I cannot look at the pictures without feeling a tug just below my breastbone, pulling out an ache that blooms like a peony right in my center, red petals stretching out their yearning arms from my skin and the touch is too beautiful to stand.
I cannot look at the pictures, of my smile like a dream of a growing vine against my face, and my eyes are focused on my endless paramour, somewhere outside of frame.
I don’t browse through the past because nostalgia does not melt like sugar on my tongue, but collects in the corners of my eyes, in my restless hands, in the winter crackling of my elbows and forehead.
I long for the green face I came to know, the blue wash of hair, the chirruping talk I learned to understand in the early mornings, when I’d rise thick with sweat from the sheets and look out with drowsy eyes as I smoked my morning cigarette, covered in a lacquer of love, shining dewy and new.
I feel the piece, round and tangled, where completeness once resided; I left it behind as the tide recedes from the sand, retreating into the deep cold and wet.
There were breakfasts with luxurious coffee and raw sugar, gently stirring me awake with a small spoon, placed gently on the edge of a cup plate, leaving the complicated taste of early morning on the china; lunches taken in the heat of the day, slow bites paired with drinks of mint and fruit; dinners of many courses, the last of which is sleep, taken sweetly to a bed of dark blankets.
There was the enviable form, winding, mysterious, and easy to travel for all its length, like fingers moving gently down the body of a cat: first fur-over-skull, the long bumpy road of the spine, and the fingers wrapping around the tail and continuing out to empty air; that was the way of it.
I miss myself then, the burning in each padded fingertip relieved by keyboard presses until I had made beautiful things (look, you — look what you helped me to make), and the cold fire that was succumbing to sloth, laying together in hammocks, seated with bare legs slinking down the length of a bench, walking hand in green-brown-sparkling-clouded hand.
And then it would rain, and it felt like crying, a release of so many ticking seconds not to be retrieved, and that was the time to mourn; it never rained for long.
No, all was sunshine spilling through the canopy onto spotted trails — shade overstriped with beaming streams of light — and I cannot bear to remember it, because to fall in love with a place is the most painful love of all; when you leave, your footprints fade, and you know the land isn’t thinking of you any longer.
But you — you continually, lustily, painfully think of the land.