We’re standing on the front porch, this time. I’m barefoot and tired, with one hand resting on my hip and the other gripping the knob of the front door – more of a gestured statement than a threat, really, or perhaps just self-assurance that this time I might not follow you. You run your fingers through your hair, tugging it at the scalp, and brushing it from your forehead. You shove your hands into your pockets, shuffle your feet, and clear your throat. This recognized sequence is how I know it’s coming – your routine, three-part apology. Only this time, I’ve made the mindful decision not to listen.
I’m looking above your right shoulder, now, and into the front yard, where autumn light cascades and casts shadows that sway beneath the trees, and your voice becomes so distant that I find myself engaged, wholeheartedly, in a daydream of a man who looks just like you, standing right in front of me. He has the same sharp jawline and eyes that squint when he laughs, the same calloused hands, and the same mind full of potential and ingenuity. But he is not apologizing and his hands are not in his pockets – they’re in the air, animating his account of all the qualities that somehow set me apart from the other, more ordinary women.
The mason jars centered carefully on our coffee table, full of the wildflowers I pick on my way home from the bus station, and the photographs I take of bridges and balloons, and the books about feminism situated cunningly between the cookbooks in our kitchen. The nights I drink too much red wine and show my insincere concern for boring him with fancy terms like “paradigm shift”, or rambling on about my artistic master plan. The way I study Buddhism because I want not to be Buddhist, or anything other than myself, but because I want to live life more like them. The day I was diagnosed with a life threatening disease, and did not come home and grieve, but instead made coffee and planted daisies and geraniums. The afternoon I said that if I ever became a mother, the first thing I would do is plant an orange tree outside my baby’s bedroom window.
You’ve paused and cleared your throat again – disrupting my musing and prompting my one-part pardon. But my eyes are still fixed on the autumn light – illuminating all the reasons why I should love myself – too much for all of this. And I love you – too much to not respond, so I bite my lip and shake my head slowly, in sync with the shadows, and my gut turns the knob.