Dearest G, Maker of All Things,
In this quiet corner of Your will and creation, I sit in gratitude and longing.
Maybe You see it. The small candle I light every night. Hand on heart. Letting You know that, whether or not I see Your hand in any of it, whether or not I even know You’re there, I understand that there’s much that’s out of my hands. That all You weave is part of the tapestry. And that I am lucky.
I write these letters to You and all my Lost Loves as an act of confession and of forgiveness. Of myself. Of You. Of all the moments I’ve dared to want more. Felt unlucky.
I don’t know what the point is. For now, I simply need a space outside of my heart where I can look at the pieces of my grief. Maybe I might make something beautiful of their pattern. Or maybe I’ll light a fire to them.
And maybe, if it’s Your will, a newer, stronger Hope might grow out of the ashes.
That afternoon, the one where you drove in two hours of traffic to meet with me to talk, the security guard at the corner saw you, saw me running to you, and said, “He’s been waiting for you for a long time.”
I was so overjoyed, so full of my own hope, I thought his words a thing on wings.
A long time, sir. Decades, in fact. And as I jogged over to you, I thought that maybe now that I was a grownup, not a terrified college kid, I could embrace your kindness, your poetry, your sensitivity. Maybe now that I’d paid my dues with the tough guys, I was ready for the nice guy.
You were never more beautiful to me, arms casually crossed in front of you, your body lean and lovely against your car.
Oh, what a story I’d tell. How we’d met over three decades earlier. How I’d felt drawn to you back then, thought you a gorgeous and wonderful boy, too gorgeous and wonderful for me. How our friendship meant so much to me, how we could talk for hours, but how I was deeply afraid of anything past that with you. How no one understood me at the time. Because what’s there to fear in a young man bearing a rose? Why would anyone visibly shake at the prospect of opening the door to an open, loving heart?
(You should know, H, that whether or not you or anyone understood me, my fear was real. Visceral. I trembled from head to toe in the face of your feelings for me. And keeping you at a distance back then was the best I could do. For you. To protect you from me. There was no joy in my abstinence. No fun in the battle of loving and fearing you. I was at peace only in the moments when I felt that somehow, I could avoid harming you.
And of course, I failed.)
Three decades later, it was clear you hadn’t forgiven me. Yes, you changed your plans to come running to our intimate reunion, and you came for me, but you came to get back at me. The others were too busy reminiscing to pick up on that scent, but it was all over you. It was in the stiffness of your spine as I approached you for a hug. Your humorless face when I cracked a joke about everyone’s eyes on us. Your voice when you set the record of your heart straight.
“You were funny and smart and sexy, just like my ex. Of course, I had a crush on you.”
Just like my ex. Crush. So different from the words way back then. A box of cherished mementos proved otherwise. Why would you undermine our 19 year-old hearts?
And yet when we hugged goodnight that night, a different sentiment revealed itself. The wine seemed to have softened your anger. Your spine bent toward me. You whispered my name into my ear. I heard a world of regret in one syllable. And confused it for forgiveness.
I might have left it alone, but in the days and weeks that followed, as we cautiously texted and reconnected, I saw and heard your name everywhere. On building entrances and during conference calls, in email messages and during a walk at the mall with Ma, suddenly, your not-so-common name was as ubiquitous as a No Parking sign in the city.
G, what would you have me do? Ignore it all?
I took it all as a sign. To say what I needed to say. And so, in a moment of courage and madness, in the middle of chatter with a work friend, I stood up from my chair in my cubicle, dialed your number, and, palms sweating, asked if we could talk. Again, you changed your plans to come to me.
“He’s been waiting for you for a long time.”
Which part of our exchange in that little coffee shop triggered your tears, I wonder? Was it the part where our lives mirrored each other’s? All the attempts and failures? The ticking biological clocks? Or was it the part where I thought that there was joy to be had between us? That it didn’t have to be about sad things like lost time or regret?
I don’t know what it was, but something stirred your tears. I thought it was understanding. So that when you said, “It would not be casual between us, and I’m not ready for you yet,” all I heard was “yet.”
G, did you see 42 year-old me skipping back to work, down the hall to my cubicle, as giddy as my 19 year-old self? What were You thinking? What was I thinking?
The next day, your simple good-morning text felt as physically charged as a first kiss.
But in the weeks that followed, as you stopped responding and your silence took over, it was as if someone walked into a hidden room inside of me and flipped a switch. A light went out.
I don’t hold you responsible for that. For my light. It was alive long before you and, should time and grace allow, it might reignite. But I do hold you responsible for pretending to be the nice guy.
Silence is not nice.
What I really want you to know?
I never meant to hurt you back then.
But you meant to hurt me.
It’s why you came around again.
I hope that the tears over your tea were tinged with guilt. Over the game you’d just played.
Maybe all those years ago, I was right to be afraid of you.
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