It’s one of the very worst parts of life that all things worthwhile and authentic—the things that nourish us in the most necessary ways—are things we have no ability to control. This has never stopped me from trying. I’ve been attempting to hold onto things since the first time I encountered loss. This mostly applys to very dear people who have made big, comfortable pockets for themselves inside of me. I like to imagine I can make each of them sign residency contracts with extensive fine print about change, mostly that there will be none.
This is because I’m so stupidly awful at letting go, so particularly tender to the experience of being reassigned status or heart territory. It can be years after a thing has changed before I am ready to live with it, especially changes with people who hold the most tender places. These relationships are gifts that wash in with the tide and I’ve spent most of my life trying to be grateful while I’m afraid of the washing out.
Allison and I arrived in adulthood together, and it’s been that way ever since. We have survived cross-country moves, house splits, a family death, and living in different states. We’ve shared our lives until we’ve become stuck together in all these odd and wonderful places—jean sizes, food ordering habits, blood sugar crashes, irritating behavior. But now there’s this little detail of a boy who has decided he wants to marry her and she starts thinking she should call him first when she’s craving pop-tarts, or planning trips, or wants to have one of those long conversations we used to hold in our bedroom when we were supposed to be falling asleep. And it’s just awful. I’ve been trying very hard to let change take place gracefully—to live as the wise people tell you, with open hands. But I think the people who said that must not have let others in quite so deep. Because when you do, after a while it’s not just your wardrobe that gets mixed up, but all your insides. Then, when change comes, there they are, walking away with a piece of you.
This past November, we decided we wanted to get to the coast. We do things like that—go to the beach on a day that isn’t going to get above forty-six degrees. But I wanted to see the coast because I needed to breathe. And I wanted to see it with Allison because I wanted our souls to breathe together, again. I thought it might help me open my palms and let things change and feel them as they are. So we drove all the way out to Wilmington, and ate Clam Chowder, and Allison asked the waiter for extra packets of Oyster crackers and shoved them in her green cross-body purse while I laughed at her. Then we wrapped our scarves around our heads and ears and I wore several jackets that were not made to fit one on top of the other so that I couldn’t bring my shoulders forward or my arms all the way down. We shuffled along, boots through sand, noses too cold to smell the salt, spotting fishermen and scanning the thread of boarded up beach homes and Tiki Bars. Something in this was awfully dissatisfying, perhaps because half of me was still looking to go back to spaces that aren’t there anymore. I kept trying to make her slow down so I could find washed up sea glass.
There’s only so long you can walk up and down an empty coastline in 40 degree weather. We scuffed the sand, and hunched our shoulders, and got a little cranky, so we decided to go find coffee. It was crappy, franchise coffee, of course, because one can never find good coffee, or good seats, or good parking spaces, when their soul is unsettled. The instant you have a vulnerable day, when everything inside of you starts putting on a stage performance of Les Misérables, all the spaces and things that are supposed to be soothing become either unavailable or full of annoying people. They sell out of your favorite danish, start playing Adele, and burn the coffee. But we bought the bad coffee and secured the burgundy sofas. This—us in coffee shops—used to be what was steady through whatever crazy days. It was where we would go to right the world, back when all my best shirts were always at the bottom of her closet. And and we didn’t know it back then, but it was passing by like something we planned to come back to but never would. It’s that feeling when you stand at the edge of the sea, and the waves rush back into the ocean. You feel them tugging all the sand at your feet, carving it out from underneath you, reminding you that you don’t get to cement the world around you into something stationary and comforting.
And yet, there she was—sitting across from me, wearing all my clothes, and wanting the corner of my white-chocolate raspberry scone because she was convinced the barista gave me the better one—the one she wanted. You don’t get to keep people deep down there, unmoving, but you do get to show up to each moment and day, open and willing. I try not to fill all the holes because I will only find new ones. And I try to keep letting people and life in, embracing and loving things I might lose, knowing it’s the only way to ever really have anything.