Friday, August 04, 2017

The End

Twenty-two years ago I was sitting in a the living room of a little two-story house in the town of Waukegan. It was actually about a few months later than it is today, as I write, but it's close enough. I was young, the world was shiny and new, I was living with four girls, two of which were very difficult to understand (and why they were there would forever be a mystery). I hit it off with one of the others, we seemed to have the same weirdness about us.

Still though, young, alone, on my own for the first time, part of my was desperate to fit in. So when one of the stranger housemates came in and started ranting about this "odd boy" at the bookstore, I was curious. What would be so strange to such a girl? Who would this strange person be?

That was the night I met the boy.

Two drawn out years later, almost to the day I write this, we started what would be a roughly twenty year relationship. And that relationship went, as so many do, through ups and down, times of intensity of love that I cannot really put into words, moments of abandon and absence, moments of doubt. We were, for lack of a better word, children when we met. We grew together in good ways, and in ways that with pure honesty, made us both the people we are today. Without each other I don't think either of us would have gotten very far, we needed each other for a very long time, and we saved each other in our own ways.

We parted ways, knowingly, agreeably, and with love; both moving in our own direction and trying to separate in a way that was true to who we were and our feelings. The final pieces were moving my things from a house to storage locker. The last piece, would be the key. I waited all day for him to show up with that key, he knew my schedule, knew I had evening plans. I realized as I waited it had been more than year since I'd last seen him, and I wondered if in the end the key would not just get left somewhere for me to find and perhaps I would not, in fact, see him again.

I gave up and put the dogs in the harnesses for a walk so I could put them in crates and go on my date. I threw open the door without looking out, the dogs rushing ahead of me.

He was on the steps.

An awkward wave. The dogs attacked the stranger demanding love and he couldn't help but to give it, while moving to put a key that was the end of our entanglement somewhere. The shock had robbed me of words for a moment but finally I managed to say hello.

"Come take a walk with us, then?"

"Okay."

We walked around the block and talked, the way old loves talk. Muscle memory was strong and my hand kept itching to reach out and take his, to feel that connection we had for so long, to talk as we walked the dogs, the way we always talked when we walked the dogs, talking with someone who had been my best friend since I was eighteen. Talking to someone that in my bones I still love. We walked and talked, laughed at the silliness of young puppies, shared our personal success and caught up about a year spent apart, so many things missed, so much having happened. Comfortable.

Together.

Back on the porch I took up the key and the spell was broken. I said goodbye without crying and took the dogs in the house, managing to get them unhooked before I partially collapsed.

It felt like dying.

It felt like the end of the world.

It was only just the final end of us.

Twenty years ago, to almost the day, he came to my apartment and made me bread. He made sure I had food, helped unpack my apartment after a surgery that saved my life. He kept my place clean and slept on the floor at night, in case I needed anything.

I loved him so strongly then. This has always been my problem. I never stop loving people once I start. All those loves, have been forever loves, and each and every name I have ever added to my heart, no matter what the parting, I still care deeply for: even when they have ended with me.

There was no drama yesterday. Just a walk around the block with young puppies, two people who looked for all the world like an old married couple laughing and talking as they walked bouncing dogs down the streets of Chicago. Their hands close but never touching, as if something was just out of reach.

A story in the middle to those watching.

A story at the end to those walking.


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