She carries the coastal wind in her teeth
and the furious sun in her mane.
Annie Finch, Rhiannon
It was twenty hours on that open road. Petrol rain, torn muscles, sharp grit and silver dusk. The engine gasped to a halt and I paused at the edge of a neon skyline. I met a girl in a bar with pale hair and eyes like jade. A girl with an old guitar and a voice like running water. She played her songs, on that city stage, with a handle of whiskey and the strange lust of summer. I never caught her name. When she asked me home, with no mention of morning, I said yes. I always do. I like knowing that I still can.
In a depilated motel room we shared a cigarette, an evening, a lifetime or less. Then I climbed into my car and set Nashville behind me in the rearview mirror. I hurtled towards an amber dawn and left her there alone, with a tobacco tin, an ashtray filled with matches, and all of the faded scriptures of my longing. When I met her, I was already gone.
And what of you? I loved you so briefly but somehow never stopped. I know you could never believe that. You must think that I remember you differently; because I hated you, for so long, and so sincerely. Some nights I still do.
I adored you, I despised you, I lost you and I left you. But I never felt nothing for you. Not ever.
Is that not strange, miraculous, and terrible all at once? After all of this time, after everything that has happened, after all of the hurt you caused–I am lost, I am etherised, I am dead to the world. But when I think of you, I still feel. I always feel.
Are you the love of my lifetime? In truth, I have my doubts. We were kids when I first met you, first kissed you, first let you in. But the love of this time in my life–I think so. The love of this moment, of the person I am now. Yes, of this lifetime—of this three-year, nine-term, two-summer nightmare of a lifetime—you are the last and most clairvoyant thing.
Do you remember watching Once, that movie I always sang from, and both of my arms were wrapped around you on an ash-stained bedroom floor? I know you do. You must. I loved you then. I don’t know what you felt, I never did, but I loved you. And now that memory slips far from my medicated mind: like every other godforsaken recollection, it is lost. But still, I see a single night–yes that night, the one when I began to lose my mind–and I was alone, I was crying, everyone was acting like nothing was wrong, but I heard your voice behind the bedroom door. You were singing. You were playing my guitar. And as I listened, as every note fell soft like rain across my bare skin, for the swiftest and most shining instant, I was close to whole.
Our terrible, thankless past–you are its keeper. All of its pain and its promise and its prophesy belongs to you now. You took it on when you cast off me. And I am sorry for that; just as I am sorry that I left my bones bare and my troubles unconcealed. Just as I am sorry that I did not lie when I should have, and that you might have liked me better if I had. But you must never doubt how I felt about you. Whatever else you may think or believe or become, you do not get to do that. You do not get to shed all that I lived for like a skin.
I am waiting for this chapter of my life to slow and splinter to its close, so that I can start again somewhere new. I want to be a stranger. I want to stop knowing you. When I try to sleep at night (and I can’t, I still can’t–you know how I never could) it is your name that burns on the underside of my eyes. Darling, I want this to be over now.
I could love you until the day that I die, but that will never make you good for me. Nor I for you. So fuck it. Let’s both forget, and disappear, and start again.
In the bitter end of our lesser days, it stopped being easy to tell where the cycle ended and my life began. Because when people keep leaving you, you start to anticipate their failures indiscriminately. And you prove yourself right–that part is crucial. You dig your nails in so deep that people pull away and they never look back. This is how and why what beauty I find in my life always fades.
You know a life has lost its meaning when victory and surrender begin to feel the same. But I spread my palms and let this body bridge the distance. After all, there is nothing left of us to save.
I was a writer before I lost you. Now I just bleed, and let the words fall where they will.
I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.
Vita Sackville West, Letters to Virginia Woolf