When I last saw my first love, we didn’t say goodbye.
I had spent much of the seven years since I’d first held her hand, trying to sample what other girls had to offer. I was never officially her “boyfriend” and always made sure I broke up with her before I jumped on the next… after returning from the last.
I didn’t see her as our village receded and was lost to the red clay dust thrown up by the dump truck that braved the only road out of our jungle home. I wondered where she was, but I didn’t wonder much. I was headed into the capital to play basketball with the National Team, and to have my way with a girl who had put up with me before.
I should have known. I could have stopped it.
After three days on river and ocean, I was met by a letter that had flown along with what we’d forgotten. It was from her, the sweet girl I’d used up more than once. She wrote that she was sorry for not seeing me off, that she didn’t know what to do or say. I knew there was nothing to say to someone who steps on your heart, but I wasn’t telling. Her ink said that she wanted to try us again once more. There was more weariness and sorrow than longing in that letter. A resolve. Once more, meant once more.
I thought that might be nice. I wanted to do right by her. But first there was this girl…
I rarely dreamt of Michelle in the years since her murder. The dreams were dreams of yearning. I wanted to know her. I wanted her to know me. I caught only glimpses of her, or was just made aware of her somehow, usually through a story told by a mutual also-deceased friend. In those stories she has gone on with her life which will never include me. If she has her way.
* * * * *
After a long time buried, Michelle returned to my sleep one more time.
She was still Michelle. In all the other dreams she had aged with me. This time she was the twenty-year-old that I never saw again. In this dream, I love her. I know that she is my woman, and I am her man. We save romance for each other, but we cannot be together. Something about her life keeps us apart, and we accept that.
I watch her.
Like the boy she once crushed, I steal glances. Discreetly, at a distance, I take her in as she chats with her mother with whom she died, and I endure the testosterone of the men with whom I find myself.
Then I’m ten feet behind her, free of the pack. I stand square to her, transfixed. Before thought can compose itself, my chest swells, a sail to the rising storm within me. In three unfelt strides I’m upon her. I lower myself much more than was required when she lived, dropping to my left knee, so that I might nestle the bone of my left cheek into the hollow of her right. I wrap my arms beneath her breasts, pulling her in as I stretch to gently grasp the muscles where her arms begin. She drapes her forearms across mine, her fingers gently pressing just above my elbows. The tip of my nose presses the flesh of hers. My lips brush the corner of her mouth. She doesn’t resist. She smiles so slight and sweet. She was expecting me.
I take a breath the depth of oceans. I breathe every scent that has ever been hers.
I inhale an angel.
When I can hold no more of her inside me, I release her slowly through my nose. Her essence flows over her lips, cascading to mine. My eyes flood, and a tear, my tear, smears and becomes ours. I am warmed by something limitless, timeless, and all too fleeting. I love and long so deeply that my flesh is a hindrance.
I inhale my dear Michelle twice more, each time deeper than the last. Then I drop my arms, stand and turn and walk away. Time to go.
I am healing.
The Michelle of my subconscious, of my conscience, was ready to see me. My daughter, who was six at the time of the dream, is the reason I kneel to love Michelle. Kali Nita was the only person with whom I had known and shown love fully. Low is a familiar place for love.
Michelle and I have reserved a piece of our hearts for each other because that is as it should be in love. Michelle loves me. She has forgiven me.
I have forgiven me.
The something about Michelle’s life that keeps us apart, is that it is no more. Still, I will always love her, and she me. We will always be precious to one another, and by embracing this, I will better love we who still breathe in the shallows of the flesh.
(Stephan Jones is a frequent contributor to the jonestown report. His other articles in this edition are Johnny Brown: Taking Care of His Own, Ankles and Assholes, and Death’s Night. He was also a speaker during the Griot Institute of African Studies lecture series entitled Jonestown: 35 Years Later at Bucknell University; his presentation appears on this page (scroll down the videos). His earlier writings for this website appear here. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)