This Feels Like a Secret


I nearly slipped on the ice, I said. I’d woken both of us with a jolt. We were in my bed. He pulled me closer, kissed my forehead. It took me a second to remember where I was. The snow was outside the cafe. I was meeting my ex to return two of his sweaters. I got a peppermint tea and he had a cappuccino. We sat on the tall chairs, faced the wall instead of each other. He’d grown a beard and the beard made me want to cry. You dreamt all that just now? he asked. No, I said, all that really happened. I fell back to sleep with my head on his chest, all warm and somewhere else.

A girlfriend and I were discussing our plans for next year. I said somehow I can’t picture the future anymore. Any of it. I said I’ve half written all these stories and I don’t even care to dream up the endings anymore. I can’t over-think the way I used to. Isn’t that a good thing? she asked. It’s definitely something. I need a word for this feeling but I don’t have one yet.

My boss gave me giant mango. Right now it’s sitting on my windowsill. My future is only this. I will wait for this mango to ripen. And after that, I don’t know.

Another night I dreamt I had an advent calendar full of reasons why he wasn’t coming after me. Every day of December, another reason to hurt. It was just two days before I did what I did. I squeezed the tiny thing so tight in my hand it left red marks on my palm. I threw it over the cliff and into the ocean. Do you think he felt that? I asked when I finished my little ceremony and re-joined my girlfriend lying out in the sun. A mess of yellow butterflies appeared from under the rocks as I spoke. She nodded as if the butterflies weren’t enough of an answer. I got some sea urchin in my foot when I climbed back over the rocks. I showed her the little black spines. The universe is relentless, she said and we laughed. We drank coconut water and napped a little as if nothing happened. As if I didn’t just do the biggest thing I’ve done all year.

My friends threw me a surprise party for my birthday. This is what a real-life dream looks like: A picnic table by the ocean. At sunset. Summer in December. Tzatziki and bread and eggplant and falafel and hummus and red wine and vanilla-raspberry birthday cake. It might have been the wine but as the night went on I kept forgetting anything past the table existed. It got really dark and the moon didn’t rise until much later. We had three small candles to light our table. I kept saying it out loud, kept trying to remind myself there was a bigger world than the one I’d created for myself. I said there is an ocean right there and over there is a road and we’re on an island and if we swim forever maybe we could reach Australia. But for a time there wasn’t any of that. There were a few good people sitting at a table celebrating my birthday. Somehow I was equally there and not there. I said I’m nostalgic already, for how I’m going to feel when I remember this. We cheersed to that.

Yesterday I had the same feeling again. This feels like a secret I said as we climbed under my sheets on a Wednesday afternoon when I should have been working. You’re so young at heart, he said. It’s in your eyes. I said sometimes I feel older than I could ever be. Nothing else existed until suddenly I felt like I was mourning the loss of something I was still holding. I wonder if this is what it is to recognize the fleeting nature of all things. Bittersweet comes to mind but I don’t think this is the word I’m looking for.

I spend so much of my time looking for words.

I’m trying to describe being both present and reflective at the same time. I’m trying to figure out how to love and lose simultaneously. I’m trying to make inevitable sadness beautiful.

This morning someone told me they feel as if they’ve been kept in a cage their whole life and they’ve only just been set free. I said I know that feeling but often I feel the opposite. I said I feel like a wild animal. Something is constantly trying to hunt me down. Sometimes I feel as if the world wants to catch me and keep me and I can never run fast enough.  

Jennifer ChardonComment