Something in the way the stars shine tonight reminded me of him. It brought the heaviness that was left with his memory to the surface.
“Alex Walton…” I muttered into the dark night sky like somehow the stars would answer.
Alex Walton. I’ve been carrying his suitcase around with me for almost 3 years. Somedays I barely feel it’s weight as I laugh with friends and go on first dates. But there are many times when his suitcase weighs me down like its an old lumpy sweater. You see, I’ve packed all of our memories into that leather suitcase. Made sure to roll up happiness next to his flannel. Shove excitement and longing into his beanie. Everything we were or aspired to be lies stagnant in that old case of his. There were times when I even attempted to shove him inside, hold him hostage from the rest of the world so I would never have to face his goodbye.
That goodbye happened inVirginia. On a cold December day. In the middle of a street. I was getting ready to move to New York. He was trying to find a way to tell me he was afraid of distance. Both of us bursting with things to say, but neither having the courage to say them aloud first.
“I hate goodbyes… I’m no good at them.” I whispered into the silence surrounding us. He just looked at me with those sad brown eyes and then took my hand.
“Lets dance,” he said, twirling me around. Laughing despite the heaviness in the air, I said yes. I said yes to impossibility. To dancing in the street. To being ridiculous. I said yes to all the things he had taught me in the past 2 years and 7 months. I said yes. And we danced. Like we were the only two people in the world. Like dancing would solve the issue of goodbye. Like somehow, between his hand on the small of my back and our laughter boisterously filling that December air, one of us would bend: I would stay, I wouldn’t leave this southern town where I first learned to love and be bold and be myself. I would stay and love him and be as sweet as the tea we drank on his porch swing. Or he would tell me. He would say he was afraid. He would let me know that 278 miles would keep him up past 2 a.m. wondering about me. He would admit he was frightened of distance.
But our dance came to an end. It ended with his chuckle and his “I’ve always been better at goodbyes than you.” His kiss to my forehead and the whispered goodbye that was muffled by my hair and choked back sobs. I watched him walked away and didn’t even have the strength to follow him. I just sat down in the middle of that street and cried.
That memory weighs his suitcase down friends. I could never fathom his suitcase without it, it was the sole reason I had begun dragging that thing around with me everywhere I went so I would never have to deal with it: the texts that stopped showing up, the phone calls that got shorter and shorter until none came at all. I couldn’t muster up the strength to let him go. To feel his goodbye. You have to let him go….. but I couldn’t. Not then.
At least thats what I thought. I thought that keeping him here in his suitcase was everything and that his suitcase was for keeping his memory fresh in the every, every day. But his suitcase turned out to be some hidden hole for a self-harbored guilt to grow. And not forgiving myself for not letting him go was to blame. And not accepting that I grew because Alex Walton broke my heart gently. Because he had to. Because sometimes two people aren’t meant for a lifetime but for 2 years and 7 months. Because circumstances put us that way. Because soulmates change you then leave. Because it was time for the two of us to fly and find ourselves in this crazy world.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I could have ended there. I could have pushed publish and left this open ended and filled with the thought of finding myself… I almost did. But I would lying if I didn’t continue. If I didn’t say these next few things:
How can I find myself when the suitcases haven’t been unpacked and the remains haven’t been burned.
I burned the suitcase that belonged to everything Alex a month ago. I unpacked his memories and burned them. I even held a little ceremony as if to say “yeah, we loved. We loved hard & real & passionately. But it faded. We grew up and grew on to better things. But thank you for teaching me about love and letting go and finding hope in hopelessness. And of course I’ll remember you as much more than a life lesson, you’ll always be more than that loverboy.”
So yeah, I burned his suitcase. But I need to burn the suitcase I am carrying around to remind me that love can hurt. HARD. I need to burn that suitcase so I can flirt with strangers. So I can find hope in someone else’s smile. So I can be courageous enough to go stargazing with the one who plays with fire. So I can be bold enough to approach the boy with brown eyes and faded converse to tell him that if he really likes Jane Austen he should stop rereading Sense & Sensibilty and try out Mansfield Park.
The hard thing is the suitcases won’t unpack themselves love. It’ll take effort and will power and crying and a desire to move on. But you don’t have to unpack it by yourself. That is the glorious thing about human beings: we crave the company of others, we crave helping others. So if you need some assistance unpacking & burning & gaining courage, babycakes I’m here for you. 24/7 with my words and heart ready to hear you. I’m all yours. I’ll meet you at the baggage claim with a trash can and some matches, babe.