This morning all I feel is the ache of distance.
I wake up to it in the bed with me, this familiar stranger of being apart from the person I love. I hear the fan blowing the already-fall wind across the room, rustling the papers I haven’t put away. I look around with a wide-eyed wild hope that maybe I’m back where he is, or where he is is downstairs with a Sharpie pen and a journal and a prayer book and his Bible, and when I walk down the stairs he’ll smile up at me from behind his glasses in the way that I have traced over and over, an inked tattoo in my heart of that first look, that realization of how he must see me, how maybe I must be beautiful because he has that look on his face.
The ache walks me in and out of Starbucks, through my trouble choosing music in the car, in my half-hearted greeting to God at the right turn by the brick house I used to love. The ache is somewhere in my ribcage, but it moves. The ache is somewhere behind my heart, and it anchors.
I wrote once that it is beautiful. Our selves, strong in our breathing, in our standing, can soften our hearts and our eyes past the miles. We still find each other. We still sit down, unwrap our days to the quiet hum of our computer fans.
And it is agonizing.
And it is peaceful.
And it is terrible.
I hear the words of others about how the distance is good, how it builds something good, how the time is something to be cherished. I hold a paper plate in the lobby and stare at her blankly, feel my feet on the stones in the floor, tell myself that I should soften my heart. But for all the words about how distance stretches and grows us, I want the words for how it also aches in places you didn’t know you had, how I close my eyes at my desk and I think about him and I think about me and I see the miles that move between us, and the ache lives somewhere behind my heart.
I don’t want the words that the time will go by fast, that it will move, that this will be something that I miss and wish I could get back. I don’t want the words that all this purposes together for good (oh, I know it does, I say that to myself), but maybe I want the words that just know it is an anchored ache behind the heart, and that it is so much better to be near to each other, that the laundry on Saturday days, that the order Chinese and eat it on the porch watching Netflix days, that the days when you walk through a field in a sundress holding hands days, that those days are so good and lovely that the ache is part of how you know how good it is.
But it is a hard way to know that. And it would be better, will be better, just to be in the field together.
What was the poem?
Your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
– “Separation,” W.S. Merwin
The anchored ache behind my heart.
It will be better to be together.