Dear you,

Like you were telling me something I don’t know.  I know exactly when that was.  It was New Year’s Eve 1995.  According to my journal, it was my idea, but I no longer believe (if I ever did) in the integrity of the personal record-keeping.  Regardless, yours was the first face I saw when I woke up in 1996, and I’ve not forgotten, nor have I forgotten that you left the next day for a job in Virginia and I didn’t see you again for years.  I wrote, “Too many what-ifs in the world, and they don’t do any good.”

But it doesn’t matter.  I remember the important things.  I remember the smooth plane of your shoulder, the flat, taut beauty of your belly, the curve of your arm and the softness of the skin behind your knee.  I remember the feel of your hair between my fingers, the feel of your fingers in my mouth, the feel of your two hands clasped in mine.  I remember the taste of you and the way the ground fell out from under me and the years rushed in like an unmanned train when I kissed you.  I remember the mosquitoes and the beer and the darkness and the Naugahyde sofa in the hunting lodge.  I remember aching when you touched me and wishing we could stop time for a while before somebody came looking for us.

You remain, to this day, for me, something of honey and the light at dusk slanting over the top of the barn roof in Citronelle.  You are the smooth coolness of lacquered mahogany worn slick and rich brown from the touches of a mingled generation of children.  You are a bittersweet surprise and the warmth of a horse’s coat in the stable at winter.  You are the scent of amber and the heat of set lights and the taste of tears I will never cry.  You are, now, inextricably, tied up with a few songs I used to be able to sing without thinking of you.

When you lean against the bar in downtown Mobile, thirteen years after I last kissed you other than the European-greeting-way, and say “New Year’s Eve in the hunting lodge – I’ve never forgotten it,” I simply don’t know what to say, other than that I love you, I have for thirty years and I will keep on doing so, and I didn’t kiss you last time you were at my house because I remember you saying, a couple of years ago, that you would never, ever do that while you were with somebody else again.  Good for you.  And good for her.  It’s maybe a little cruel of you to bring it up, considering I then have to play Good Citizen, even though I now know you still remember what I taste like… but that’s ok.  I can be a grown-up about  this.  And I will be.  Even though I can’t look at the velvet mini dress with the cigarette burn in it without thinking of you in the darkness of an apartment that belonged to neither of us.  And I can’t smell amber without thinking of the first time I smelled it on you, after I’d given you a small box full of it as a gift. Even though I can’t think much about my childhood and adolescence without thinking of you — of Notasulga and halved artichokes and houses made of octagons and archery targets and a pot of soup that would feed the whole world… well, you’re in there, inextricably, and I guess I’ll always wonder “what if.”  That’s not so bad.  Our children are getting to know each other, our families are still good friends, and in ten years I’ll still have something of you.  I guess I can live without that something being you.

But I remember.  I remember the important things.