Boxes & Rain Drops

I am moving in a month, and the unwieldy mountain of stress is identical to the literal mass of things I own.

In an attempt to get a head start on the increasing agenda of tasks I have to do, I’ve begun to sort through miscellany. Boxes I had in storage, my medicine cabinet, old make-up… I reached into my walk-in closet last night and found a small shoebox of letters I have kept for years. Since 2006, to be precise.

It took me a few hours to sift through them all—opening each envelope, inspecting the contents, skimming the hand-crafted words that took commitment and dedication.

These letters all came from a friend who was incarcerated. He and I had dated, and right after we broke up, he did a bad thing and went to jail.

We wrote each other for the entire 6 years he was locked up.

Emotions pelted me throughout the reading like a gentle rainstorm that occasionally picked up or slowed. I was caught off guard by a sentence of deep regret, or my skin blushed by a few compliments of my beauty and effervescence about which he would sometimes reminisce.

I’ve read all of these before. Some of the sentences were so familiar even after all of these years, because, for a time, I had relied so much on the comfort and happiness those paper confessions provided me.

Yet, so many little things I had forgotten. He had written, telling me that I reminded him of a girl in the 2008 Ford Edge commercial, who was lost in thought looking up at the stars with her big, brown eyes.

Or the hand-made stamps his father would carve every year for Christmas cards, and how I had succeeded in putting every other person alive to shame (except his father) with my creative cards I sent him every year for his birthday and Christmas.

Or how he remembered that I used to eat soy bologna sandwiches and never smiled with my teeth in photographs.

It was such a strange and unusual bond we created during his time away, because we both avowed to continue the practice of hand-written letters.

We’d talk about our rituals of writing, where we sat, and what our surroundings looked like as we penned long notes to each other. He’d start letters off with a gregarious greeting, punctuated with far too much excitement for his caged-in existence, musing with eloquent language about my current antics. He shared an intimate look at the inside of a penitentary, while I wrote on and on about outings, my cats, my relationship woes, and, apparently, how great my ass was looking (that came up a few times—I know, because he made sure to comment in his letters sent back).

I held a six-year time capsule that was one-sided. I only had his letters, so I had to fill in the gaps of what was going on in my own world, while he talked about his. I could infer from his commentary easily, and it was like a nicely boxed-up version of my life from the moment he went to jail until the day Rocky and I first broke up. That was the last letter from him before he was released—commenting on how sorry he was to hear about my breakup. That was in 2013.

The letters began with talk of him missing his Myspace page and texting on his phone, and galloped forward into Facebook, various tv shows that had their popularity over that time period, and onward still to mention my employment at the company for which I still work.

I remember when he was released to a half-way house and I was finally able to talk to him on the phone. He had a crappy flip phone, and we talked for over two hours that first night. I chain-smoked cloves, and we delved into everything we didn’t say in our letters.

I went to visit him at his job in West Hartford. We talked a few more times.

That was a few years ago.

He’s free and we don’t talk. Convenience and real life has stripped us of our intimate bond.

But we are Facebook friends…

He often wrote to me, expressing his gratitude for my continued devotedness to writing him, but in the last letter, he stated that I had swayed his mind on womanhood, which went beyond his expectations and even broke down the rusted barrier of his misguided trust.

And now we don’t talk.

The gentle rain of emotions pelted me a little harder right then.

I always re-read everything personal before purging it. I set aside an entire evening to remember. It was only four years later that I decided to take the shoebox down from the shelf, because I need to simplify my personal belongings before moving.

The stress and commitment of moving has caused me to remember what a great friend I have had all these years. How I was once capable of staying true to a friendship with a steadfastness that is only now seen in the few hours left I have to vacate this apartment and start fresh.

Hand-written letters may never be in our future again, but I hope he knows when he reads this that, even in silence, the bonds of friendship still lie.

Disintegrating

I am sitting on my couch, alone in my living room, thinking about all of the people I care about and how I haven’t seen most of them in so long that I can’t remember their voices or how they smell.

My heart is breaking into a million pieces.

It might be my overly active hormones at play, but it is still real just the same.

My chest aches and my lower lashes feel the kiss of tear drops, because I miss these people. But it is more than that. I am proud of them. Real damn proud.

I think about acquaintance friends with whom I haven’t visited in many years—how they are married now or having kids. I can watch them through the filtered screen of social media. I see their lives growing and changing.

My old best friend from grade school is a successful fashion consultant with her own company in NYC. I was just visiting her website and admiring how professionally and elegantly done it was. My old best friend has accomplished so much. I can hardly believe the magnificence of humans, sometimes.

The first man I said “I love you” to recently got engaged.

Everyone’s lives are just branching out like a well-mannered fractal into outer space. These lovely branches curving and splitting, and my heart just wants to burst with genuine excitement and joy in the happiness that is others’.

I don’t know if my mind is searching out these longing memories tonight because my hormones are peaking for a window of time due to PMDD, or because I’ve experienced loss so near in the past.

I might not have another Tuesday night with my best female friend. Tuesday was our day. She’d come over with beer or wine and we’d sit and talk or watch a girly movie. There’s been a rift between us, and I haven’t even had the chance to explain myself or talk to her, because she has protectively boarded up her emotional walls and shut me off like water lines in the middle of winter, so the pipes don’t burst.

I said goodbye to a man I have loved fiercely and passionately for over a year. I don’t know if I’ll ever smell his hair again or try hopelessly to get him to open his eyes wide enough to stare into mine for more than two or three seconds.

And he—this man—has accomplished so much. I haven’t been able to be there for any of it, but I’ve cheered from the sidelines and been supportive from the other end of the phone. I’ve pushed him to fight for what he loves, and I’ve lost everything I could have ever had with him to the gamble of his potential success, hanging out there in the future like an amorphous, looming question mark.

I want to take this palpitating heart of mine and shred it up into tiny fibers. Little thread-like viscera. I want to connect myself physically to all of those people who have ever mattered to me. The friends I haven’t forgotten. Loved beings who have amazed me all this time.

Yet… I can’t.

I can’t, and that’s why it’s paining me. To have to stay whole when I want to be a part of everyone. To have to continue to live my own life when my memories dredge up nostalgic yearning to be close to others. To walk my own path, knowing I could never see any of these people ever again. And that I would just have to be okay with that.

Who can always just be okay with that?

Not even the strongest person is truly at peace with the reality that something they love so much might never be close enough to them again that they can just reach out and touch it; embrace it; breathe in the essence of it, whether it be their voice, their graceful demeanor, their smile, their laugh, or just the comfort that is silently acknowledged between two people when they are relieved to be in another’s presence.

And since I am only little Amanda and possess no tool set to cope with this massive sense of loss—this deprivation of familiarity—I wrap up into myself in the fetal position in my bed and cry. I write. I love everything and everyone I can while I can. I hug tightly, say I love you genuinely, and kiss like I’m nominated to win an award for it.

My body is the glue that holds me together, while my thoughts and tears scatter across time.

Not all of these people, or even most of them, probably know how much I hold love for them still in my heart.

One knew. He told me so. I whimpered to him through desperate, emotion-laden declarations that for so long I was afraid to tell him how much I loved him. Right then, he cut me off and said, “You didn’t have to say it. I knew.”

There’s a calming feeling that comes with the knowledge of his heart knowing my heart so intimately all this time without me ever having to verbally confirm that what we felt was real.

For those I’ve lost or not seen, and may never see again, if they could know my love is expansive and unyielding in its many forms, then I am connected to each, instead of my fear of disintegrating into a pile of ash, like every time the one I love steps out my front door.