August hearts

Dear Josephine,

I’ve been on the medicine wheel for three chromatic seasons since you’ve left us unexpectedly last June. It’s Spring now, and there will be no blooming of any kind. No birds chirping. No freshly squeezed lemonade. No Sunday Morning rain. Since you left, there’s nothing but dry bone gardens. When I close my hot teary eyes to rest at night, I can’t seem to stop these glimpses on the rolling footage of the warm sun beaming over your denim overalls. I can’t escape the sound of girls laughing in the attic inside almond topped houses, or the burning sensation of icicles cooling our tongues. I don’t know what the seasons are like on your side, but I can’t help but notice that you took all the evergreens worth capturing in this Polaroid with you. Wisconsin is forever in debt with its evergreens since your voyage to the other side. I wonder if they have mountains where you are now and if you are dwelling in a log cabin of your dreams. I don’t think you thought I was paying attention to your ideas of an idealistic future together. You traveled the globe with your fingertips when it was spinning on its plastic axis in your room. You told me the only way to travel with you was if I was holding your hand. And I did. You told me you were willing to walk for miles and sleep on solid rock if that meant adventure. And I believed you. I leaned in to kiss you for the first time.

I know your father has missed you. He’s still ministering at the local church here. He doesn’t talk about you with me. He visits me sometimes and he brings me comic strips, and tells me how the fresh air smells like. Sometimes, if I’m being kind to the nurses when he visits me, he remembers to bring oatmeal cookies with him the following visit. I’m forced to shut these clips of us screaming in cathedrals when our fingertips met and were left in Rome after thirteen spins. I remember us giggling because we never left the ground to visit Rome. Haha, remember the nuns staring at us in awe as we held hands, screaming inappropriate things in a famous Roman cathedral? I never found the courage to tell you this, but I only did those things to hear you laugh. You always mocked my laugh and claimed that I was the manly one, but your laugh was a real show stopper. When you tugged at my long skirt from laughing too hard, our laughs collided and there was nothing but silent wheezing.

I don’t want to write this letter to you to be honest. I feel like I’m always telling you the same things. Maybe I’m just writing too often and should wait for something exciting to happen. I’m forced to write to you out of duty, and out of kind will anyway. I miss the smell of your wavy blonde hair. I loved the watermelon shampoo on you. Hmm. We made a promise on San Francisco beach that one day when women could happily be wedded that we would trade vowels and finally live together. Is that still true? I mean, you do still love me? I feel like having your love questioned is a healthy thing. I never told you about this nightmare I had when we had our first real trip together.

It was back in ’67, under the August sun that we decided to drive in the afternoon rays to Colorado. We sang the Beatles with the twin Indian girls from Nevada hitching a ride. I don’t know why we left our snacks, why no one bothered to leave the fire burning to scare off wild things, thinking about it now. Did you know there was a history of bear attacks here? Sometimes I feel like you knew this. You came here to challenge nature and to give me nightmares. That night went we blew out the campfire and all of us were tucked away on the dirt floor inside of our sleeping bags, I had a nightmare. I dreamt I found your body, dragged miles off campsite; tan and limp on the edge of the river after a bear had pulled you off your sleeping bag. I saw your frighten dead eyes with balls of crust from tears as I held you close. You were bleeding everywhere. Your scalp was ripped off. Your ribcage was visible. You had this frighten expression on your face. You were dead. I don’t remember much of this nightmare but I remember running in the forest at dawn with your ripped torso, screaming. Then I heard something snapped inside of me. I don’t know what it was, but it was as if I had lost the elastic of some rubber band lodged in my brain. I told you not to run from me. I told you not to stray from me. I told you not to go to the unknown. But you’re the wild child and you cannot be tamed. You were also the wise one. You told me in the case of a bear attack to not scream, to play dead and the wild beast will leave you alone. You didn’t listen to yourself, so I’m afraid you died in my nightmare. I haven’t seen you since that horrifying nightmare, now that I think of it. It’s like someone had pressed the fast-forward button on us. Everything after that nightmare is a strange blur. How did we get back to Wisconsin? Why did you leave in such a hurry without at least saying goodbye? They’ve locked me up because I don’t remember anything after hearing something snap. I still think about those Indian twins sometimes. I hope they got home safely.

Last week, Mrs. Claymoore prescribed me some pills. She says it will help me with these things I’ve been hearing. I’ve been hearing them call you nasty things. I think I have bionic ears or something. I swear, I can hear the doctor from my room sometimes. They think you’re not coming back. They think you’re dead. The ladies here don’t know how to make a happy face breakfast with eggs and bacon like you do. My bacon strip is tender and always frowning. The nurses here don’t like shock treatment, either. They say if I speak of you again they’re willing to seek legislation to ban the treatment. I’m only pleading for the treatment, because oddly enough I see your face when I’m under the electric shock that pulses through my entire body. It’s painful, but worth it. I just wanted to help you remember our days together. You never write back, so I assume you’re too busy to reply for now. Julie says you’re in Spain, and that you don’t intend to return until I’m better. I hope that’s not true. I feel like that is what’s leaving me here spinning on the old medicine wheel thinking of you.
Your Napoleon,
Emmer Murray





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