I miss him at the oddest times. A video I know would have made him laugh, hearing Journey on karaoke night, a particularly witty pun I know he would have enjoyed. I wonder if there are still bits of me embedded in his daily life, years later, that show up unexpected, and make him feel crazy things.

this was obviously very early in my career, but there is no denying the spark in the girl on the left, ay?
this was obviously very early in my career, but there is no denying the wedding spark in the girl on the left, ay?

And we wouldn’t have made it, although it was supposed to be forever and sure felt like it was going to be. We would have been engaged at Christmas like everyone thought, like we all supposed, and we would’ve married in June; we’d picked the place for the ceremony and discussed the many, many mason jars and playfully argued over the song we’d first dance to. And then we would have gotten pregnant quickly the way Christian couples usually do, and then soldiered on for years, hating each other quietly and trying to fight it, as good Christian couples mostly do. And talked over each other and used words as weapons and seethed until one of us finally broke brave enough to call it.

But I called it sooner than that. And the only permanent marks on our lives are the thirty pounds I’ve been fighting consistently since we started dating and gave up fighting when we broke up. And the paper trail at the postal office that indicates I might have lived in North Carolina for a bit. And the pictures that come across my dashboard memories every once in a while that remind me of how much fun we had, how he made me laugh.

Or the google calendar reminder today that let me know it’s your birthday.

In moments of weakness, yeah, I think about ‘what if we’d stayed together’ and how picture perfect it was all going to be – barefoot, homegrown, pipe smoking and beer brewing and bible thumping in a little cabin in the woods, poor like I always knew we’d be. Taking the kids camping, and talking and writing too much.

I can still shake angry over some of the things that happened, some of the things you said. But I can still melt over how you’d surprise me with the mandolin and a bottle of wine next to the fire pit in the backyard on my hard days. And how you liked hugs as much as I did. How you’d tell me I was beautiful at the oddest times, like when I was mad at you and crying. You were smart that way.

There are days when I am so tired of being alone. Of cuddling in a twin bed with a throw pillow I’ve had since college. Of wondering what’s wrong with me. Tired of wondering when and how its ever going to happen, if it’s ever going to happen. Tired of not having a person who knows and loves me best.

I get tired of everyone, it feels like everyone, going through all the milestones I thought I would have experienced by now, too. Tired of being upbeat about it all not happening yet. But in all of that, I haven’t regretted it not being with you. And I also don’t regret when I was with you.

Thank you for teaching me how to cut tomatoes, and how to light a fire, and sharpening and softening some of my edges. For never meeting a stranger, for understanding every nuance behind my raised eyebrows, for a thousand other things. For challenging just about everything I ever thought about anything ever. Just because. And for never being intimidated by all that I am, and I know it can be a lot.

almost heaven.
almost heaven.

Thank you for being a solid reason to leave a job that was no longer good for me. And for being the impetus behind the road trip with my mom across the country, to go live in a state that gave me so many friends and adventures. For the season that prompted me back into teaching, into the dream I’d had for ten years to teach abroad. And now I’ve moved across the world and live somewhere most people dream of merely visiting one day.

hiking peru 2008
hiking peru 2008

Funny.

Terrible.

Boys.

And all you’ve been in my life.

I began really liking music because I dated a drummer in high school. I started blogging in college because I liked a boy who liked to write and he said I was good at it. I began working out for a man who came into my restaurant, always in a marathon shirt. After UCSB, I sold everything and backpacked Central America because things ended with a boy. Years later, I moved across the country for a boy. And then moved to a new country to outrun his memory.

It’s embarrassing when I write it down. But it happened and we learn from it and move on and now for me, maybe finally okay and for me, I will raise this cerveja, I will toast him from in a living room in Brazil, after a night out with friends from Canada, Texas, Romania, Virginia, Washington, and Rio. I will finally listen to Adele again without crying and not wonder what could have been.

saudadeWhen you meet her, if you haven’t already, I hope she likes video games like I never could, and that you talk less and listen more, and that she helps you let go of the weight of the world every once in a while. When I meet him, I hope I also talk less and listen more, and that he encourages me the way you did, and like you, finds it charming that I always smell of coffee and am covered in marker.

And I know you won’t read this. You never read my blogs; you hated that I wrote blogs. God, that hurt – I only know what I am doing and feeling when I write it out.

But.

Even if it’s not until the other side of heaven – thank God for you. The parts of me you changed and the parts of me you shaped and those you made stand out clearer and better for the next time around. Thank God for you, babe. Happy birthday.

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