“I am still in love with a dead man,” I say out loud to an old friend in a bar, surprise myself by how much I still mean it, how little I want to. The music and the sound of the football game on the bar’s television are loud, and it feels almost like confessing a secret to myself, despite the fact that we are in a public place. I haven’t seen the friend since my husband’s funeral, haven’t seen much of anyone from our old circle of friends. I tried instead to make new ones, but it turns out I am just as terrible at that as I am at pretending there is not a third person between us at the hightop table, this ghost of a man I can feel with every single breath.
I want to think of love as something simple, something easy, because, despite myself, I found it easy to fall in love. Instead I can’t help but think of those squid I read about in a newspaper all those years ago, the ones continually surprising scuba divers, the thief squid, knocking into their swimming bodies, making away with handheld lights before disappearing into the deep. Love, as a little light held close, now barely twinkling, now gone. Or of love as like octopi, those many tentacled things, capable of sliding into even the smallest of rock crevices. It burrows into the bits of you, waits to split you open from the inside out.
When I leave the bar I drive my car along too familiar streets. It is dark, not yet quiet, the air starting to chill the way that autumn always does at night, lingering, a hint of ice in the bones. I wish these streets were instead new to me. That I couldn’t trace their shape as easily as my hand. Where is the geography in which I no longer miss him, cannot find the shape of him in birds taking flight, the geography wherein I no longer take the birds’ migration as a form of personal attack, wing tips scoring my soul, those bloody tracks, wounds I mistake for tears, attempt to wipe away?
But instead at 36 I am stuck circling the same roads, the same roads that led me home to him at 25, the same roads that at 35 led me past the house where he chose to stay when I needed us all to go. Can I not change? Can we all not change, find no new paths, no new geographies of self? Am I always to be the diver, watching the light as it goes, left only with barest hint of moon along the rippling blackness of water? Could I instead be the squid, holding on to that light so tight, swimming, swimming, just swimming?