goddamn song. If you ever change a word of it, if you ever give it to someone else I will haunt you from the grave because it's mine and for a few months, so were you and no one loved you more and that's why you ran. I will never forgive you for taking your friendship away. A love might not have worked but you promised we'd be friends always and you lied and I would never have done to you what you did to me. To hurt you this much is incomprehensible; I would injure myself first. Live with remorse and regret rather than fix what you know you can, when you know I believed in your brilliance, your light, your beauty and you threw me away like a rag and like the dead you won't talk to me. You are the ghost I pray will still appear.
Last but really the first ghost. You gave me the kiss that ignited something so tangible others could see it. The fire I had to run from, because I knew you could consume me but give me nothing in return. I make you miserable because you feel it too but you will only get lost and the deeper you get the harder it will be to find your way out. We both know this. We both know this is why you're angry. I won't give you what you want because you won't give me what I need and I won't let you anyway but don't you ever doubt that I loved you. Don't ever tell me what I felt because you lived in my heart longer than anyone. You are the ghost that wants to be free but won't release yourself.
At the end of December, I spent a weekend with a friend and her family and I was sick the whole night. I sent my last communication to Spooky Oats and after the ball dropped in Times Square, I excused myself. I tossed and turned in bed, and had the chills and my friend's dog even lay on top of me, seemingly knowing that I wasn't well. My friend came up to check on me and I ran past her to the bathroom and was sick again and again. I lay down again in misery and counted the hours. I prayed for everyone I knew. I used guided imagery to try to sleep. I meditated. And when I heard birdsong and saw the sun creeping up from the big bay window, I felt someone slip into bed beside me, weight push the bed down on that side, the covers pulled up and something brush against my leg. I wasn't afraid, more perplexed, and half knowing what I wouldn't find, I still turned saying the dog's name and there was no one beside me. It was then I fell into a deep sleep until I was awakened by conversation in the hallway and got up and did my usual morning routine.
I made my way downstairs and nearly all the guests had gone home. I sat in the den on a loveseat across from my friend and I studied her face. She stopped talking and looked back at me. I asked her if 'things' ever happened in the house and she froze and asked why. I told her what happened and she called out, 'MAAAAAAA !!!!' and her mother came running and my friend told me to tell her mother what I just said. Her mother listened and smiled. She said, 'You know C's father died here, on a New Years Eve, just like last night. The room you slept in was her and her sister's room when they were small and before he went to bed every night, he would check on them, sometimes several times. Were you afraid?' I told her no, in fact, that after that I was able to sleep after being sick all night. Since then, a flicker of his shadow which appeared only to them, appears to me now, regularly, and I feel safe and protected. This is the ghost that gives me sleep and peace.
I don't know why he chose to make himself known to me. Maybe because I was lonely. Maybe because I mourn over ghosts living and dead. Maybe because I had lost all hope with Spooky Oats when I needed him more than ever. I have learned, through loss, that we don't always get a reason. We live and die with questions on our lips and in our hearts. Maybe Joe wanted me to know I wasn't as alone as I thought or maybe he thought I was a little girl who just needed someone to tuck her in and check in on her one last time. Whatever the reason, it was enough to give this leaf the courage to take hold of the breeze and trust that the coming spring would bring new life.