It is Sunday morning nearly three years after your death and I am standing at the kitchen window of a plantation house watching you climb a 100 foot pine tree to cut a branch that hangs over the parked truck in the driveway. You’ve had enough of the dripping sap, I suppose. I murmur through the glass, “I could move the truck…” and you hear me because you turn and look, purse your lips, raise one eyebrow and pierce me with those brilliant blue eyes.
This is your fastidious look and it makes me laugh. We both know that if I move the truck today, the branch will still hang over the driveway, the sap will still drip and I will inevitably forget and park the truck exactly there again. Point made, you climb higher.
The rain begins slowly; fine drops that make the moss on the live oaks stir. I sip my coffee so close to the window that the steam swirls onto the glass and fogs my vision. You are nearly there – at the offending branch – bolo knife dangling from your thigh. I’m sure in this moment that the same bolo knife is under my bed, but I let the thought come and go because the rain is falling in solid sheets now and I am worried about you so high up without ropes.
An impatient sigh floats down and you mouth the words, “Don’t be ridiculous, honey, I’m already dead.” Perfect. Even in spirit you can piss me off faster than the nanosecond it takes me to blink.
I shout through the window, “Did you just call me ri-di-cu-lous?” My words echo around the empty kitchen. I bang my cup down on the sill; put my hands on my hips and say, “Fine.” Your laughter booms like thunder. I know you are not with me anymore just as sure as I’m looking at you up in that tree. And I know it is absurd to indulge myself with an argument in a parallel universe, but most of all… I know I cannot bear to lose you again.
I start to shout for help from someone in the house – there are many of your brothers here now healing from war – but before I can make a sound, you appear on the ground under the window safe and strong and I hear you say, “Come here.”
Damn you, I cannot stay mad. I run through the kitchen, down the porch steps, into the mud barefoot and stop. Somewhere between reality and wherever here is I am certain that if you touch me I will die. Then the thought crawls into my brain that if you don’t touch me, I will die. I stand perfectly still trying to name the thing that scares me. Ironically, it is not death.
You say, “Dance with me, funny girl.” I cannot seem to move. We are so close I smell pine and salty sap and the memory of you and I begin to weep – three years’ worth of tears. This new divine patience you have is unnerving. In life, my tears made you restless and you had to save something immediately – the World, the children, me. Here, you are reverent and calm; an observer of this pain from a three year old wound as it leaks down my face. We both know this needs to heal completely now. But if I move too quickly, if I allow this to be real, the wound may reopen and I might forget my purpose and spend my days just here between Heaven and Earth where nobody can get to me and nobody can hurt me and nothing can make me cry. When you wrap me in those arms the pain crystallizes into one single thought: Oh my God where have you been?
You say, “Just here,” and move me slowly in the pouring rain to a song I cannot hear.
I want to tell you how hard death is, but that’s not really true, is it? It is not death the living wake up to everyday, but life. There is no celestial tenet that grants us immunity from the details just because you and your brothers slipped behind the veil of Heaven. Sap will still drip on trucks, the shower head breaks; the war on terror goes on.
But there are no words large enough.
I still have days when I think this is all too damn hard. The only true thing I know is that the part of me you left here, with your abundance of faith and my sliver of hope, still believes love can heal. We both know what love can do.
And the single thing it cannot do.
Without words I tell you every last detail about life since you left. When I am done and my mind is empty of all thoughts, you sigh deeply and say, “I know.” I think you listen better this way. Really I do. It tickles me, this soft place where I do not have to explain myself, where my magic is safe, where for just this moment I do not have to be fighting strong.
My strength is not the same without you. I’ve forgotten when to lean and how to ask.
You say, “Do you remember this?” and I nod my head against you and let the memory of dancing in secret places float through my brain. We both remember different parts and I don’t know why I hear your thoughts or why you hear mine, but it reminds me of that day we said everything with our eyes, so I let it be. The rain pours down and the mud seeps between my toes and you hold me at arm’s length for this long and lovely moment and say, “Listen to me now. Lean into the hard babe, I’m proud of you.”
When I wake up my pillow is wet from rain, or maybe tears – I don’t know which – and I don’t care because what I really want is to be back in that space between Heaven and Earth. I climb off the bed and enter the morning slowly walking from room to room with the sensation of stray wisps of one universe seeping through the open windows of another.
I make a coffee, ponder the mud on the hem of my nightgown and my pretty pink toes and turn the radio on. I miss your arms… and just as the thought comes, these lyrics fill the room: “We’re not broken, just bent… and we can learn to love again…” You are choreographing my morning with this new beloved song, so recently shared by a friend. The words remind me of you; poignant and beautiful. I hope it’s true for those of us left behind.
I am standing at my office window with the song pulling at my heart, coffee in one hand, keys in the other, when I hear the first crack, then another, and a large pine tree limb crashes to the ground just inches from the truck bumper. Your tenacity is limitless. I laugh so hard and for so long the tears come again.
This time though, my spirit is full, my strength is renewed and this gift of your prophecy fills me with all the love I need to one day soon run a plantation house where I can help your living brothers heal.
Wait for me. I’ll meet you there on a rainy day… and we’ll dance in the mud.
Lynnette Bukowski © 2013
My most sincere thanks to my “rascal” friend for sharing this… my new favorite song. Apparently they listen to “Pink” in Heaven too.