I Wake Up

April 28, 2008
By Megan Tilley, Clearwater, FL

I wake up and see you lying next to me, shoulder smooth and warm beneath my hand as I lean over to kiss you, trying not to wake you. But your eyes open and you see me head towards the door. I dreamt you were taken away you whisper in that hazy morning drowse that always makes me weak. Come back you say, sliding your legs out from under the white sheets, bare feet planted firmly on the ground. Go back to bed I say, and you obediently tuck yourself back up into your comfort world of heavy blankets and the warm spot beside you that still smells like me. I leave the door open a crack before walking down the hallway, pictures watching every step I take. The keys are on the counter, but I leave them for you, grabbing the spares off the rack. You know I’m leaving, but you don’t know how soon. I can’t live without moving, and all you want is to a safe place. I want to stand with you, but I’m still dizzy from the constant movement of the ground beneath my feet, and no matter how much liquor I down, I’m still always shifted into third gear, moving, moving and no amount of anything can keep me grounded. You’ve been sleeping next to a lie for the past two months, a lie that you swear is all you've ever believed in. I slip into the car; I’m taking mine because I’m already leaving with your heart, and I don’t want to leave any more damage. I cruise down the freeway, heading for the ocean. I’m sorry. You know that everything will be okay. I’m not coming back, but I left you a note, slipped under the door frame of the guest bedroom that I slept in when you were mad at me. I missed you those nights, but I guess it was all for the better. The endless dark falling all around me like the silken dusk of your hair, staring at the mirror over the door and wondering what I could do to fix this, has helped me cope with the fact that I hate myself for having to leave you. I’m almost to the beach now, and I miss you more than ever. I hope the weather is warm, because I’ve taken your sweater. It’s tucked in my bag, sitting in the seat next to me. Your seat. The seat where you’ve cried, laughed, and eaten cheap Chinese take out because I didn’t have enough money to buy you decent food. But you didn’t complain, and claimed they were the best damn noodles you’ve ever had. I’m at the beach now and all the waves remind me of how you always loved the ocean. And I know this is some sentimental crap but it’s all I have left. I’m out of the car now, and the sand is sticking to the bottom of my shoes, all up around the edges like it got stuck there by glue. I should take my shoes off, but I really don’t see the point, 'cause I need my shoes where I’m going. The rocks are over there, where a bunch of yellow tapes been wound around poles and over the little fence that keep people like me from getting onto the jetty and seriously hurting themselves. I guess they’ve found a body. I’m walking away now, away from that too gaudy yellow tape. It should be a crime to have something so damn bright as a declaration of destruction. There’s no reason to be in the same place as the dead; I’m afraid it will remind me of myself. I don’t want to hurt you, and this is all I can think of to do to keep you pure. I don’t know where I’m headed, but for now, my hell will be everywhere you’re not. I love you, and this is goodbye.
Four months. Four months, three weeks, two days, four hours and fifteen minutes, I’ve been staring at the clock, watching the hands slowly tip themselves towards infinity and away from the now. Does she worry that you’ve been staying up to late? Does she love the way you smile when you have nothing to say, running your fingers through her hair when you kiss her? I stand and cross over to the window, looking down at the busy street, tangled hair hanging in elf-knots the color of ash. My breath foggs the glass slightly, as my eyelashes rest against my cheekbones, heavy like lead. I see a figure on the other side of the street, loose hair falling to his collar bone as he gazes up at my window, head cocked slightly. My knees break, crashing to the ground, my fingers trailing down the glass as I stare at you, your nose-lips-mouth-cheeks. I sit gasping, my hands shaking, pianist fingers twining together and apart, fragile as twigs. I watch you squint in that terribly endearing way, and turn away. No I breathe and struggle to stand; crying when I find my legs will no longer hold me up. Wait I scream at the window, but you're gone, slipping into the crowd like a ghost, beat up backpack slung over your shoulder. I crawl to the door, pulling myself by the handle, stumbling down the stairs, out onto the street. People stare at this half wild woman, white night gown too short for the weather, thin from lack of food, the lack of interest. I whisper your name, reaching out after you, another hand balancing me up against the brick wall. You turn slightly, your profile sharp against the shattering street lights as the glass falls around you, your eyes gentle, a small smile gracing those lips that taste like peppermints and cigarettes. No I whisper, clutching the wall, but its not you standing there anymore. It’s a stranger, alarm registering in his eyes, but before I can explain, he turns and walks away, his pace hurried, trying to get away from this person, this broken little girl, this woman in love. The wind scrapes against my bare skin, tears smashing against the pavement as I sink to the ground, bruised, broken and battered. Remember when it was raining and you kissed me, saying I tasted like sunshine more and more every day? Your eyes were green like April. The calendar flew past faster and faster until you stopped it with a glance, the pages holding their breath at the beauty of your comprehension, your rough guitarist’s fingers sliding over the numbers, counting back a year and a half of stolen glances and a million of glow in the dark stars plastered on my ceiling. I watched you balance precariously perched on the step ladder, carefully applying tack to the back of the small stars before pressing them exactly where they belonged, explaining each meaning behind them. I fell asleep the night before you left, feeling you asleep next to me, arm wrapped protectively around my waist as I dreamed of a giant wave that washed ashore, dragging me in its depths as you rode the crest, flying far away from me. Look where you’ve left me; crying and clinging to a dirty brick wall in the middle of the city. I love you, and this is come back to me, please.
I drove past your house seven times today. Seven times the number ringing in my head. My actions have no meaning anymore. I’m just a string of action held together by nothing more than a whisper and a promise. I wasted a gallon of gas on those seven times, those sad, pathetic, and meaningless seven times. And then the small piece of paper tucked in the window frame catches my eye. For rent and my world goes black. I remember you standing at the counter, peeling potatoes carelessly; swaying to whatever song was on the radio at the time. I came up behind you, settled my hands on your hips and told you that you were beautiful. You stood there, adorable in your jeans and my tee-shirt, looking up at me with your big blue eyes, wondering whether or not to believe me, your insecurities as plain as the paint beneath your fingernails. Oil based, I know. I leaned up against the counter and laughed softly, turning your chin towards me with a forefinger, kissing your forehead gently, tenderly. You’re falling away a million miles an hour, lost in your art and your stars, but I catch you in my arms and smile. I love you; three simple words that broke my heart every time I heard them. I drove past your house today. Seven times and a gallon of gas later I’m crying at the steering wheel, reading the sign over and over again. I promise you lean in and whisper, that I will never leave you alone. You said it with such a straight face. Call this number and beg me to come back. My hands fly to my cell phone and the number is up on the dial screen faster than I imagined. I stopped, staring down at the phone. You know my number. I remember the first time I met you; you had scrawled it down on your hand using Sharpie, the number there for days no matter how hard you scrubbed it and tried to get it off. I laughed when you showed me, and thought how I loved the lilt in your voice that showed your roots, not matter how hard to you tried to cover up where you came from. I’m from wherever you are right now you breathe into the phone. First date, I hold the door open for you as you climb into my car, your jeans hugging your calves and ankles in such a way I found it hard to swallow. And then my finger is against the call button and it’s all over, the ringing in my ear making me break out in a cold sweat. Armageddon come to me, end this suffering right now. My name spoken in a question and I hang up, breathing heavily. My phone buzzes in my hand again, and I take a few deep breathes, trying to keep my heart in its gore soaked cage in case it beats its way out of my chest. Hello and your voice is crashing against me like a dead weight. I whisper words that belong only to me, tears crashing against the phone, my heart tied to a mobile phone tower, flying in the wind. Careful; your words might loose it and let it crash to the ground at your feet, shattering into the million shards that you carefully pieced together so long ago. The blame in your voice is making me cringe. I speak your name, and the world breaks on me just then, everything I should have done for you bearing down on me like the hounds of hell. I love you, and this is I’m sorry.
I wake up and walk to the guest bedroom, seeing you lying there, curled around a pillow, shoulder smooth and warm beneath my hand as I lean over to kiss you, trying not to wake you up. Don’t leave me you whisper and I smile at your voice, so sweet and slow, the moonlight from the opposite window lighting up your face like the dozens of vanilla scented candles lined up in the bottom of my closet, a saint painted on each one. I’m not I lean in and whisper in your ear. I was there, where you are now, so long ago. Rain throws itself against the window, my forehead pressed against the pane, counting the millions of sorrows the sky flings against the glass. You come up behind me, resting your chin on my shoulder, keeping me safe from the nightmares that come so often now. I’m always afraid I’ll wake up and see you gone, the scream torn out of my throat like a thousand crows. I shiver and you pull me closer. I fit into you like a puzzle piece, the crown of my head a whisper from your chin, my dark hair falling around me like a veil. Why did you come back? I let the words fall from my lips to settle in my hand, dark and glistening like obsidian. I feel your mouth by my ear now, gently kissing my neck after each word. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine; you make me happy when skies are grey. My fingers trace the tear tracts down the side of your cheek. I’m sorry you whisper, and I back away looking at the floor, a warm honey wood that you laid down two months ago from today. I shake my head at the floor, chiding it for being so cheerful when I’m so miserable. That’s not enough I murmur, and slip out of the room, down the hallway, fleeing from this passing stay, this shadow of you. I turn to the garage, turn the keys and I’m gone to the river, parking by the bank. I’m sorry if I don’t return the car by morning; I know you’ll have to get to work. The sun rises just beyond the hills, the rain clearing, pieces of the sun glittering all over me as I stand and raise my arms to the heavens, praying for strength to the God I know you don’t believe in. The grass is cold underneath my bare feet, and I shiver involuntarily. Remember when you first brought me here, when you showed me how to pinch flower stems to get to the nectar, painting each other with the sweet water? You picked me up and carried me out into the river and taught me to swim. Don’t go near water, you’ll drown was all my mother ever told me, but you showed me the currents, how they pulled you along and under. You baptized me here, kissing me gently underwater before bringing me up, shining and new born and in love. You told me how this river empties out into the ocean, the waves crashing over me, burning my eyes and throat. You took me to the willow tree there to the left, told me that you loved me for the first time. My fingers trace the outline of our initials, so long ago. I know where you’ll be now, standing by the window, waiting for me, counting each passing second, vindicating yourself slowly but surely with each hour I don’t return, steeling yourself for the slippery cold fear that rushes up your throat whenever you lose something precious. I know about those other women, the ones you entertained as you ran from me; you know about the man from work who kept your spot on your side of the bed warm for you. I turn towards the car, shivering. The cool morning mist spreads across my skin, and I look at the river again. I know how Delilah felt now, as she cut the hair of her most beloved, crying tears of guilt as she tried to keep him, her love safe, for her sake; tried to keep him by her side always, dependent and forgiving, her Sampson. I drive back home, see your profile through the blinds, and know that you’re not going anywhere. You’ve come back to me, forever and for always. I love you, and this is I’m home.

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