By Holley Hyler
It is a sunny afternoon in late summer, and the world is alive with color that is doing its damnedest to chip away at my melancholy shield. Below me is the sparkling green of the Erie Canal, the blue expanse of sky above. I am on a boat and can feel the gentle vibration of its motor beneath my feet, the vertigo when I stand. The boat is abuzz with conversations and people shoulder-to-shoulder, craning their arms and necks to take selfies together. Loved ones regale each other with stories of their families, or stories of stories they have read. Only a few sit in silence. Other boats pass by, their inhabitants giving cheery waves or talking and laughing in loud voices. It is a perfectly joyful occasion, and I know this. But I have nothing to say. The water beckons me into a drowsiness that is compounded by this mood, and it is soothing and terrible all at once. I can find no willpower to climb from this heavy darkness, and I resign myself to the idea of being here until the end of time.
It feels as though I have only time. Time to be alone, time to wish things were other than what they are, time to miss you, time to wonder, too much time and yet not enough to accomplish each of my heart’s desires, which are made all the more delectable in their seemingly unattainable, distant natures. I no longer want to partake in desire when I think of what it has done to me. I do not want to want anything. Being lulled into my drowsy void is attractive. Although, the wish to be lulled is itself a desire, and so I begin the loop again.
As I watch the greens, whites, and blues, the passing boats, the people, I am thinking of you. Everything I do makes me think of you. And I think of everything I wish I had said to you instead of walking away from you, and I think of all the things I would like to say as I run back to you. I have already tried to run back to you, but you will have none of it.
While looking toward optimism and thinking that your rejection may be your way of safeguarding my heart, it stings just as much as the silence from you when I asked, “Did you once love me? Even if only for a second?”
When I think of your silence in response to that question, it feels as though it is tugging at my very essence, my soul, which is now the shroud of my heart.
Your silence has enveloped and become me.
I should not allow any singular moment to permanently steal my joy, any more than I should allow your silence to haunt me hour by hour, day by day, permeating my being and sinking into my bones, but what is “should” and how does it have any place here?
What did I see? What did I feel? Was it real? Did you love me, even if only for a second? I want to ask you again, but I say nothing.
The green of the Erie reminds me of the green summers I spent wishing for you. The blue of the sky reminds me of your eyes. The color purple reminds me of the sky on the night I tried to see you but was turned away. It is also the color of the coat I wore when I realized I was in love with you. My necklace reminds me of the time you brushed your fingers over it as I wore it, their proximity to my chest causing my breath to catch in my throat. My paintings remind me of you. Music reminds me of you.
When I remember you, I become silent.
I grasp and needle and wring my thoughts for something to say.
There is nothing.
There is no apology I can utter that I would mean. I am not sorry for loving you. There is no topic of conversation I could choose that wouldn’t feel like small talk after the magnitude of the exchange between us.
And with the rest of the world, I feel too heavy. I must tuck my feelings away into a private place. Indeed, I can, but I have found that once I have tucked them away, very little of anything else is left. I am a shell of a lover who has loved fully. I am still loving you. A therapist told me, “’Love’ can be thought of as a verb. Sometimes we just have to love someone.”
I have loved you. I am loving you.
I am someone apart from you. I have my hobbies and interests. I have ambitions surrounding many things that have nothing to do with you or anyone else. And though I undoubtedly have people who love me, I will feel the void in place of where you once were and recoil back into myself. That is now the only place where I will find you.
“We do need to move on with our lives,” said the therapist.
I am moving. Even if your picture is still in my closet, and even if the ticket from our last show (a year ago) is in my wallet, I am moving.
I am breathing, eating, sleeping, opening letters, paying bills, driving, jogging, taking classes, paying more bills, and moving moving moving.
But but but.
I think of you. I think of you and grow tired of the perpetual motion, the vertigo that occurs when I try to interact with others and hope to find the tiniest fragment of your soul, even the most miniscule likeness of it, in them. My purple coat is in my closet, winter-ready, and I know that when I wear it, I will remember that you touched it and that you hugged me in that coat and I will wear my necklace and remember the way my heart flipped up from my throat and straight out of my mouth and I will remember that I love you. Maybe I should get rid of the coat and give away the necklace – yes, that is what anyone else would tell me to do – “We need to move on with our lives,” after all – and while moving comes more easily, moving on, despite my best efforts, is not occurring. I find it impossible to move on from the most awakening and beautiful experience of my life. Should I stop loving you simply because you may not love me back? (Did you once love me, even if only for a second?)
Whether you did, or did not, I will take it.
About the Author
Holley Hyler is from southern Virginia and currently lives in Rochester, New York. She graduated in 2013 from University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. Her first publication, a personal essay entitled “Meditation Session,” was in Buck Off Magazine in May of 2016. She works as a consultant and plays the guitar in her down time.