I Will Carry You (Part IV)

Previous: Part III


IV. Goodbye

“Close your eyes,” you whisper, and I do. I can hear you shuffling around. Abruptly you grab my hand and start pulling me along; I nearly trip over myself, my eyes still shut tight. There is a level of trust here that even I can’t comprehend – but I have always been this careless, so there is no cause for concern. I am the last person to be concerned about, these days.

Time closes in and then expands, and she says at last, “Okay, open them.” As I let in a clear, crisp view of the sun setting over the ocean, I can feel my body instinctively flinch. But it is not the bright golden light that has me taken aback. It’s her.

There is only one reason she would bring me here today.

We sit together on the edge of the overlook, staring out at this natural wonder. For the longest time, neither of us have words. Deep in that silence, I imagine a little girl in a hospital room, and a dying man with an arrow in his chest, and a musician stretching out her hands and wrists in preparation for a performance, and a pair of mothers taking a walk on the side of a reservoir. There are so many things, so many possibilities, so many what-ifs and had-nots and could-have-beens. With our two lives, it could have gone any other way.

“I’m not going to lie,” you confess, breaking me out of my conflicting dreams.

“Okay,” I say.

“It would be nice… it would be nice to say that today, the sun’s not actually going to set, and we can just sit here forever, and you can hold my hand forever and everything’s always ever going to be alright…”

“That would be nice,” I agree. “But you said you aren’t going to lie.”

“I’m not going to lie.”

The silence comes back, but now there’s a pained tension – tension and compassion, too, which tempers an almost overwhelming feeling of grief. We both sense it, and we both want to break it. “Hold me,” you say, and I hold you.

“The sunset is beautiful…”

“Let’s do this together,” she says. I nod. I can feel her breathing, the slight rise and fall of her chest, and my heart hurts. We watch together as the sun bravely, adventurously, gently dips below the horizon, here and gone in an instant – and I watch alone as you follow it without looking back.

Today, the sun’s not going to set and we can just sit here forever and hold each other forever and everything is going to be alright…

No. Today, the goodbyes we exchanged are eternal.

Metaphors, after all, don’t have to be lies.


Next: Part V

Love Letters to the World We Made (X)

Previous: IX


On this day, I am setting you free.

“If you love them, let them go,” they say. “If they return, they were always yours.” But I hope you know that you don’t have to come back to me. Our lives don’t have to be bounded by the cliche motivational quotes printed on our favorite mugs and the trendy decor of coffee shop walls. We are the only souls in the world who need to know, who need to understand, who can even hope to understand – and I hope you understand. I am setting you free. Go out into the world, and live.

I have to set you free because since you were born you clung to me like a drowning child, taking me as your safe haven, your lifesaver in a world determined to shatter your body the same way I shattered your dreams. You were born into a place in which you never belonged, eternally searching for a home that never existed, a world that was never yours to live in so you tried to make your own. You harbored your pain and suffering and with it painted your loved ones’ bodies – your own having always been marked for death, but before you left you were marking theirs for life. You bent the slight curve of your horizons until they snapped, spending the nights wandering endlessly as a visitor like the distant stars, and one day you never came back.

I don’t know where you went. To the stars, maybe. But wherever you are, I hope you’re happy – and I hope you know that you don’t have to come back for me. Until they come to claim you, until they win, until you win, this life is yours to live. I’m returning it to you now.

Sometimes, I look back at my shadow and I don’t know how this happened. I don’t know how this situation came to be, how it was that you were born – here and now and in this way. I don’t know what happened between then and tomorrow that made today so hard.

But sometimes, I think, it’s better to not know. Sometimes, it’s easier to close your eyes, stop thinking, and just live. You were the one who taught me that.

It won’t be long before the end. They lied, you say, how could they? Or they forgot me, they made a mistake. I don’t think that’s true. They made no mistake in not taking you away. They saw something in you that you never saw in yourself – something that perhaps I never saw – and for once they let you stay. For once they let you live. So don’t resign yourself to the limits of broken promises and false prophecies. There is always more to the picture, more to the painting, than can be contained by the stylish borders and empty walls.

And if that fact hurts you, I understand. I empathize, I do. I, more than anyone, have seen that your emotions, your feelings, your love is so boundless it cannot be contained, yet this lack of containment can hurt more than most people realize.

It was never enough for you to love. Someone had to meet you halfway. And I can’t.

I can’t, so I am setting you free. There is more to this world than you and me.


Love Letters to the World We Made (IX)

Previous: VIII


I can’t promise that I won’t give up on you.

I can’t promise that I won’t give up on you, because sometimes, staying with you means giving up on myself. But until I reach that critical endpoint at which these two things become mutually exclusionary, I will keep trying. I will keep living. I will keep loving. I told you in my letter that in the end, I’m okay, but that statement still holds space for the fact that sometimes I don’t feel okay. Sometimes, I struggle with you. Talking with you, living with you, loving with you – because we both carry emotional baggage and individual problems that will always get in the way, and you’ve taught me that loving another human being, for all our preaching about love and peace and justice, can be surprisingly hard. But like I told you, even if there are momentary problems, even if sometimes I think I can’t continue on, in the end I’ll be okay. And as long as I’m okay, I will do my best for you.

I still remember… that day I turned and saw you in the doorway, that day I jumped up and hugged you even though we were strangers then, even though in many ways we are still strangers now. From that day on you began to teach me more about myself. We joked and played and I learned how to laugh. We lay in bed and you gave back to me the meanings of happiness that I’d lost long ago. You invited me to your breakfast and when I came back I crashed on the sheets and cried, and I knew from then on that loving you would be hard, that the weather would change, the seasons would turn, time would keep flowing and cycling without me and I would not always be happy.

But the moments of happiness are worth it. You taught me that, too.

You chase me across the sand and the strange heartache I’ve come to know, just like the molten-glass waves at our feet, rises up abruptly to simultaneously choke and drown, to replace what’s in my lungs with water, what’s in my heart with ash, and when I collapse to my knees under the weight of this sudden burden, you stop playing and stare at me. But you don’t ask what’s wrong. I told you that in the end, I’ll be okay. I close my eyes and transport myself even for a single moment to a world where life does not have to hurt, where love does not have to hurt, and I’m taunted by its existence but I know I cannot stay. I have never been allowed to stay.

I’ll do my best to stay with you.

Together we drown in the tears and silence and loneliness of people who love. We rip open each other’s birthday presents with excitement, and then we turn our backs and wish to die. We struggle to go to sleep at night, to wake up in the morning, to pull ourselves out of bed and live. We put our heads down on the table to cry, alone across from each other, refusing to allow our hands to touch, to make ourselves vulnerable in that way because we think we are not lovable but we are desperate for love. Sometimes, you hurt and I cannot promise I will not give up on you. Sometimes, I hurt and I can’t even promise that I won’t give up on myself.

But somehow, we will find a way. We will do our best, because it is all we can ever do. We will walk forward and keep on living because it is all we can ever do. We try to love because it is all we can ever do –

And what else is left, after love?


Next:

All There Is Left

the raindrops slide against the windowpane,
your glassy eyes shed tears;
silently, we hold our hands
and strain for something real.
music bursts forth from our hearts
as breathing grows shallow from hatred;
our world throbs from smothered pain,
but all we can do is love.
the seabirds soaring inland share our deep heartache,
they scream to give us voice;
you lay your head against my shoulder,
and it’s all we can do to love.
we try not to remember because the past makes us hurt
we try not to think because the present is no better;
I put my forehead to yours with soft grace,
and all there is left is our love.
the world cannot contain this compassion of mine
on this day, it’s not as fragile as a human body;
you kiss me gently, your eyes dark and full and unraveling,
and the best we can do is still love.
all we want is to live
to live and love again
and we will find a way.
we always remember this, today.


Dedicated to all those affected by the tragedy of 3/11… and to everyone who still remembers, who still yearns, who still tries to live and love again.

May these messages of hope one day be not necessary.

I love you all.

K.T.

「winter lovers’ serenade」

alive again ~these winter waking dreams~

searching for you, I walked
       these empty moonlit winter streets
              as snow enveloped me in silent sheets
       masking the scent of waking dreams
that chased the weakness in my heart.

if you could feel my love,
would you answer me?

“we will meet again,” you said…

if I could hold you one more time,
would I live again?

reaching for you, I walked
       past the edge of this eternal night
              blinded by the shining white
       protesting this internal fight
that I could give no reason for.

if I knew I was destined to lose,
would I still keep running?

“we are going to make it,” you said…

if you really believed that,
would you have let me go?

yearning for you, I walked
       the traces of our broken past
              supported by a glowing cast
       the memories of those who last
still alive within my winter dreams.

all the things you said to me

don’t tell me you aren’t beautiful
don’t tell me you aren’t smart
don’t tell me you weren’t meant to be;
if only the world could see
       if only you could see
what I saw every time I glanced over at you
and looked into your eyes

every time you made me laugh
every time we laid in bed
       and traced our foreign days together
what was that if not beauty?
every time you spoke for hours
       about the aesthetics of life and love
what was that if not intelligence?
all the things you’ve said to me
so blindly self-deprecating
and it hurts when you believe it;
you took that to the end

you were born a shooting star but never shot
never streamed across the northern skies in your private colors
and will the world know why?
you chased a dream you never saw
       the dream of being yourself, of being happy
and for once,
       if you could have been happy for once
would you still have left me?

if I could hear your voice again,
would I follow you home?

the dream you left behind

trampling through fields of dead roses,
       with a mournful serenade gracing your ears
you hold your head up high, gazing at me
       locks of your brown hair falling to the ground one by one
       tracing our shattered destiny on the maps of time
I didn’t know what I was leaving behind.

the shadows of your fingers entwined in mine,
I still remember
       the words you said to me that day
       the strength of your loving embrace
but you knew, I knew, I had nothing left to give
       and so you walked away without looking back
knowing that I was just waiting to die.

breaking the endless lines with your bare hands,
       to the soundtrack of a selfless hero
you climbed the walls we had built together
       and tore through the eternal night that was nothing but an illusion
              nothing more, nothing less than a single night’s dream
       the dream I could never see
the dream you left behind for me.

before that night was over

the night I tried to show you the way
the crescent moon pierced the sky like a farmer’s blade
and as the wind tore down the willow trees behind us
you gazed into my face and cried
still believing that there could have been another way
another way for you to stay
to ground yourself against my flat chest
and never have to break that first-year promise
but I watched the air before you burst into flames
reflected back to me in your stormy eyes
and before the night was over
before the moon and wind and stars had won
you released my hand and let me go.

brainwash

waiting for the end, we walk
parallel to the edge
as if we were just walking along the shore
basking in the glow of who we used to be
we try to love and end up in tears
we try to live and they kill us
before we can kill each other, they
grasp our hands and we cover our ears
we jump off and they catch us
they promise the light at the end of the tunnel
but when we get there we realize it’s death
throttled by the dreams of people who believed
we used to believe, we used to dream, but
it was never enough to say we loved each other
because they didn’t want us to mean it
they wanted us to become the liars they were
waiting to catch us in the act they forbid, they
claimed we were going to live and still, they
stabbed you in the back while we embraced
and I couldn’t even cry a single tear for you
they already had me in their death grip
so I lied and said I never loved you
I lied and said I wanted to live
and now I walk alone
parallel to the edge
just waiting for the end.

demon/s in the mirror

“someday” was a promise I’ll never see
because she, you, I lied to me
this demon in the mirror spiraling out of control
neon pink fringes bursting from our heart
I won’t let you win, I’ll die
to see this tragic farce all the way to the end
when the rain flows upward and he shatters his guitar,
drunk against my bloody face
determined to do everything it takes to make it
I will win, you’ll live
even if it was never meant to be, I don’t believe
drowning you in endless seas of love-blind fantasies
because this mind of mine was never mine
except to blow up on a heart-held trigger
except to walk the line between life and death,
pretending to be sane enough to hold your hand.
don’t lie to me again. 

reciprocity

don’t give up on me, you said
but you gave up on me

and it was never enough

the old days were so simple
coloring books and pinky-promises on the playground
afternoon naps and carefree hugs
and kisses I don’t remember
we walked hand-in-hand through the days, silently
our faces written with love we never understood

why can’t we go back?

to a time when giving up meant nothing
even if there was nothing to give up on?

you sang me the song of your future
but I never had a future
not even with myself, I thought
the days were too easy but I couldn’t get out of bed
the work was too simple but I couldn’t stop crying
and eventually you walked out
you gave up on me

I thought promises worked both ways
but I was never worth the other side of it anyway.

blown-glass trains and fleeting dreams

gazing into a sea of blackness
I fall asleep to the sound of falling rain
the city quiet except for the midnight train
still suspended in my blown-glass dream

again I hear your soothing voice
but my restful sleep is fleeting
we can’t spare a chance at meeting
only now can I turn back time

yet in the rain we are both blind
reaching out vainly for your hand
it disintegrates to fine storm sand
I will wait on the tracks until that day

caught together in this moment
as the spirits’ tears come flood the streets
as the seasons change in rhythmic beats
I hear your words again

this goodbye is not forever…
we will meet again.

Enough For Me And You

breathing quietly beside you,
       I gazed up at my own dark sky –
so different from yours
       even though our dreams were the same
       even though the promises we exchanged
              had been knowingly impossible… 
if I could have understood then
       what it feels like to love someone
       who can’t love you back…
that day the seas rose and fell
that day the sky split open
       and shattered our silent dreams into a million pieces,
              glass shards we grasped in our hands despite the pain
you asked me for a reason –
       and I blurted out so many
       but it’s only now that I realize what the right answer was.
“I don’t need a reason,” I should have said.
“Isn’t ‘I love you’ enough?”

Nocturne of a Dreamer

sitting at the edge of dawn,
waiting for who knows how long
the first bird shares her siren song
       and we –
in this intangible moment we
       go off into infinity
stepping into the unknown that is our life.

as though we could have stopped them,
       and made this place our own
as though we could have met them,
       and bent our fates anew
we chase each dawn from night to day,
each following our own loving way –
       then searching for the words to say,
words that might still change the world someday.

reaching into open arms, we gaze
       at these reflections of our own blind eyes
       at our opposite horizon lines
and we say, “we will not go.”
we say “this is not the end.”

because here, the sun is rising –
       hear, the sun is rising –
and today
with nothing else to do
       and no other path to take
we follow it into eternity.

Love Letters to the World We Made (VIII)

Previous: VII


I will always look after you.

It was a promise I made to myself long ago – a promise that began to form on my lips that day I sat beside you in the gym, that day you gave your awkward self-introduction and I thought, yes, I can make this work. It is a promise that I make again now, every day, every week that I check on you, every conversation we have, every bit of advice I give. It is a promise that I make again every time I see your familiar face because as the years have passed, I have come to understand this sad yet simple fact: that in this world we live, human beings cannot survive without each other – and if not me, then who?

You may not understand the cyclical nature of this yet, but someday you will. Someday, standing in the rain, gazing at the imprint of your shadow on the carpet, you will think: I will look after you. You will realize that I was able to take care of you because other people took care of me – and so by taking care of you, I am making it possible for you to turn around and pay it back. You will realize that you needed your queer seniors and mentors, that they were there for you in a way others could not be, and you will recognize that the next generation will be just like you – yearning for advice and validation and love, and from who? For what?

Time doesn’t always work this way. Love doesn’t always work this way. But we must do our best, and our best is all we can do.

When you scribbled out your letters to me, when you choked out an awkward, embarrassed “I love you,” I renewed my promise. When we talked about who we are and how we are seen to be, I renewed my promise. And when I left you, when time and distance and personal choice drove us apart, I renewed my promise. We aren’t the closest of friends – we never were. But my promise was never conditional, and someday, in the future, yours won’t have to be. Someday, you will stand against that brick wall to be photographed, and you’ll watch as you allow your own promise to be made tangible. Someday, someone will write you an awkward, embarrassed “I love you,” and you will remember that lesson from long ago arguing that time doesn’t have to be linear. I close my eyes and cry, you close your eyes and cry, I offer you love and you give it to someone else. Don’t get caught up in their lies, I told you once. Don’t limit yourself. I hope you will take that to heart one day. 

But it’s funny, because we’ve both already failed. I promised to take care of you, but when we were both drowning, when we were both struggling for air, desperate for someone, something, to save us, we were too afraid to reach out for each other. We faced each other, watched each other, and stayed still and stone-cold silent. And why? She went out for a smoke, you went out for a breath of fresh air, and I closed the window. For days we spoke without talking, suffered without crying, died without screaming, and I can’t help but think I’m a failure. One promise will never be enough.

It will never be enough, but sometimes it’s the best I can do. You will learn this, too, one day. You’ll stand on the roof horrified as you watch her fall, and a tiny piece of your heart will say, you did your best. Too often, it’s an excuse. But sometimes, it’s the truth – and sometimes it doesn’t even matter if it’s the truth, because it’s just what you need to hear, what you need to know, what you need to believe, to keep on living. 

I promise that I will look after you – and I will keep on living. In this world, our wills can coexist.  


Next: IX

Love Letters to the World We Made (VII)

Previous: VI


If only I could remember you.

If only I had not been so self-absorbed in my depression. If only I had noticed the hundred clues you left behind. If only I had known then… if only. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up as you whisper into my ear. All I have left are the drawings, the paintings, the stories you made for me – and the memories I cannot recover. Jagged fragments of a time long gone.

I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently, if only those nameless days had come to be.

You speak into the phone slowly, hesitantly, embarrassed. You tell your story as I reconstruct mine. You admit with a life-changing, world-altering, unfamiliar phrase, “I was in love with you,” and I can’t help but think: this wasn’t what I was asking for.

It’s not fair to ask for it now.

I just want to remember what it felt like when we held hands. I want to remember what it felt like when you kissed me. I want to remember what it felt like to be loved, even if I didn’t realize it. But none of that will come back to me anymore. I know I can’t spend my life chasing my shadow – but sometimes moving forward means coming to terms with what you’ve left behind.

I just want to remember you.

I want to know why it is that today, when I write, when I watch these movies, when I flip through old things I have saved, I can’t help but think of you. I want to know why the absence of so many memories, so many emotions, leaves me in tears. I want to know why, out of all the people, you found me – me, who was depressed and damaged and broken, me, who was never worth your time – why you found me worthy enough to save.

Most of all, I want to know why I didn’t give that love back to you. Now, the waves wash in against my feet and I refuse to write your name, I refuse to let you go. But I don’t know what there is left to hold onto. I don’t know if I’m reaching for something that isn’t there, trying to hold onto the shadowy traces of a hand that, having been offered without reciprocation for too long, already pulled away. You say you still think of me. You say I was your first. And I still think of you, too – but I don’t remember you, and this contradiction leaves me in anguish. It keeps me up at night, tossing and turning as the moon cycles through the darkness. I close my eyes and it makes me want to cry.

Growing up in this world, we aren’t taught to deal with contradictions. But when I think about it, my entire life has been one continuous series of both-and relationships, and I can’t, or won’t, come to terms with it. I can’t, or won’t, learn to survive it. I can’t, or won’t, but I will always come back to you.

“If only I could remember,” I say, and you reply gently, “I have to go.”

I have to go – but I will always come back to you.


Next:

Love Letters to the World We Made (VI)

Previous: V


We are going to make it.

You may not believe me now, but we will. I know that we will because every time, every year, we come back to each other. Every year, we live our separate lives in a shifting, reflective parallel, and this parallel is of the kind that only people like us can see – people like us meaning the artists and the authors, the full-hearted queer and quiet spirits, all the sensitive, tragic, broken-but-not people who, even after all they have suffered, still find ways to live and love, still find ways to make it. “I’m not one of them,” you say. “I’m not enough.” But you will always be enough to me.

It doesn’t have to be that we don’t talk except for the random nights you call me on the verge of tears, desperate for help, desperate for advice and validation and love. It doesn’t have to be that our only interactions take place on the wrong side of the railing, on the firelit edge of a bridge. It doesn’t have to be that some people must live their lives this way. But in this world, this is how we live.

I lean against the railing and call out your name, and the beauty in your heart rages up within your words, fired in the kiln of pen and paper. Every time, you take your suffering and you pour out love. You might not recognize that it’s love, because we are trained to think that love must take a direct object – but love cannot be limited. I trace the scars on your arm and your stomach and you turn them into delicate masterpieces worthy of an art gallery. I brush away your tears and you capture them in sails of broken glass. I soothe the pain in your voice and you use it to heal my heart – and every time, every time, I can only think: it doesn’t have to be this way.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but this is how it is. And we are going to make it.

Always, we make-believe like children that our meeting was coincidence. We pretend that the intersection of our lives, the parallel nature of our highways, was never meant to be. We say that it could have gone any another way, and while it’s true that our histories could have been different, it can’t be denied that our parents, our goddesses, our hearts, lifted us up onto a tandem bike and set us free.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. And, I think, neither do you. But together we are going to make it.

One of these days, I promise to myself, I will take you to the ocean. As the sun sets above the sea, as the waves crawl in to graze your feet, as our shadows embrace in the glowing golden light, I will show you how beautiful life can be. I will show you that it doesn’t have to be this way. And when you lay your head against my chest and start to cry, I will cry with you – and then we will keep pedaling, riding on our separate but parallel highways, headed towards a future that we cannot see, but one we are both determined to meet. If it takes all my life, if it takes all of your life, if it takes the world –

It’s still okay.

All that matters is love. And we are going to make it.


Next: VII

Zuihitsu #36

Every day I go back and forth between loving another and loving myself.
But it shouldn’t have to be this way, I think.
My justice, my truth, my health and well-being, should never have to be at the expense of someone else’s –
and their’s should never have to be at the expense of mine.
My love should never have to be at the expense of someone else’s –
and their’s should never have to be at the expense of mine.
We don’t know how to live together anymore.
Maybe we never did.
For all our wars, for all our silences, for all our one-sided relationships and marriages ended in divorce –
and I know I’m oversimplifying this –
It seems like we’ve forgotten how to love.
We’ve forgotten how to look out for each other.
We’ve forgotten how to imagine someone else’s life.
Maybe we never knew how to live together.
Maybe, this project was doomed from the start.