on dustin o’halloran (and growing wings)

I can’t sleep.

I have picked almost all the “fearless” nail polish off the edges of my fingertips, stared out into the familiar shadows of my room, heard the rain and its ceasing. I have gotten up for water, decided against it, taken a sip straight from the faucet. I’ve heard my floorboards creak as I pace, catch my toe against the edge of my bed, felt the sharp sting, yelped.

I can’t sleep because there is a ghost in my room.

She sits down at the edge of my bed, takes in my twisted sleep positions, nudges me awake. I look at her, this ghost of all the things I should have been. She is the anxious ghost, who at 3am has kept me awake wondering if, in fact, I sent that grant in the right way. Wondering if, in fact, five or six months ago I should have played a different game, read a different set of signals, cared less and calculated more. Wondering if, in fact…

all of it might have been meant to be otherwise.

She is a Hilary I keep banishing. For how can any of us know what might have been? Wasn’t that the first lesson Aslan taught those children in Narnia? “To know what would have happened, child? No. Nobody is ever told that.” We are never told the stories that are not spun, the ghost ships that never sailed, the result of the left turn when we took the right.

She is the ghost of control: the ghost who imagines she knows better. The ghost of if only I had thought before… The ghost of 3am and rain.

So I sit up in bed, scattering a warm grey cat and a few pillows in my haste. I fumble with the passcode, fingers touching the screen in search of Dustin, click play, close my eyes.

He tells me “We Move Lightly.”

He plays the repetition back to the ghost on the edge of my bed. The humble kind of piano: gentle and sure, questioning and yet steady. My best friend can always predict the parts of music I love best – the ones that sneak up to the very highest notes, played gently. The moment when strings enter, playing that long note, trembling and vulnerable. He plays, and I listen.

Because our stories are thousands of threads woven and frayed, beginning and ending outside of us, and the ghosts that worry at 3am fall silent in the face of what is truly beautiful.

Because we are never told what might have been, would have been. In this music, we grow the wings to carry us into what will happen. We become free: lost in something bigger than ourselves, found in the thousand threads.

He plays the seventh time, and I fall asleep, winged.

Love,
hilary

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