I pass winding curve after winding curve with Ray LaMontagne’s Jolene playing; one hand on the steering wheel and another holding a half-smoked cigarette. It’s Autumn and the road’s barren except for some false gold leaves glittering, symbolizing the facade we’ve become. I still can’t find beauty in this season of aged whiskey trees and rum breath air. Maybe I don’t look hard enough, just like I didn’t try hard enough for us, but I sure did bleed hard enough to watch crimson sluice over our Spring and enthusiasm. I still carry a picture of you. I crushed it the other day but couldn’t make myself trample it with my mud-caked boots. I hate to admit it, but I’m still in love with you.
Driving the same old roads, in the same dim town, heart burning as I think of us, who we were, who we are now, apart within the same cold world. Ray sings of being Empty now, tears sting my eyes behind my shades, knowing what we had is gone, feeling the depth of what we made, locked in our tortured minds and souls, afraid of love in its whole form, all hues and shades accepted; you weren’t accepted as you are, I tried and was rejected. I drive and think of words to say, to bring you back into my realm, then quickly push the thought away, as tears within me drown.
They say love edifies and enriches, but that’s just one facet. It’s not always incandescent, flaring souls with dashes of color, nor is it always luminescent: hands clasped through the bluish chill, finding in each other all that’s needed when we despair. Sometimes love destroys, and sitting in this ramshackle bar, I’m worn with wistful reverie, and the raw whiskey doesn’t soothe or alleviate. It only elevates the feeling of separateness, making me feel trapped in a maze of a blurred what once was. I grope, try, but can’t find my way out. You broke my heart and I guess I ripped yours too. You’re not here anymore, having moved to another town and I’m crushed by a landslide of emotion. Speaking of landslides, I hear Stevie Nicks in my head, asking me if I can handle the seasons of my life, because I did build my life around you, but drunk patrons and vagabonds perhaps living a different shade of the same story are all I see now.
Now in my darkened room, head under cover from the sun, rejecting its brightness and warmth, it doesn’t compare to when we were Yellow, as Coldplay sings in the background; it’s like all the songs I’m hearing are meant to remind me of you. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve stayed, waiting patiently for the days to end, waking with some newfound meaning, say the words upon my tongue, that I need you. I need you, now and then, maybe always. I drink this blood red wine, aware of the daily communion without you, heart bleeding with each beat and breath. What we had isn’t gone, just lost in mazes of thoughts that drain ceaselessly from the depths of past lives and current hopes and hopelessness.
I wake up in a dusty motel room, dank and dusty. I’m hungover. I throw on something I picked up in a thrift shop. I bought a Bible too, hoping that it’ll ease the pain of heartbreak. I flip through a few pages and put it down. A maelstrom of thoughts leave my mind in disarray: Why this broken world? Why the sorrow of loving someone only to find them walk away and leave you limping unsteadily between hope and hopelessness – the twilight of not knowing if they’ll come back or utterly abandon you? I must move on, I tell myself, but you never get over that special someone who sees past your guilt and mistakes, and makes a numb, callous heart feel again. And you were that person, that woman who made each heartbeat, each simple thing worth it. I part the worn chintz curtains and let the red dawn envelop me. It’s always that color now – the color of loss, passion and a Pyrrhic victory.
Remembering when we first met, the bliss I felt in your presence, couldn’t contain the heart on my sleeve, didn’t follow the rules of when to say what, didn’t wait for a space to contact you again, I was in heaven, after being in a muted hell. On that first day, I pulled you close to me, slowly, steadily moving past your walls, shyly grabbing your hands, easing into embrace, then kissing your cheek on that beautiful face, time tested and painted with disappointment, failure, abandonment. I made a pact with myself right then, I would never abandon you. I would see past the running away as a test willingly taken because I saw you. You, in all your majesty and grace, not just as the scars you so willingly wore. I wanted your pain, your burdens to bear, to become “us” unafraid together, to believe I was sincere, never dreaming of playing a game with your fragile, kind heart; I couldn’t convince you and we grew apart. Come back, we’ll reset, on The Edge of Desire, just like John Mayer says; flip your mattress on its axis and find me on yours, we’ll hang onto each other, stay closer this time, not having to live in what we’ve created. Come back, I forgive us. Will you? Please?
I’ve often wondered if my insecurities, bitterness and jealousy is in my blood or if it’ll wash out in the water just like that Mayer song, which was art to us. How could I have ever let you go? Is drinking myself to an end on sordid streets, littered with the debris of bad memories like crushed paper cups worth it, when all it takes is acknowledging responsibility? I guess I’ve made myself an archetypal anti-hero, a charlatan straight out of a comic book and it’s just my pride that’s keeping me from driving to where you are, and telling you that I need you – all of you, every inch of your soul and body, each iota of you that gave me a baptism of sorts: a rebirth in this world full of broken places where cacophony strikes people down with harsh drumbeats and the clanging of cymbals filled with hate. And I’ve seen enough and heard enough, and I guess it’s time to humble myself and just break down, look you in the eye and tell you that I can’t fucking live without you.
I’m calling you in desperation, dialing the numbers ingrained in my mind, I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to, can’t block you, I’ve tried in perpetual vain. Surrendering to possibilities of rejection, you may not answer, ignore my attempt, my heart not just on my sleeve, laid bare in my hands, bloody, wounded, full, aching, alive at the thought of our pride forsaking, envisioning a reunion where we shed our past skins and become reborn, us, again. Us, again and always. I’m hoping the sheer power of my needing you will create lightning bolts, somehow as a signal from silent heavens, that I’m ready for reckless abandon, not reckless at all when it comes to our twin flames. My anxiety creeps to crippling heights, as I hear the sound of unanswering silence, dreading hearing your voice only on a greeting, jovial and inviting, a mockery of my pain. I keep saying please with each eternal ring, “Answer, Answer, it’s me.”
I look at my phone, hoping you’d call, and then walk street after street, like I’m doing penance, hoping that once when I’m knock-kneed and engulfed by the raw pain that follows circumstance, you’ll call and give me catharsis. I guess I’m hoping on a miracle. I guess I’ve retreated into some golden shell of youth’s idealism, unwilling to come out, like a snail protecting himself, unaware that all it takes is one stomp to crush and kill. I can call you, but I’m teetering between red and blue: the red of a harsh hurt which I can no longer bear and the blue of hope. And then as I stroll aimlessly, past litter, potholes and ramshackle bars, cigarette shops and hotdog stands, I feel my phone vibrate and looking at your picture brings back so much that I’m tempted to not answer, but I decide to brave it all, take this last chance and say, “Hello.”
Your voice is live, electricity through phone lines, makes my head light, I lose my breath. “Hello?”, you say another time, and I respond in an almost whisper: “I’m not sure what to say, you know it’s me, this time away, unbearable. I can’t explain myself fully, make you understand, just want to be together again.” You respond, as if thinking of the next words is the most difficult task in a situation so fragile, then slowly say, in a tone almost defeated, “None of it matters, the past is gone, I’ve been thinking of driving to where you are, wordless, we’ll feel what words can’t tell, mend pieces still broken in embraces eternal”. Eternal, a word often heard in scripture or musings on life after this, now just us, the love I almost lost, a culmination of words said and unspoken, “I’m coming”, we speak in unison, and love handles the rest.
© Nitin Lalit Murali and Emily Cloward (2018)
This is a collaboration between me and Nitin Lalit Murali, of Fighting the Dying Light; the poem an unexpected result from what was originally planned. The collaboration process is such a euphoric experience. Nitin is amazingly talented, his words sincere, gut-wrenching, and genuine. He speaks to all of us. Follow him.