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Autobiography of the Life I Didn't Choose
I show up at your door step in November.
It is a warm day in November, the exact kind of fall day that I love and the sun is beginning to set through the deep yellow streets of our past.
This used to be my doorstep, and I remember this faintly as I ring your bell, as I catch my breath and I wait. It seems absurd to me that I could be waiting right now, could be waiting for even an instant at this time in my life.
My hair is tinted light brown, which it hasn’t been since I was so youthful as to be unaware that I was capable of change. My hair is light brown with soft, subtle streaks that catch the light in my skin. Undertones that catch the light in my eyes, because I know that some things do not have to be real to be absolutely brilliant.
You answer the door.
I am wearing a light pink dress, which is unlike me. But who are you or I to remember me? There is a part of me, so many years ago I can barely even access the memory, that once hoped more than anything else in the world I would one day be here. Here, with a light pink dress and the same tint of pink on my lips when you open the familiar white door. The same tilt to my head and the very same sunset in my eyes.
For a moment I can tell you do not recognize me. It is not a lack of recognition due to time that has elapsed, or even due to a change in appearance. The brown hair does not phase you anymore than the roundness in my breasts, the softness in my face that has never quite been there before. You remember a girl in jet black, in bleach blonde, in a leather jacket and a fierce expression. You remember this girl, and you remember her well enough to recognize me through her, recognize me despite her.
You remember me from another fall, from another November. You remember careful hands and tired voices. You remember changing seasons and drunken hearts. You remember me on this doorstep, and you remember me in this home. You remember a long, methodical erosion of pasts and convictions, of fears and of ideals. You remember my downfalls, remember my regrets. You remember my surrender, and you remember me in the morning.
You remember my chest beating against yours in the dead of night. These are not the kinds of things you forget.
You remember a suitcase. An airport. A hand slipping out of yours at a Sunday morning greyhound station.
But what you do not remember is me coming home.
There is no memory in your mind to match up to this one, no fathom and no computation. This is not a part of your story any more than it is a part of mine, but you do not have a disguise to hide behind. I am prepared as anyone standing on a doorstep with absolutely no plan and no comprehension has ever been, you are as unprepared as anyone who has ever answered.
For a moment you close the door, and I do not expect this. I suppose I expected a smile or a tear. A hug or a ‘f*** you’. Anything really, but watching my own reflection in your glass. My reflection is something I have seen all over the world, but by no means did I fly 10,3000 miles to watch it stare back at me from the glass in your screen door.
You open the door.
“What are you doing here.” You choke it out. Your face is so scrunched up I would not be able to recognize it if we had not been here before.
This question catches me off-guard.
You would think that after 3 years, 10,300 miles and 10,300 regrets, this question would not make me shrink back inside myself. The question catches me off-guard and it shakes me to my core. It takes an eternity in a moment to process why it does this:
I just thought you would know.
People have asked me why I was a million different places in the world and I have had an answer for all of them, every time. I have had a reason to be in Australia, a reason to be in Hawaii, a reason to be on an airplane at 2 in the morning way more times than I would like to admit, but I do not have a reason why I am here.
I did not think I needed a reason to be here.
“I don’t know,” I tell you. I have been unfair to you. I have been untrue. I have knocked you down, I have left you bleeding, but I have always been honest with you. I wish you would close the door again. In this moment, I need to see my reflection to remind myself where I even am.
I have left the hardest question up to you. I have always left the hardest parts to you.
You say my name. And now you are testing me. Now you are questioning me, taking in the pink dress, the light hair, the half silence that envelopes your doorstep, encompassing me. I nod, although now I’m not sure who is lying. I am not sure who you’re asking for, but I can only assume it is me.
Nodding seems the right thing to do. You bring me into you next. And I think that there will be no more questions.
On my 20th birthday, I do not jump out of a plane. I do not sandboard across an Australian island, I do not take an airplane to a fantastic destination. But I do wake up in your arms.
I was seventeen when I met you. I wake up in your arms on my twentieth birthday with a faint notion of accidentally growing old beside you. Fading into authenticity and the background. Fading into you fading into me. I imagine the first birthday I ever woke up in your arms, and all of the others that could follow.
I leave in February, but I do not stay gone. I come home without having ever really left. I come home in time to stand beside you when you accept your diploma, to stay up all night with you and a bottle of wine. To cry and to talk and to decide that we are going to make it work.
That is what we have always decided.
The rest of our lives isn’t the hard part.
The moving isn’t the hard part. The re-rooting isn’t the hard part. The differences, the difficulties, the fights that rage on until four in the morning are not the parts that tear us to pieces.
But there is always something there in the middle of the night. There is something lying in bed with me long after you have drifted to sleep, and it strips me bare, cuts to the bone. There is something there with me that you cannot feel, cannot fathom, cannot fear that it will find you in your mind, in the dead of night. It does not have a name but it beckons me. It does not have a face but it becomes me.
I leave you long before you ever realize I’m gone; I leave you stranded with my soft yellow wallpaper and the life that I have not tried to live. I barely have the energy to tear both our hearts out of our chests again, but there is nothing else left for me to burn. Nothing else left for me to be.
This part you have never understood.
And you might even think I stopped loving you; think I ever stopped. You will not understand that love is a continuum of colours, although for you it has not been black and white. There have been moments, shades of gold, showing up in your doorway on a deep November afternoon. There have been moments that have made our breaths catch.
The hard part is not the rest of our lives. Our lives are a series of dominos, lined up in a row, and knowing myself by nature lets me understand how they will fall. The hard part is not the rest of our lives, the hard part is showing up on your doorstep on a deep November afternoon knowing full well that it is only a matter of time before I walk away. It can only be the feeling a hurricane embodies, sweeping over a township in the moments before it strikes. Watching what is there. Maybe, momentarily, even loving what it is about to rampage.
There is destruction in my eyes on that November afternoon, but you do not see it from a thousand miles away. You see gold and I see chaos. You see love and I see fear. You see a coming together and all I can know is the ripping apart of two people who have loved each other so desperately that they are willing to fall through all the shades of grey and blackness in the world. The tearing demise of a feeling people go their whole lives trying to salvage, but I cannot preserve it at all.
What I see in my reflection before I ring that doorbell on a deep Novermber afternoon
is reason enough to turn from your doorstep
and keep on walking away.