My counselor wants me to write him a letter. “You don’t have to send it,” she says.
What on earth would I say that he would possibly understand?
Would I name him tornado, heat wave, or dust storm, a wave of exhaustion and chaos in his wake? Name him night I drove away from, some kind of darkness I couldn’t make gift?
Would I call him a liar, if only to himself?
Might I call him mistake? Ache in lungs or way a heart moves fitfully or breath I tried to take but couldn’t? Call him instead just regret?
Or would I just say instead give me back my things.
Give me back my favorite Friday night hangout, the bar and café I can’t go to because your mother’s cousin owns it and the last time I went there to eat a meal and hear a band play I kept seeing her walk in and out of the kitchen, and I knew she wouldn’t remember meeting me, that weekend in October, but I did. The night before the party it was dark and we were stringing lights and moving tables, and you kept apologizing for the work I was doing. “I’m sorry,” you said, frustrated, “this isn’t what you signed up for.” And I said “It’s not a problem. I enjoy your company,” and meant it. I remember too that same weekend, standing with your mother in a kitchen peeling the potatoes that this woman would eat, and now I am in a café trying to eat hers and I can’t. So I don’t go there again.
Give me back not the bags of books I brought for your children, not the book I bought for you, not my book, left in your home, underlined, my handwriting in the margins, not the copper mugs for your kitchen nor the loaf pan, not the picture of your daughter, framed and placed on the mantel, give me back not the four varieties of cheesecake I baked for your birthday, not too the painting of your lake I asked an artist to make, but—
Give me back my laughter in a lobby as we waited out the rain. Give me back my first sky ride at a state fair, and I’ll give you the feel of your hand on my back below my shirt, the slide of it under the strap. Nobody needs sunblock there. Give me too more than a dozen starlit nights and I’ll watch them alone, tears I shed on a Thursday in December and I’ll share them with no one but myself, give me the moonlight, and I’ll give you your Denis Leary for Christmas, give you too your shirt, still in my drawer.
Give me my birthday, and I’ll give you the way we stood in my kitchen, faces touching, your hands on my back and mine in your hair, also too, give you each one of your empty words.
Give me back a winter’s snowfall and I’ll give you holidays we spent together, every single one of the meals, waffles for breakfast and drinks in our pajamas, give you back the night we stayed up until 3, six hours on my couch just talking, give back bats outside your porch, wind through your cabin’s trees, glow sticks in the dark, give you back sunlight on a swing, give you each one of the memories so that you might unmake them, so that you might unmake me. But—
Give me back my things. Give me that heart that still wishes you happy, that, had you asked it, would have told you it had loved you, though this never meant I needed you to be mine. Give back too my trust, because I don’t know how to fix it. It’s just broken. Give me just—
Or, if you cannot give me back these, my things, at least give me back the bar.