(About an 8 minute read)
Do you remember now
That long ago dewy night
When we dissolved our proud walls in the Milky Way?
We were surprised to discover our hearts were twins.
And we began purring together like two cats cuddling.
We were strong and confident and nineteen.
We had returned for the summer from our universities,
And we lay, face to face, and eyes to eyes
On the hill behind your mother’s home.
The town has changed now.
It’s no longer so dark at night that the stars explode overhead
To catalyze people into lovers.
The streetlights, you see.
People want to feel safe, they fear the dark
And do not think they need all the help they can get
To turn vulnerable and open their hearts,
So the mayor keeps planting more lights,
And he keeps getting reelected
Running on his “safe streets” platform.
So many changes, Terri,
And for such reasons!
So many things are clearer to me now,
So much better lit in my mind now.
Clearer, much clearer, but still nonsense.
Still pathetic nonsense.
Weren’t we talking about Mars?
Mars and of course our old school days.
And weren’t we at first pretending to each other
There had been no walls
Between us growing up?
I recall we were whispering
So we wouldn’t wake your mother
Who slept with an open window.
I also recall it was by chance, and only by chance,
That you spotted me walking home that evening,
And phoned me to come visit you.
Two old classmates catching up with each other.
That’s all we thought would happen that night.
So much in life pivots on chance,
Wheels you in an unexpected direction,
Sometimes even changing the course of your life.
Things would be different now, Terri,
Had that night never been.
It happened, it all happened
Because of whatever it was that decided you
To confess a secret.
That delicate secret you had kept for years
Safe and protected inside a jar,
A jar made of opaque brown glass,
That you painfully — it must have been painfully —
Buried in the hidden places of your mind,
Buried along with the freedom of your heart
To go where it wanted to go.
So funny how you and I kept all those years,
The very same secret from each other!
But then that’s how I know the shy,
embarrassed color of the jar you used.
I also kept my secret in a brown jar.
“Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me!
I’m just some old brown thing.
Some boring brown thing.
No secrets here!
No treasures hidden here!”
You and I are old enough now, Terri,
To look back with a grain or two of wisdom
And feel the tragedy of chaining the human heart
To a doghouse where it is never free
But still now and then sometimes painfully barks
During our most quiet moments when we’re alone.
The tragedy of needlessly chaining a heart
Just to avoid the risk of a little pain.
I knew something was coming
When your whispers turned hesitant like a cat
Watching an open space for signs of danger
Before deciding whether to leave the cover of a bush
And cross out into the open.
And then the night changed
And you were revealing to me
That you had had a crush on me since fourth grade,
From the day and the moment I first had made you laugh.
That was surprising enough.
Perhaps a bit like how folks feel when they chance
Across a friend they haven’t seen in twenty years.
But the astonishment, Terri,
The astonishment – that came next. and it was mutual!
I in turn revealed the crush I had had on you,
The crush that I had formed
In the same grade, on the same day, and at the same moment,
When you were the only one in our class to laugh,
The only one to laugh,
At the same joke.
Your laughter broke the room’s embarrassing silence
Into which my joke had fallen,
I instantly took it on faith you had become my ally
And almost as quickly began my daydreams,
The soon to be daily daydreams,
You would become my friend.
I was the class clown, you’ll recall.
But I was also the class outlaw,
The kid who did or said all the wrong things,
And like any proper and respectable outlaw
I was sanctioned for it, I was avoided for it.
You were the new kid in the class,
The girl who had just moved into town.
You didn’t know who to avoid yet,
And you were even more friendless than I.
In your laughter I heard the cracking of ice,
The hope of a thaw, the hope of a change in the seasons.
The only wall, the only proud wall
That held out against our confessions,
And all the purring whispers that followed them,
Was that we both kept calling the thing a “crush”.
Just a crush. Just a kid’s thing.
The one proud lie, the last defense, the final fear
Before our total surrender.
In the end, we gave ourselves to each other
A couple hours later in the backseat of my car
Parked out on that unpaved
And almost never traveled
You were so shapely,
And when I entered you
It was like a homecoming,
I felt the welcome and familiarity
Of a home.
I wish now you and I
Could have that night again.
It’s strange how it ended.
Strange how suddenly
You and I messed it up.
All of it.
Within the course
Of just a single hour we messed it up.
And ruthlessly, Terri, we were ruthless.
Both of us.
As ruthless as if we were ancient Spartans
Exposing a newborn for but a minor flaw.
We ruthlessly sinned against love.
We turned within an hour, a single hour,
And refused to turn back.
Refused to laugh or apologize or simply shrug,
And turn back.
What was it now? Something about politics.
I can’t quite remember, but a few months later
You took one view, I took another.
Some minor point, Some small difference.
Not even worth remembering.
But difference enough.
Dreams, ambitions, visions revealed.
Memories told, shared, confessed.
Desires shown, shown naked, honest, and intense.
Everything we felt,
Everything we had together.
All our vulnerable moments.
All our sharing, all our trust.
Everything we had worked together for months
To build with our bodies, our hearts, and our minds.
Even our fucks, our tender, bonding, binding fucks.
Blown down and blown away.
Tossed away as thoughtlessly as a cigarette butt
From the window of a passing car.
Stupidly nuked to their foundations.
All because we waved different political flags.
Cheap paper flags.
Small, cheap, paper flags.
I don’t blame you at all.
And I don’t blame myself either.
I have seen too much
In the forty years between then and now,
Too much to toy around with blame,
Toy around like a naive and foolish child
Playing with a dangerous fire.
I know now how it’s all just human nature.
How our species is cursed
By vanity, pride, foolishness…
So many, many bricks for building walls.
So many, many bricks for building walls.
Yet it still,
Still can shock me how fast high walls,
Thick walls, proud walls —
How fast, how goddamn fast they can be built.
And how willingly we build them
For less reason, for less good reason
Than there is to fearfully plant
Against the friendly night
In a small town with no crime
A thousand streetlights and drown the stars.
And drown the stars.
And damn the stars.
You can blame it on me, Terri.
You can blame it on you.
You can blame it on fate.
You can blame it on the gods.
But I think it’s the ego, Terri,
Our sense of who we are.
We build those sorrowful walls
In fearful defense of our egos,
Our so often petty egos.
I have no regrets, none at all,
For having loved you,
For having bonded tight with you,
For having turned myself so open
When the rain came
I had no roof against it
And all but died
Of drowning in the pain.
I have no regrets.
The events of human lives are mostly dross, Terri,
With now and then some gold.
We should never scorn the gold.
We should never scorn the gold.