The peace stone in the garden cracked over winter. No longer covered in snow, I wanted to call it rock, but I instead called it truth, called it maybe my heart, and left it there. Left it, with all its grey fissures, all its sharp edges, the way it was still trying to hold together in spite of being broken. Left it, a thing no longer whole, no longer promise, left it there as warning, thought instead of that night in December when there had been a man whom I knew would be waiting up for me when I got home, and I didn’t want him to be.
It had been a long time since a man had moved around in my space and I didn’t want to think about the footfalls of someone else in the hall, the sound of someone else’s body in the shower while I made breakfast. So I lingered for a while in the parking lot after the movie let out, took the long way back to my house, hoping he would’ve tired and just gone to sleep. It had been a long, mostly bad day and I was too worn out to still keep up all of my walls, especially around him, for whom perhaps I needed them most.
An hour later, when I am crying on the couch for the first and only time in his presence, he holds my hand and then pulls me into his arms where I lay with my head to his chest, my ear to his heart, hearing it beat. I do not want this from him, but for once, I’m just too tired to say no. He wants to offer me solace, but it is instead a half measure of grief. His heart sounds nothing at all like my own.
Give me peace instead, I think, give me peace.
In the morning, the man gets dressed in my living room while I busy myself with the making of coffee and the not looking. Not for the first time, we eat breakfast across a table from one another. I am still in my pajamas. He is smiling. He seems happy. I want him to stay that way, and so I say nothing. I don’t know how to ask for this to go back to the way it was before, when it was just kid playdates and terrible action movies where the only thing in danger is an action hero or their expensive car, how to ask for the boundaries we so clearly need and still have him stay as a part of my life. When he laughs, it brings me a kind of joy. I want him to stay happy. But peace, I think. Give me peace.
Still, I know it doesn’t work like this. It is a thing you must make yourself. It is a thing you must build, from all the broken pieces inside you.
In the garden, there is still the stone. And if it is a thing barely holding together, it is still no less beautiful for its wounds. It is a warning perhaps, but reminder too. Of how I will put the pieces back together. Or how I will, at least, continue to try.
His heart had sounded nothing like my own.