Sunday, July 12, 2020

I Won't Be There

I’m tired of writing about missing you. It’s like an old song losing its charm because it’s played on the radio too often and no longer brings productive emotion, just the wretched, wrenching kind that leaves one breathless, but no better off. I want to know the worth of these days, not those—to hold the gentleness of early breezes moving curtains and the mourning doves calling in the first sun and the rain dropping easily from grumbling skies. I want to plan a trip or even a day without looking over my shoulder for you. I want to look ahead and find something worthwhile waiting there.

I wonder whether it’s good that you’re not here. What would you have done in this plague, this virus? Would you hide silent in lockdown or disregard it as irrelevant and cast yourself into the hands of God? You often surprised me with your reaction to situations like these—cautious sometimes and rash others. Now, though, you left me to make my own fate in it, trying to sort out what is the loving thing to do not only for my own sake but for the well being of the people around me.

But I’m still writing about you. I don’t even really want to, but nothing else comes out with any degree of passion. Almost everything falls flat in pale comparison. Almost.

There is Florence, though. Florence has never paled. It’s been two years since I last rounded the corner of the Via de Neri and strode into Duomo square, gasping,

 two years since days began with cornetti and blood orange juice, two years since I watched the sculptors through the alley window, two years since the bookshop and the street violinists, two years since eating al dente spaghetti beside the medallion recording the death of Savanarola in the Piazza de la Signoria, two years since the poodle on the train, two years since the Arno at sunrise,

 two years since holding the head of Christ in my hands at the Opera Museum.

Maybe that’s how I exorcise you. Maybe that’s the way I regain my freedom, to allow today to step in front of yesterday. You are, after all, part of yesterday. I woke up this morning and you didn’t. You are either always awake or not at all, but I still cycle through days in repeating rhythms of work, rest, and sleep.

I have to decide. I have to intentionally move from this place to that. I’ve been lying in bed waiting for you to come back for more than four years. I can’t do it anymore. I have to swing my foot out, put my weight on it, and take a step. See—I’m doing it. And I’m not looking back. I can’t imagine where you’ve gone, but I say this to you, wherever you are: Don’t reach for me. I won’t be here.

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