What We’re Owed

The universe owes me nothing.

A man tells me what he thinks I deserve, and though I can tell he’s trying to be kind, this is all I can think. I want it to matter more what I want than what I deserve anyway, like all selfish children, who call the stars theirs before they can even name them, claiming all that lies overhead as territory, as if everything had to be handled, named, owned. But no one asks me what I want. If they did, would I even tell them, or would I tell them only half of it, knowing all too well the way things can’t be unspoken?

A man tells me what he thinks I deserve and this is what I think, how dark the sky looks without stars, how some nights I watch the clouds hold the moon’s face so tightly it seems as if they are smothering it, how some nights I watch the stars, those incandescent, otherworldly fireflies, and think of how small I am, how beneath their notice.

What we have we make, we take, we are given as gifts. To know a thing has value is not the same as being required to treat it as such.  And the universe is not a person. It has not watched me, night after night, the way I’ve watched these stars, loved me like I love this sky,  learned the way my hands steadily unclench fists, how I count time to keep from screaming. It does not feel the ache of my bones in morning, see the way I dance when alone, how I sing so that the whole kitchen echoes, so that my chest reverberates with force, my lungs powering nothing but sound.

The universe is not a person, for if it was, I could not forgive it for all it has taken from me–brother, unborn child, husband, sense of belonging.

He tells me what I deserve and I think of how love, dependant upon expectation, isn’t actually love. And I do love it, in summertime the night toads with their croaking lullabies, in near winter the melting snow on the driveway, the clouds of smoke my breath makes, the geese on a partially frozen lake, in spring small birds and even smaller insects, always all the trees and their way of rooting.

The universe owes me nothing.

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