I can hear the trains.
You can always hear the trains here in the morning. They are like me—waking early, coming and going, never arriving, clanging together at the stops, eager to be back on their way. They whistle sadly, and it echoes over the hills and fades, leaving behind a longing I can't explain.
I woke before the sun, like I use to, and came out here to watch the day turn. The sounds are so different this time of day, you know, the birds are always singing just for me. A woman three houses down is chanting mantras as the sun begins to rise, and her voice carries to the porch where I sit. It’s peaceful. Solemn.
Maybe I just feel this way because I know what is ending.
I've been here two weeks now, back in this city we used to call home—this time just long enough to pack. Things feel the same here, and so different. There’s a vine of ivy wrapping around the wire outside the house, climbing straight up the line, beautifully silhouetted against the light morning sky. The ivy was still green when I came into town, still fresh, still holding life within, despite being severed from the earth.
I'm leaving tomorrow, which is good because there are only two creamers left. Funny, I didn't plan it that way.
I wanted to tell you that I hiked to the top of the mountain yesterday. It was lovely there. I sat on the bench where we meditated and remembered us in this place. We always loved it best here. I don't know why, but it seemed like the place where we could almost see who we wanted "us" to be in the distance. You'd be sad if you could see it now. The wood bees and teenagers have carved deep into the benches, leaving the marks of their past romances and short existence on its skin. The bench itself is starting to sag to the right—it will be gone soon too, I'm sure.
The leaves are speckled with gold now—you remember how it is? The sun is playing in and out through the canopy, kissing my face, making my eyelids glow orange. I still feel you so strongly here.
I wrote you a letter, there, one you will never see... It said everything—and nothing. I rolled it up, and slipped it inside my ring and left it there, on top of the mountain where no one will ever find it— not even me.
But that was yesterday. Today I pack.
I have a Uhaul, like the one we used three years ago to bring me here to be with you. Do you remember? Three days on the road...a hundred podcasts. This one is half the size of that one, but I have less now than then—that's always the case it seems.
This truck is two inches too small to get into the building. You will laugh when you hear it, say I should have checked what the clearance was before I booked it—I know, I know. But still. Two inches? There is nothing smaller in town that will let me drive one way, so I had no choice. I sit on the curb outside the building next and ponder what to do, as women in long jean skirts protest the Planned Parenthood across the street. One of them lays her picture of a half aborted baby to smile and wave at me; I wave back automatically and feel sick to my stomach.
It will be a long day.
You told me you didn’t want to talk...just take what I wanted. Another burden. I turn on the light and stare into the cold storage space, packed with everything we built, everything we shared, everything you touched. As I look around, I realized I don't remember anymore what's yours and what's mine. That was always our problem, wasn't it? I just stand there staring until the light flicks off, then walk back down the dark corridor, turn the dial again, and make myself open the boxes we packed together.
A jar breaks on the floor. Or maybe it’s a vase. The pieces are too small to tell. I don't have time to feel bad about the shattered glass, I don't have a way to clean up, so I ignore it and step around the breakage.
I'm good at this; that won't surprise you.
Thirty dolly trips later from my unit, up two flights in a winding, dark corridor, and I closed the door of the Uhaul, more tired than I'd ever been in my life.
They say leaving isn't easy. They are right.
I left your car by the lot at our old home, in a place we'd parked so many times before. The keys are under the mat.
There is so much to burn when I get back—love letters and memories. I hold them in my hand as long as I can, and watch the fire absorb our fantasies as eagerly as I had once. I let them go, one by one, and wish you well. Wish everything good for your life that I can't give you any more. Wish the fantasy could have been real. A friend sits with me and we drink as I toss the last pages of us into the fire, and tear journals and dreams as loose thoughts, swirl through my head—email you where I left your car, change my passwords, return the books...
My keys are in my pocket. Except I can't call them that—can I?—because there are no keys anymore...just mace, a beer opener, and a two library card tags.
Mace. Beer opener. Library tags. I have no keys. I can't wrap my mind around that. I'm angry at you today.
This the last story where you will appear. After this, I go my own way to live life and leave you to live yours. I will be happy again. I don’t know if you want me to be happy or not without you, but I know I will be. I can feel life seeping through the cracks of grief, and hope on the other side of this pain I am walking through. I am going to live. I am going to keep traveling, and seeing beautiful things. Maybe get a motorcycle. Leave the country. Learn a new language. Find something I believe in... Something real. And live. God, I want to live.
I know you won't read this. That's ok. I understand now. But tomorrow is here, and it's time for me to go.
The ivy is dying and crumpled now, with all the lovely colors faded. It clings hopelessly to the wire above my head, as I pull out of the driveway; I pause to watch it sway in the breeze, never relaxing its grip, and I ache, knowing how great the storm will be that finally loosens its hold of its path to the moon.
A wave passes through me. I rest my forehead on the wheel. I am afraid. I don't know what my life will be. I don't remember what my life was...the thoughts begin to —
A train whistle calls to me in the distance, melancholy and low—come. I raise my head. There, again, insistently—come—with the sounds of cars in tow, clacking across the rails, moving on to new lands, new sights, new life.
A glowing catches in my chest. I look ahead and pull away.
You see, darling—
I am like the trains
coming and going,
and ever on my way
where home lies
of the wonder
in the journey
and the beauty
of the miles ahead—
I am like the trains.