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?


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.


Love Letters to the World We Made (V)

Previous: IV

You will never understand.

How much you mean to me. How much I treasure our sparse memories. How much my heart aches reaching across the great divide in search of you, desperate for something, someone, who makes me feel normal and valid and loved. You will never understand because my feelings, my complexities as a human being, can never be accurately reduced to the written or spoken word – and we knew this when we sat down to write our story together for the first time. We knew this, and still, we wrote. And still, we loved.

Sometimes, I step hesitantly into the water and in my mind burns an immediate image of you – submerged, your eyes closed, your hair drifting, the current hiking up your shirt to reveal that beautiful tattoo. This image is pulled out from the deepest recesses of my memory by a flickering goddess who breathes sparks upon it and gives it life. For a time, it takes up residence in my heart, and I cherish it like I would an abandoned child. I will never be the same.

Your name lingers on my tongue like a dream of a falling star. I am mortally terrified of the day I will forget it.

Every time you took my hand, every time you wrapped me up in your embrace, every time I cried on your flat chest, that goddess of memory captured my emotions in her perfectly cupped hands, poured them into a glass box, and stored them safely away. I am determined to keep these special boxes safe and free – determined in a way I have never been, determined in a way that is not possible. I know that it’s not possible. And still, I try. Still, I love.

If only, you whisper. Unworthy. Damaged. Broken. Unlovable.

You won’t believe my will to prove you wrong.

Because all of the man-made tragedies we’ve suffered have transformed our bodies and our minds, but we will not let them transform our hearts. That is one thing they cannot take from us – one thing they cannot take from me. Although this world is as it is, I will not relinquish my heart to a falling star in a nameless effort to survive it. I pray that you won’t relinquish yours. I know that my prayers go to imperfect goddesses who cannot always grant them – but still, I hope. And still, I love.

I will not give up my heart for them. I won’t let you give up yours. We cannot let them win because if they win, our children will lose. If they win, our futures will crumble into pieces, and any possibility of human healing will go down the drain, and you and I –

“You and I” will no longer exist.

We have to exist. We have to make it to the end of our story. And I will love you until we get there.

Next: VI

Love Letters to the World We Made (IV)

Previous: III

Don’t tell me you aren’t beautiful.

It hurts me when you say these words because I know that you believe them. I know that you have been brainwashed into believing them, and I know that they are lies. They could only ever be lies.

Do you trust me?

You hear me when I tell you that every time I turn to look at you, your fiery orange hair is burning your love through the sunlight and your eyes are sparkling in all the colors of the sea, and everyday your voice dances around my scars and carries me gently to a home I had never known before. And still you say “I’m not beautiful.” Still you say, “I never will be.”

Such has been our childhood – growing up back-to-back in a world that shoves countless falsehoods down our throats until we either swallow or choke, and when the floods began and I tried desperately to save your fading ghost, my eyes were opened to the radical act that is believing – not in the words of others, but in yourself. I wondered innocently why such an act, an act of survival, an act of humanity, an act of the pursuit of happiness, must be considered radical. I wondered why it must be radical to love.

But as time flowed back and forth between us, I began slowly and shamefully to understand. I found the answers to my question in the eternal moment you decided to close the curtains of your life and shut me out. I found the answers when you chased me through the park, your feet kicking up the imperfect white sand, your expression breaking into the rarities of a smile and a genuine laugh. I found the answers when you lay beside me in bed and talked about how much you wanted to die.

Human love is radical because it is powerful. It transforms us ordinary animals into spirits and even goddesses. We take it from our hearts and hold it within our hands, and with it we decide who gets to live and who gets to die, who gets to move forward and who must be held back. The pure magic of it, dismissed by close-minded people who call us mundane, wreathes around our broken bodies and pours out into the world, building magnificent places and times and beings and then leaving behind empty, equally magnificent acres of hell. We collectively call this magic “love” because our languages, our words, too often fail us in our attempts to make sense of our journey towards death, but if “love” is the only way I can heal you, I will accept it. I will say it, I will breathe it, I will do it, until you grow nauseous and expel the thousands of lies they have force-fed you, until your unique mind begins to turn, until you set your sea-colored eyes upon the shifting horizon and even one, one miniscule fragment of your shaking soul opens up to the very possibility that you are beautiful. I will love you until this moment, and forever after. You may not believe me when I say these words, but that’s okay. I’ll do the believing for now. And one day, someday, your heart will see.

You might be wondering why I have changed. Over the seasonless years, the lessons of current and past suffering have taught me that the passive support I gave you for so long was not enough. I was trying to conform, to remain within the safe confines of what the world considered acceptable, and I’m sorry that I may have understood this too late. But now I realize that passive conformity, passive safety, will never be enough to bring out the beauty contained within your blown-glass soul. There is no other option but to be radical, which means there is no other option but to love. And so I will love you, even if it tears me apart.

They may not believe me – but there is no longer any other way.

Next: V

Love Letters to the World We Made (III)

Previous: II

Someday, the world will treat you right.

Someday, I know, you will be free. Free to chase your dreams across the damp white sand, free to leap into the starry night sky to reveal yourself, yourselves, to the dying constellations the way you revealed yourself to me. Someday, this one borderless humanity will care about you. Your fellow human beings will finally see past the superficial markers of “uneducated” and “unemployed” and foul-mouthing “white trash,” to embrace your gentle heart and sharp mind and all of the colorful, joyful adjectives that truly make up you. Someday, people will see you by the side of the glass-strewn road and think, here is someone I can love.

In the darkest depths of night, in the anguish-filled seas of depression and insomnia, I close my eyes and listen for the familiar sound of your voice, carried by the timeless wind across hundreds, thousands of miles to my bedside. You call my name and I’m swept back into the dreamscapes of years past – the years when we could talk every day, the years when I could hear your voice without reaching, without strain. I imagine what you must look like now, what you must sound like in “real life” – as if the connection between us was anything but real – and I don’t know why I’m crying.

Maybe it’s not so much of a stretch to say that the floods that tore you from your home were caused by man. After all, it was always you who could breathe my hidden pain.

Now, the broken years still come and go and the red thread between us is pulled taut. But you don’t have to worry about me forgetting you, because your name is tattooed on the inside of my eyelids, italicized to bring some small form of beauty to the suffering under which we gave. I have always felt like a wanderer, scouring the world for a nameless, timeless home I could never find; it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I wasn’t looking for a place but a person – and that person was always you. I will forever be searching for you. Until the day I slip and fall off the edge of the world, I will be chasing that form that is your shadow, chasing that dream that is your face. And the truth is, I will never reach them.

You may ask me what I mean by saying I will never find you, and I will struggle to reply. But my wordless answer is contained in the vastness of the surging, rising seas, stitched together by overlapping waves of arrogance and ignorance and pure human hatred that still, still refuses to let us live. “In this day and age,” you begin, and I reply, “I will never let you go.”

I will never let you go.

No other promise has meant more to me, but the truth speaks for itself when the look in your brimming eyes tells me it’s a promise I cannot keep. The phrase was condemned to the depths of hell from the start – just like you and me. I choke on the words bitterly, pleading to the stars for more time, more time, but it’s useless. In our lifetime it has always been useless.

I see the constellations reflected back to me in your tears and I know: the stars do not rule this earth anymore.


Love Letters to the World We Made (II)

Previous: I

They told us we were never meant to be.

Never meant to be because we’re queer. Never meant to be because we’re older than our years. Never meant to be because we survived our attempted suicides; never meant to be because, amidst all our tears and tragedies, all our courageous fantasies, we made the grave, treasonous mistake of daring to be human.

Of course, we were born human, but they never cared to know that. To know us.

It might sound like something to take pride in if I said at least we knew each other. But there was never any pride to be taken in that, because from the start we were born together and apart; from the start our wrists were handcuffed together but the chains could not be short enough, would not be short enough, to let me see your face. All I wanted was to break down your walls and have you let me in, but I never realized that I was already inside – that you were already beside me, reaching for my hand to give me the memories that gave me life.

When I stood on the edge on the wrong side of the bridge, the midnight-blue waves surged up and carried me away, away, to you. To the little private beach where you drove your kayak into the sand. To the thirteen-story apartment building where we labored up the stairs in relay. To the boat where you turned around, breathing hard at the thrill of the chase, and hurled your shoe into my face. And to the walking path around that river, now halfway around the world, where you fearfully spoke your truth, where I struggled to find the right words to say, where we gazed at each other with new eyes and you took my hand and I realized –

I realized that we were not so different after all.

It’s a shame that they would never understand.

The years have gone but they, and we, have not. And as time now cycles through the rain I can’t help but yearn for that feeling, that nameless emotion that once made tangible our suffering and our love all at once. This emotion is carved into these memories that never gave, these memories that dragged us out from the darkness and spun us around and asked in silent, writhing pain: Why? And all for what?

From the beginning they’d set out to make us die, but we promised we would die together, on our own terms, we would jump into the sea of human happiness and drown ourselves in it. Determined, I stared through the mirror at the room where I watched your tears fall and I shattered it with an open fist. And as the blood, human blood, streamed through my fingers I reached around your body and held you close. Closer than we had ever been. Holding, crying, and closing – three acts of the infinite array that make up love, the one word they said was never meant to be.

Never meant to be, and maybe so – but they are only human, and so are we.

Next: III

An Open Letter To My Valentines

I love you all. Please, for one moment, hear me out.

I want to tell you why I am so exhausted, why I am always crying, why my answer to your “what’s wrong?” somehow always became “you won’t understand.” Because I love you, and I don’t want you to misunderstand that. I don’t want you to feel like I’m just building a wall between us. I don’t want you to think that I don’t care anymore, because I do. I care a lot. I have always cared more than anyone knew. But it’s hard to keep caring so much when the world is determined to burn all of the bridges I have built by hand, reducing them to ashes before my very eyes to leave me alone in the same old prison I was born within – the prison that once kept me safe, and now daily rips my soul apart.

“You won’t understand” is not a wall. Don’t feel like you have to climb it because there is nothing there to climb. You might fall off the edge and drown if you try, so please don’t try. I won’t let you do that to yourself.

No, “you won’t understand” is a bridge, and it might not seem like it at first, but I have spent a very long time building this bridge so I would appreciate it if you would accept all the effort that went into it and just use it as it was made to be used. No climbing. Just walk across, nice and easy, and we can chat on the other side.

I am exhausted, I am crying, I am replying with “you won’t understand” because you won’t understand what it means to me to walk through this world every day and get bombarded with people, words, and images that are all lies. You won’t understand what I mean when I say I cannot remember three critical years of my life because I was so depressed and suicidal, because I hated everything so much that those memories have been locked away in a treasure chest and buried on some remote island, with the key thrown who knows where. You won’t understand why when we’re at a Valentine’s Day event I suddenly can’t breathe.

You won’t understand what it means to me to be surrounded by people who are all being normal girls and normal guys in normal relationships, people who are surrounded by movies and TV shows and books and authorities that all congratulate them for being who they’re supposed to be. You won’t understand what it means to have to search for validation, because all of this validation is given to you and you probably don’t give it a second thought. You won’t understand what it means to want to feel normal, to want to be normal, because you already are. And apparently, I’m not.

You won’t understand what it means for me to be always on guard, to be constantly gauging other people’s words and actions and reactions, to be terrified of being open and yet desperately craving that openness. You won’t understand what it means to sit straight-faced as family members prod you about relationships that you’re supposed to be having but aren’t. You won’t understand what it means for me to love you when you can’t love me back.

You won’t understand what I mean when I say that all I want is for someone to hug me, to hold me close and tell me that I’m normal, that I’m worth it, that everything’s going to be okay – even if it’s not going to be okay, because for a lot of people like me this world makes damn sure it will never be okay, but I want someone to lie to me anyway. You won’t understand what I mean when I say I’m craving human connection, when I just want someone to look after me and meet my gaze and hold my hand during my darkest hours. You won’t understand what it means when I say I want to borrow someone’s chest to cry but I can’t because there is no one there, and even if somebody were there we would always have to stay at least an arm’s-length apart or else the world would find a new way to drown us, together, in some warped kind of man-made tragedy.

I build bridges because I’m terrified of drowning. You realize that, don’t you?

You won’t understand why I choke up when you say that you’re willing to burn bridges as you stand on them for a life you’d rather live. Because what life is there that I’d rather live? I can’t think about a life I’d rather live because I’m struggling to get through the one life I actually have, the one life in which I was born on the cold floor of a prison cell, with mountains of handicaps I never wanted, oceans of tragedy I never asked for – and don’t come back to me with “that’s just life” because it’s not. It was never meant to be this way. People made my life this way.

You ask me what I mean by that, and here’s my answer. “That’s just life” is not enough because it does not encompass mass rape and forced sterilization and genocide, it does not include world wars and environmental devastation and the shootings of schoolchildren, it does not explain countless people being harassed and beat up and murdered because they weren’t “normal.” “That’s just life” does not hold space for our bodies. And it does not validate our silent suicides.

Why won’t you understand that?

I’m going to stop telling you that I’m okay when I’m not. Because I am tired of lying to you, but I am also tired of lying to myself. When you ask after me I am going to tell you the truth, which starts with “no, I’m not okay,” and I will explain why, but I won’t make the mistake of assuming you will understand. I will show you the bridge I have built which constitutes this phrase, “you won’t understand,” and I will walk all the way across it without looking to see if you are following behind me. Whether you follow me or not is your choice – and if you choose not to, that’s not on me anymore.

This is my life, my love, my tragedy. These are my words, “you won’t understand.” If they don’t mean anything to you, that’s okay, because they are mine. But whatever your reaction to this non-understanding may be, you will not stop me building these bridges until I die. You can ignore them, you can walk across them, you can help me build them, or you can burn them as I stand on them. But as long as I live this one fragile life, as long as I suffer these man-made tragedies you throw at me, I will continue to build bridges between us. You won’t always understand – but that’s okay.

I love you so much. Your life is worth it.

Kohaku Toran

Love Letters to the World We Made (I)

August 18th, 2020 was the day I let you go.

Standing before the edge of the Pacific Ocean as the sea-swept horizon swallowed our burning sun, I carved your name carefully into the wet sand. First, then last. This was the name that I never called you – never, except once, tentatively, in an email – because I knew you by something else, and that something else was always more real between the two of us than the block letters printed on your government-issued ID.

It’s funny, because back then you called me by my full legal name, but you never knew me by the chosen name I call myself now. Irony works in cycles – and our time was destined to be cyclical. This life will always come back to you and me.

Sometimes I wonder if you would still accept me – if you knew me as I know myself to be, right here, right now. I wonder if you would still be proud. I wonder if you would still remember.

But I’d like to think that serendipitous love, the love I knew as a small child, is stronger than the chains society enslaved you within, stronger than the tides of groundless imaginary hatred that tear real human bodies apart. The chains are still here, even if your body is not. And right here, right now, as our fiery sun quenches its thirst in the vastness of the waste-filled seas emptied of old systems and old life, the tides are rising.

They will not always be rising, they say, but there is no evidence of that. Tides are not something you can quantify in a random-sample study with payoffs to undergraduate psychology majors of less than minimum wage.

Some ten feet away from me, ankle-deep in the surging waves that continue their steady assault on my life, my first love and her partner embrace. Her hair is gilded in the richness of our sun’s final breath – final, because this sun, our sun, will never rise again – and she leans into his soft, tender figure with a yearning tinged with sorrow and regret. And happiness – there is that, too. For some, there is happiness.

I stand quietly as my tears start to blur the boundaries between life and death, sea and sky, love and hatred, sand and ash, and the very fact that all of these things are not mutually exclusionary, that individuals and their emotions and their cyclical rituals of survival cannot be put into boxes and tied up with ribbon to be served as your child’s Christmas present, compounds this incredible nameless heartache that roars in the painful spot behind my ears and collapses this beautiful world into a deafening silence as the rising tides wash your name away.

Here and gone – vanished within the fractional time it took you to breathe your last breath – just like your socially rejected body, now claimed by the painted waves that promised us a tomorrow without realizing it would never come.

Next: II