I Have Sometimes Loved

Submitted by Sarah Bethany on Tue, 10/22/2013 - 21:51

(Pre-caution: brief mention of drug use, and some older-reader themes. :) - Sarah)


I have sometimes loved someone because they reminded me of a mulberry bush. Or a holly bush. I am misquoting Proust but I forget. Or because of the green plastic bottle of cologne which was wedged in the pocket of his backseat, and when I spritzed it, filling the car with baby powder and poison, laughing at his dandyism, he said, “Please don’t. My uncle gave that to me before he committed suicide” – and, for wasting a fraction of the liquid, I felt had pinched the ashes from an altar and used it in the vegetable bed with the manure

Or because of the frozen ground when we hiked, and he texted his ex-girlfriend, ignoring me. He would take her out for waffles and try to win her back.

My father had driven through his neighborhood and saw him, a highschool senior, sitting in the grass, cross-legged before his cross-legged girl, holding her face in his hands and staring deeply into her eyes without saying anything.

My father laughed disparagingly, but then he said tenderly, “He is in trouble.”

Or for standing on the cement wall, balancing with my leg outstretched, as they all shuffled and smoked, in the autumnal night outside our college.

Or for the wet and mildewed cushion on whose unpleasant edge I sat, and for the blocks of sugar cubes and his dragon teapot and his sunflower, and the mugs thick with milk, and a drug addict across from me, whom he had pulled from AA, in construction boots, talking about the heroin-pushing on the streets of Worcester, while he elegantly presided over the tea as if we were in an English garden.

Or because he always ran up stairs.

Or because he said, “You have an egg-tooth on your beak. Start pecking at your shell. Believe me, I want to stay for my sister, too – but what is better, for them to see us living our own lives? Or to stay for them?”

Or for dancing with me across the gritty garage floor, while I was euphoric from chocolate, and saying, “You’re light! You’re so light! You feel like a feather, but are easy to move,” yet it was the inexperience of a boy, and I rumpled his curls and knocked his glances off and broke them on the floor.

Or for saying, “Sing again,” as we drove, as if he were asking to see crashing cliffs or artwork, and listening to my Irish battle song, and then saying, as the last note faded and I cut the ignition by the pines and there was only the silence of the night and the summer crickets, “I don’t say this lightly and almost never make predictions, but one day a man is going to fall asleep to the sound of your voice.”

Or for the grease beading on the cheese, when he came into work and leaned across the counter: “Can you take your break right now? Pizza is on me. I’m having an existential crisis and I need your advice.”

Or for passing through the undeveloped white pines, soft bristles brushing my face, and seeing him crouching like an awkward tiger, and jumping out and I pretended to shriek, and he held me as I fell over laughing, and we went running through the haunted stick-woods, like children, where witches once built shacks…and I felt full of magic…and he was high as the lollypop castle in Candy Land, and when I learned, my magic broke.

Or for the ache that came into my stomach when I looked at the trophies lining his bedroom wall and his cap and gown and certificates…and I did not belong. I had homeschooled, and the gold and green colors never flew over my bed.

Or for his insanity: the time I drove him home, to the sleepy whir of the heating system, in the spicy-scented air of Christmas, in the blurry feel of a late night, the hypnotic crinkling of static music, and he said, “God forbid you ever feel this. This. Do you know? Do you even know what this is? Just wait till you feel it and you will not want to live. You just don’t know it yet. God forbid you ever open your eyes and see it.”

Or for his, “Have you ever been knocked down by an alcoholic father?” and my, “I won’t play this comparing game with you because no one wins or loses.” Sitting up front, my feet up on the dash. My fingers scraping into the leather.

Or for the cells of gold at the bottom of the bottle and my reluctance to buy it for him only because I was a year older: the shame and turmoil I felt, the soft flat paper in my palm: the brown crinkled bag: “You’re a doll. Do you know, you look good with your hair down like that. It’s all soft and wavy around your face, and bright in the sun. You look like an angel. Now if anyone tries to mess with you, you just tell them you know the king of the devils – tell them you know Lucifer and I will smite them.”

Or for the guava-pink sunset in the graveyard when he told me his soul was shattered into a hundred pieces, each shard having its own unique persona, a glinting piece of him now existing on its own, and I begged him to welcome these parts home, and a glint came into his eye – “What, love the predatory part of me?” and I wondered for a brutal moment if I was going to be murdered behind the woodpile.

Or when he asked what would happen if he tried to kiss me: I said I would dodge, and he told me to sharpen my dodging skills, and I said with dignity, “If you try, I will immediately put a wall between us that will never come down,” dragging a finger across the brown grass, and he left.

Or that I feel I am with Hemingway – with the smoke caught in the tweed, the nicotine on the fingertips, the brooding mind, the intelligence bordering on a breakdown, the hurt heart, the tippling whisky, the poetry about sopping up bloody eggs with toast.

Or perhaps because, when I am older, my only claim to fame may be that I lived in the town where he grew up.

Or for standing on my porch and hoping the neighbors didn’t hear – “You’re a girl men would want to strew rose petals for…would want to woo…and win. With you it would be spiritual: the epitome and ideal. With your friend here, they wouldn't even get half-way to propriety.” She laughed fully, and I cautioned, “Sh – the neighbors” ...as the ashes floated down in flakes, landing on the unpainted wood.

And maybe seeds were planted that night, for a year later he accosted her on a dyke and she cried assault and he cried innocence and I, being three thousand miles away, went tearing around my room in a fury, my hands working....then perched on a folded, neat, plaid blanket, glad I was on the wrong side of the ocean; hating that I was, because if I had his red face in my hands I would have struck it more than once.

I have loved his name because it reminded me of a mulberry bush: the shape is woodsy and the sound is green and I see the grains of nobility in the arrangement of those letters in my phone: Dec. 21, 2012, 8:58 pm. But I will not answer. I made an impossible choice then with the front that it was the only possibility. I cannot now be talked into understanding. If I heard him, I might shake, and I must keep my torch lit. I must stand sentinel for the rights of women, even if no one else does, even if it is against someone dear to me, even if the girl herself decides to rescind it. I must – I must –

So why am I crying?

Or for his sweaters, and his coats, and his scuffed brown shoes.

Author's age when written


This is incredible, and I'm still figuring out exactly why. I'm going to re-read this at least three times later.
Edit: I figured it out. This is incredible because you are incredible. You have a unique way with words, Sarah. I'm not sure how you manage to make everything so clear in such an abstract way, but I sincerely hope that I can be half as good of a writer as you one of these days.

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Ditto to Erin.

I have goosebumps all up and down my spine from the last line!!! OMG! This is amazing... I'm just speechless.
My heart ached the entire time I read this... again speechless, don't know what to say. But thank you for sharing. This is so beautifully written... I'm in awe!

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
Write On!

Wow. I love this so much! Your writing gives me the pride and prejudice, little women, anne of green gables feel. So antique-y and beautiful.

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

That was amazing...and beautiful and so full of life and color...
I really don't know how to describe it. It's so full of pain and memory, as if it could spring to life at any second!
I loved it...I really, really did. :)

Usually I don't comment on romance stuff, and I am mainly commenting now because I must say that this is immensely honest and meticulously descriptive. Your skills surpass mine. "So why am I crying?" You are one of my favorite writers on here. If you would, more Martje!

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want you to know that I revisited this today (not for the first time, but for the first time in a while) and it means even more to me now that I'm older. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Erin! It's so funny to hear from you because I actually was thinking of you today pretty lingeringly! :) (I looked at another old piece and one of your comments stayed with me, and I visited your AP profile to see what you were up to.) Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me this....what an incredible gift.
A side note - loss has always, for some reason, produced some of my favorite things I've written. I don't know if that's a bad thing or what. (Nostalgia adds a pungent sauce?)
And I know - it's interesting looking back at old things when we ourselves are older. I guess you were 16 when I posted this - and yeah, there seems to be a huge difference between that and 19. The other piece I was looking at today was "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome" because something in my present life jogged my memory of that piece and made me sad/regretful. If I was, five years ago, who I am today, I would have lived life differently. But maybe I lived myself into who I am today --? I don't know. Okay, now I'm just rambling like an old lady in a rocking chair. I'll let you go now, haha.
But yeah, really: thank you so much for sharing that this brought you to tears <3 It's a huge affirmation, especially since I'm recently looking into MFA programs for creative writing. Thank you, thank you.

Aw, that's sweet! Yes, I was freshly 17 when you posted this (I have a birthday coming soon, lol) and had not yet experienced anything comparable to what you wrote about here. But SO much can happen in three years--it's crazy how everything shifts and the world forces you to grow up.
I feel the same way about my own writing--loss has a way of drawing deeper emotion out of us, I think.
That's so exciting that you're looking at MFA programs! I think you absolutely should. I used to be skeptical of such programs until taking some creative writing classes at my college--we have a wonderful creative writing and English program with amazing faculty and both classes (intro to creative writing and advanced poetry) really helped me grow not only in how I write, but also how I read and critique writing. If you find the right program, it would be a wonderful experience!

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond