Sometimes you think you can fly, only to be destined to drown.
And so we stay earthbound. "Should have". "Would have". Those are words in all of our hearts, at least once. We recall much of a life as each year passes, candles on another cake, warm breath against the flames. But what do you remember most, the best day of your life or your last regret?
The difference is profound.
I look at my Dad, and when my late brother's name is mentioned he gets this look of profound grief on his face, even as I've learned to get through the day as a stoic. He is a man who is not Time's trinket and for him, my brother's collapse and death on Good Friday was if it was yesterday.
But he'd not have given up the experience of adopting and raising him, both of us, for any happier ending.
But I didn't go down that path, the thought only one of brief self-pity, not intended to be action. I had a really good cry or two and a giant plate of Nachos and a beer or three with a six foot pony-tailed blond, who has always been my rock among best friends. Then I met my gal friend M.C. and as we drove around a haunted landscape, I realized that although I hurt, I FELT, and that was a good thing.
Then, after a long night's sleep, I picked up the phone and called a guy friend, someone I had chatted online with for years, sometimes spending hours sharing geeky puns and jokes. I knew he would understand. My boyfriend and I broke up", was all I said, and he listened, as he always did while I talked it out, and tried to put it behind me.
It wasn't the first time my heart had broke, and wouldn't be the last, but the feeling peeled something from me, like skin from an onion, leaving nerves exposed to a cold that bit with weasel teeth. It brought back a memory of that first loss of someone I loved and a memory of how I handled it. For that first time my heart broke, I did what a lot of people do. I pushed everyone away, pushing my boundaries, sometimes hanging up high in the air, the g-forces on my body a distraction from the pain, the air parting like the Red Sea, my only need to move on at maximum risk to my body, and minimum risk to my soul.
I wanted nothing from the world but the ability to push through it without being touched. I talked little to people but much to the sky, whispering to it my regrets as I rolled through 40 degrees of bank, taking counsel with that great blue solitude.
The only sound was the wings cleaving the air, a sound that is like all other sounds of profound mystery, the lap of a wave upon a shore, the echo of taps, the whispers of a voice that speaks to you in dreams from an eternity away, heard but not comprehensible.
I lost out on a lot of life during those brief years.
I didn't see my friend that I called that night for a few months, our talks continuing with the usual matters between people that share hobbies and books, even if they don't share the same generation. Then one night he mentioned a date with a ballerina, and I pictured them out, young, beautiful, laughing and felt something twist in my chest that had not been there for a while. But I didn't say anything, not then, not when Barkley and I would meet him for a coffee.
That was seven years ago, on a warm, clear day. That date is now my husband.
Because he asked.
Sometimes it's pride, sometimes it's hurt. Sometimes it's history. Often it's the fear of being rejected The safety stays on, the mouth stays closed and while we think we are protecting ourselves, we're merely closing a door on life, one that can be as fixed as one of a prison. In doing so sometimes we lose a friend, we lose an opportunity or we lose on love- that improbable, inexplicable and sometimes bewildering thing that binds us together despite our blood, or through it.
A fellow I knew professionally, lamented to me in a moment of vulnerability after a very late night on the job that his old high school crush was marrying someone else. I said "did you ever ask her out" and he said "no. . . I knew she would say no, she was beautiful and popular and I'm. . . . ", accepting the words as he uttered them with an almost eager fatalism. That which makes something its truth also makes its meaning. I should have offered comfort, but I remained silent, not knowing what to say.
So he and I just continued to work, in silence, our untrammeled feet taking us to a place rendered quiet not by solitude, but by loss. We worked on, blind and deaf to any emotion but the gathering and I realized I should have said something, if only, "next time. . . ask" said with a smile, and a hug from a friend, not a colleague.
From what I've learned in 59 years on this planet, is the earth is simply a standing place and how you look at what is around you is your loss or your gain.
I touch the porch railing of this old house, tracing it the way fingers trace a human backbone, there under the skin, in the silent perusal of that which becomes wonder. Another year older, another day wiser. I could worry about, or as I did on that birthday not that long ago where I could give my best friend and Partner a T-Shirt that says "I Can't Drive 55" and just laugh, a sound that will bend the trees and shake the fixed stars in the sky. I turn towards the door, where there is a light on, waiting.