But it kept nagging at me, an ever-so-slight twinge in my gut anytime I saw the date. It’s that feeling I used to not be able to name; that feeling that things were slightly askew, sliding off balance, but the tilt was so subtle I could hardly perceive it.
It didn’t hit me until later, as I was stressing and muttering to myself while moving some meetings around on my calendar why I felt so uneasy all day; it’s your birthday.
If this was six years ago, I know what we’d be doing. We’d be packing and we’d be heading some place we’d never been. Probably somewhere with a beach, with you needing the sunshine and me needing the water. We’d be plotting on what to do and how to get around and where we were going to eat. We’d be excited and anxious checking in constantly; did you pack sunscreen (me)? Who’s gonna smuggle the shorties on the plane (you)?
We’d both be planning dates the other would love in celebration of our birthdays barely a week apart. And we’d be trying to one up each other, because it’s always a competition. We’d be staying up too late and talking about our plans.
We’d be talking, at least.
We aren’t talking. And we aren’t who we were six years ago. We might not have ever been. And we aren’t going anywhere. And we probably never were.
But we were dumb, stupid in love, weren’t we?
It kills me to feel like I’m not sure of the answer to that anymore.
I want to call. I want to call because not talking is new for us. Because birthdays are important to us, and because whether or not you’ll admit, all day you’ll be wondering if I might. And you’ll be disappointed when I don’t. And it won’t ruin your day- I don’t have that power anymore- but it’ll sit, quiet and small in the corner as you celebrate, and you’ll glance over it at least once right before you go to sleep.
I won’t call. Because I shouldn’t. Because it’s done. And it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s not what I want.
Instead I stop by the liquor store on the way home. And I sit out on my patio in the twilight sending you love and light and hoping you feel it, listening to My Cherie Amor and taking deep, shuddering breaths rather than crying.
We are hole-in-the-wall restaurants and we are cheese fries. We are Baltimore and the life we never had in LA and kisses on a street car in Memphis. We are a silly shorthand language only we know and love letters and AIM messages and slow sex against the wall in a darkened stairwell. We’re a CD where every song says my name. We’re strip clubs in Yonkers and tiny clubs with dope music in Chicago. We are turkey burgers with the plastic still on and slow dancing in the kitchen to Stevie Wonder.
We are done.
I unload my brown paper bag from the liquor store, and line shorties of the rum we used to drink on the altar of the railing like an offering. I shoot them all back to back without taking a breath in between. The taste is less familiar when not mingled with your tongue and your cloves and your Chapstick.
I look at the empty bottles, the last vestiges of sunlight shining through their emptiness. I arrange them just so and look at them until it’s dark out. And then I knock them over on my way back inside.
Yet another shrine I erected that feels like ruins.