In a brief portrait of regret, something that might once have been love spirals towards an inevitable end with the pulling up of roots.
The vine began lithe and delicate, winding around the sapling we planted the week before you left.
(Who sets life in motion before walking away?)
It grew, it bloomed, and I should have cut it back, but there was poetry in how the flowers hid the choking. A weed is something that grows where it isn’t wanted, but I wanted it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was asking for it, but maybe I forgot to keep the garden.
(Did I lock the door? Did I turn off the stove?)
Thing is, I watered it a couple of times.
We were watching a documentary about prisons and you said it was too hard to think about the dehumanisation, how suddenly people stopped being people. You didn’t understand how anyone expected anything to get better with a system like that. I never assumed that was really anyone’s expectation.
Another time, you asked if I ever thought about leaving and I said I wouldn’t leave you. You meant both of us leaving here, together, moving to somewhere else.
(I always answered the questions you didn’t ask)
Every report card I ever got said something about how I could be capable of so much, if only I would make the effort. But. Wasted potential sits more comfortably than proven failure. Sometimes I remember things that happened twenty years ago and they feel like yesterday.
Then there was the time you told me you were drawn to uncertainty as a response to an oppressively regimented childhood and that we learn who we are partly through other people’s reactions to us. I didn’t say anything.
(Did my silence define you?)
I always waited until you were asleep before I peeled myself away from your skin. It wasn’t your fault I felt like I was suffocating.
That morning, I got up before the sun and lay curled, fetal, on the lawn again. You posted your key back through the door while I escaped to the deep hum of the earth turning.
(How cold we were, and how bankrupt in the currency of forgiveness)