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Should I share a sun-drenched memory?
No. It's too personal.
'Except that it never is. My mouth forms words and stumbles over phrases almost before I can finish thinking them and long before I can catch myself. I scream my throat raw, hoping that if I shout every word I can think of one of them will be right and someone might listen. That's just who I am.
So, you can have my sun, my memories, and my every conscious thought. Take them. I'll give them to you, to anyone who will hear, even if you have no use for them. I can't stop myself from spitting these words, so somebody might as well have them.
Here it is, the ink pulsing beneath my skin to form words, whispered dreams of childhood. He's always there. Who else? He's there with broad bear arms, gifting that one last hug, and curly salt and pepper hair. My hair. And then there's that smile, so full of life and love and laughter, cutting through the fog and discounting the unpleasant past. 'Of course, I'm here. Why wouldn't I be?'
I wake, and for a moment I'm still chasing shadows. But I remember with a jolt, and the dream is no longer a warm caress but a slap; it's too easy to trick myself.
Some days the dream seems more real'how could you just be gone? That familiar face from photographs can't be just a memory, can it? I still think I see you in a crowd every now and then and my heartbeat quickens until I realize my mistake and bury my blushing cheeks behind a book that I only pretend to read.
That wound is still scabbed and easy to reopen. Does that ghost still shadow me, or am I the one searching out the ghost? Our arms are so tightly intertwined I can't tell the difference anymore, and in some ways the ghost is me.
I always thought I was so talented at confronting emotions and taming my demons'but how would I know, really? All of my emotion is borrowed. I try on different stories, different struggles, and then shed that skin with a shrug of my shoulders. I dissect. I deflect. I distance. But this story is mine, and there is no zipper on this costume. I choke on it and shy away. Just like everyone else.
Okay, I'll say it: I miss you. But not out loud. Not yet.
I am stingy with each fragmented phantom jigsaw puzzle piece of a memory. If I share with the wrong person, it means nothing, and the words crumble to ash. If I share with someone who understands, it's too much. Our pain fuses and gains momentum until it towers over us, heavy and black, and I don't have the courage to face it. It will swallow me whole. We are missing the same man, but the holes he left in us are different; we are not missing the same person. There are dark spaces between us that I'm not ready to explore. If I loosen my grip, will each memory flit away one by one into darkness with each tick of the clock?
Maybe it's the fear that I'll discover that these ghosts I cling to are not accurate reflections of who you really were but only what I wanted to see, a trick of the light. Can you ever truly know a person?
These words are the only remaining mementos here in the waking world'ghosts don't leave footprints'but even they aren't solid; they have no weight outside my head. Words don't have the power to conjure you from my thoughts and make you real again. They are never enough. There is no rewind.
But this is what I have.
I can't live in shadows'nothing grows there. Despite the pain of ripping my stitches (again) and the taste of blood in my mouth every time I see where you aren't, there is still too much to make me smile. When I think of you, I don't think of shattered glass and an empty bed; I think of a warm place to lay my head, staying up late to watch meteor showers, conversations about God and candy flavors, the light of a lazy summer sun'
I did promise sunshine.
Glowering out from a cloudless sky. Hot and heavy at my back. There's the salty smell of peanuts, wet dirt, and something spicy. We walk, my tiny hand wrapped around your index finger, tugging you down the dusty path. The sides are lined with tables heaped with temptations of shiny plastic and colorful cloth. White-haired men in trucker hats, yellow-toothed women with fanny packs heavy and jangling with coins, and young Spanish-speaking girls who must mime for American shoppers parade their wares: pocket knives, dress shoes, tortillas, buttons, teddy bears, teapots, rusted tools, lava lamps, Elvis posters, and everything in between. Anything that could be liberated from attics and garages, lifted out from years of dust and cobwebs and into the daylight for anyone who might find use for it.
You taught me the value of money'of saving it and of being generous. You taught me how to ask en espa'ol how much something costs. You taught me how to bargain, to know when to give up and look for something better. You taught me how to guard myself and keep from being cheated. You taught me to find worth in the things that other people would throw away, things that somebody else might think had no value at all.
I grew up and stopped caring about flea markets. There would be no more treasure hunting for me. Oh, but if I had known, I never would've given up those Saturday mornings, and I would've treasured every possible precious second, even if you took too long contemplating boring things like machinery and kitchen chairs, even if it meant waking up too early and going to sleep too late, even if it meant never writing down another word as long as I live. I'd cut out my own tongue. I miss your mannerisms that used to make me cringe and duck my head, like your trademark cowboy hat and the way you'd call 'Cebolla!' in greeting to the guy who sold onions from the back of his truck. The little details. I would give anything just to see you share a word or a smile with someone and to hear them tell me what a great guy you are, even though I already know. I'd love to hear a story about travels in South America and New York, for the thousandth time.
I hope I inherited more than just your curls. I hope I inherited that easy grace with people and their stories. I want to know a little about everything, just enough to strike up a conversation with any stranger. Like you. If I can make that bright spark from you a part of me, I know ghosts will not devour me.
Sometimes there's still the faintest afterglow of the sun even after I wake up and all illusions fall away, and for now that's enough to fight the darkness.