I once read a poem in which a man compares his love to a stone he carries around in his pocket. He touches the stone often, feeling the weight of it, feeling its comfort, too.
That image comes into my mind often. It is so poignant. I imagine the smooth, cool surface of the rock easily. I like the physicality of it; how tangible it is. There are no guessing games when it comes to a rock. It’s either there or not; you can hold it, or you can’t. Simple and plain.
I’ve heard that parents who’ve lost a child tend to their living children with a sort of paranoia and vigilance that keeps them checking on them at all hours of the night. Desperately feeling their small, thin chests for the sounds of a beating heart. Holding their hands extra tight during a walk across the street. It’s the kind of fierce protectiveness that makes sense, given the history. We understand the threat of loss greater when we’ve lost something. We also understand our inability to make things happen–to prevent the worst–because we’ve stood there, watching a nightmare unfold, cursing our hands that can do nothing to stop it.
And maybe you’d think we’d stop caring or trying after that.
But we don’t.
We’re the children who think we can beat the surf, while playing on the edge of the ocean. We build our castles at low tide, never realizing that high tide comes to everyone who’s lucky enough to live that long. Some high tides are worse than others, yes; but the ocean plays no favorites and, if you’re standing there, you’ll feel it, too.
I once built a castle on the sand. It was exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t very big, but it only needed to house two of us–plus a couple of kittens, which we added later. I painted each wall of the castle, too. Orange and yellow and red and green; I wanted what I saw around me to reflect the vivaciousness of what I felt inside, you see. I thought about how forever didn’t feel long enough for the life we planned. I thought about how heaven seemed strange and far away; I didn’t want to be there if it meant I couldn’t be with him.
It’s an old story, really. And when the tide came in, I thought it’d last forever. Pieces of the life I’d built with him floated away on the same water that carried the trash and refuse, like there was no difference between the two at all. That hurt. Pretty soon, I couldn’t tell the difference either, and that hurt like hell.
By the time he called me to tell me that he was dating someone, I was numb.
“It doesn’t hurt you to hear this?” he asked, incredulous.
“It hurt to find out you were dating someone else while we were together,” I explained, “This is nothing compared to that.”
“Well…no offense to you, but the new girl I’m dating is 5’1,” he said, leaving me to ponder that perhaps he was trying to let me know that, at 5’8, I was simply too tall to stay with.
And I laughed at that. Because, how absurd.
But the really nice part was that it didn’t hurt me. Not now. I stayed away from the shore for a while. God knows, I didn’t try to build a sandcastle again–wasn’t even positive that I ever would, really–but the dream remained.
It’s a relentless one, the dream of love with one other person.
And I find myself, without even totally realizing it in the beginning, starting to build again. I find myself carrying around a stone in my pocket, feeling its smooth, cool weight again and again, with the kind of fervor reserved for the very religious or very paranoid.
And to my great joy and surprise, the stone remains.
I know about the tide now. I could show you pictures of it, even. But here I am, building a castle, anyway. I guess you could say I’m crazy. I guess you could say I’m healed. I guess you could say I’m hopeful.
I guess you could say I’m falling in love.