Sunday, December 22, 2019

Neither/Nor

Sitting on the sun-soaked shore of Southampton’s Chantryview Beach, I begin spilling ink across the blue-ruled sheet of goldenrod paper before me. The beach has been freshly combed by some monstrous mechanical contraption roaring up and down its length all day, ostensibly so all the summer tourists don’t mistake this for any two-bit natural beauty (heaven forbid).

With me is the love of my life for the last three years, my beloved once-brunette currently sporting pink hair, bright white jean shorts, and a navy blue button-up quietly polka-dotted with small white hearts. While I write to the waves, she reads a Madeleine Thien novel, even though her pseudo-communist friend warned her that their other pseudo-communist friend told her it was “bad politics”. Her lovely legs are shapely and smoothly spread across the pale, fine silica of the beach. A smile on my lips, I look across the water, the distant horizon disappearing into deep and fathomless azure.

The day prior, she joins me to pay my respects at the clan’s grave—to those who came here before us. She’s the only person I’ve ever brought here (soon to be the only person I ever will bring here: the clan cottage will be sold at the summer’s end). She holds me as I stand outside my body, still and unblinking. The breeze blows. The limbs on the trees enfolding us shake…my limbs shake. I think to myself, I never want her to let go. Not now or ever. And yet, despite this, somewhere in the depths of my viscera, I fear—know—one day I’ll have to, just as I have at this gentle grave (whether I wanted to or not).

Across the waves, the lighthouse on Chantry Island stands like a sign of divine intervention—and this is really all any of us hope for, can ever hope for, and hey, maybe this is it, maybe this is as close as anyone gets to real signs or omens, a littoral lighthouse showing you the way: where you are, where you’re going, and most importantly, where you’ve been. It’s only sitting here scribbling that I can see this all at once, telescopic and clairvoyant as an oracle, the Hubble, the Keppler. I here see anew the beauty my companion possesses, both quiet and loud. (Her lips. Her smile.) The waves are gently cresting, breaking, and crashing on the shore, Huron’s waters aping an ocean despite its diminished status as a lowly lake. I wonder if this is apropos of something; maybe it symbolizes the false sense of the oceanic, the sense that something’s lacking in this connection when it has all the oceanic qualities I’ve sighted in all the other incarnations of my manifold infatuations, delusively or not.

My love remarks to me that we’re now alone on the beach, and leaning back to look, I find she speaks the truth. She rises and goes to test the darkening waters, but runs back chanting “It’s cold it’s cold it’s cold” before relenting and admitting with a luminous smile, “it’s not that cold.”

Looking over at me, she asks why I’m not writing a love poem about her. I ask her how she knows I’m not writing a love poem about her, and she says she can tell because there’s too much written. “Maybe I’m not using line breaks?” I suggest with a smile. Seemingly satisfied, she sits and returns to carving hearts in the still-freshly raked sand with an extended index finger, heart after heart after heart after heart.

Gulls are now calling, mourning doves and chickadees joining in the temerate distance. Sitting here in the cool silica, the sun now sinking beyond the horizon—exploding really—my heart pounding and breaking and bleeding all over again, an epiphany ensues with piercing, terror-stricken acuity: the darkness is already here. (In reality, it never really left.) This journey is a eulogy, and this leaf of paper, an epitaph.

With my wretched heart now in total tatters, the light extinguishes beneath the water, the unknowable horizon—the limit of my love.

The darkness enfolds me.
This love poem betrays me.
I betray my love.
I let her go.