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You are driving on a country road. The dust is kicking up around you. The sunset is ahead of you. But the road extends for miles. Your hair is pulled back in a sloppy bun. Cold tears are dripping from the corners of your eyes, down your cheeks, and even to your chest. Sadness covers you like a winter coat that’s two sizes too big and soaking wet, dragging on the ground. You’ve been driving for miles without a destination. You see the person you love like this dirt road extended out in front of you, no map, no way of knowing where to go or how far you’ve gone.
You rub your eyes on the sleeve of your sweatshirt. The tears come again. You are so terribly alone in this car, in this silence. You hear the tires crunch over gravel. Your ragged breaths are the only other sound. And they fill the car with your pain, cold and heavy.
You have always been a fixer. You’ve loved the sons with broken fathers, the addicts, the boys with no destination, the friends who have betrayed you, those who couldn’t love you in return. But this, you cannot fix.
You wish you could take this person, trap them in a glass jar, hold them out to the sun, show them the way the light twinkles off the corn stalks, how clear the ocean water is, how warm the sky feels when you lay down in the grass, how beautiful they are.
Loving this person who struggles with depression: it is opening your mouth and speaking nothing, it is pressing the gas to the floor and the car standing still, it is waving from behind a window and them squinting back, never seeing your face.
You stand there, every day, with open arms and a giant eraser. You rub and rub these words of failure, of defeat, of pain, away. But this person you love only speak these thoughts into existence again and again.
You wonder what to say. You speak. You wonder if you said the right thing. You watch them cry, watch their smile fade into their face like evaporating water. There, then slowly gone, taking another form.
You close your eyes and try to morph yourself into their thoughts, try to put your brain behind their eyes, picture the world as they see it. You try to make sense of their pain, to manifest it into something real, then destroy it with your hands. Smash it until it becomes thousands of tiny salt-grains. Then throw them to the wind.
You wish you could take this person’s hand, pull them back through places and memories. Stop at the childhood swing set, run their hands through the fresh sand. Taste the grit of the lake water, feel the slippery skin of a dolphin, the sticky sweat of a basketball gym.
You try to make them laugh, anything to make them laugh. You love the way their face breaks into smile, like a thin rainbow peeking from behind a storm cloud, like the sunrise behind the trees. You’ll do anything to make them laugh, and never stop laughing.
You keep driving, praying for something, anything. You reach a stop sign, but cannot stop. You feel the tires slipping out from under you. You see the sky, open and stretching to infinity. You feel broken.
Your eyes feel heavy, the bags under them tired from tears. Your chest feels empty, like your heart has slowly been pulled away, vein by vein. You are powerless, in this moment, in every moment with this person. The dust blurs your rearview, the road in front continues on and on. You wish it was as simple as reaching your arm across the center console, grabbing their cold hand in yours. As if your touch could warm them from the inside. As if your touch could patch the wounds they believe they have.
You know they are not broken. You know they are whole, beautiful, strong. Somewhere deep and covered with cobwebs, they know it too. You wish you could peel back these layers, wipe off the smudges with your finger, like cleaning glass, making it shiny and new again. You wish they could see that this road will end, that life will be better, fuller, down and up, cycle around again, never perfect and not always making sense, but okay. Life will be okay.
You lean your head back against the headrest, close your eyes for a second, let the rush of the car pull your body forward. You press the pedal to the floor and scream, as loud as you can. You scream for the words that this person is afraid to say. You scream for the words this person cannot say. And you scream for all the powerlessness you feel. Scream just to do something, to feel something. To speak your own pain into existence. To let it be tangible.
You know your pain will heal. And you keep driving. Driving forward. Praying that somehow, someway, your pain can heal theirs. Show them how much you love them. Fix what you cannot.
An Open Letter to the Song That Saw Me Through My Depression
You never think it’s going to be the last conversation.
I love you to bits and bits, I said. He’d been away from me for ten short nights, and he was coming back to me the next day. We’d just finished saying that a week is too long to spend away from each other.
I love you to the moon and back, he said. And that was it: before I knew it, his plane had landed, and I was back in his arms again.
We were the happiest we’d ever been – living in paradise, working jobs that made us smile all day long. Above all else, we were madly, madly in love. We were intoxicated by each other, laughing and living, barefoot and free.
If only I had known. If I’d known those were the last moments I’d ever be with him, that I’d ever look at him, ever feel his lips on my cheek, ever wake up to him.
And then it happened. The Universe turned on us. It was quick, a gaping tornado that tore its way into my reality and ripped everything I knew away from me. As though the entire Earth shattered, exposing my core to the sharp cold air without apology.
And just like that, he was gone. The tornado left as quickly as it had come, only it took him with it. The love of my life; the piece of me who made me beam with passion and lust and adventure; the man who made me feel alive; my partner; my soulmate.
The worst part about death is its complete normalcy. It knew what it was doing, dropping chaos on me like a slab of concrete. It was natural; it happened as though it was a practiced pain. It’s something that happens everyday.
Sort of the way that we had said to the moon and back to each other.
I was left empty, alone, and terrified of the darkness that began to engulf my entire being. The Universe – whatever cruel and ugly being he, she, it, might be – took him from me, ripped him from my insides out, and dangled me over a cliff with a callous sneer. I hate you, Universe, I hate you, I said.
And the dark veil remained. It stayed longer than I’d planned on letting it. Like a pack of predators waiting to attack, it haunted me as I searched for solace, as the pain eclipsed and enveloped my heart.
To the moon and back, I said to myself, waiting to hear his voice whisper in my ear as he kissed the back of my neck before sleep.
You never think it’s going to be the last conversation.
Until it is.
I love you to the moon and back, he said.
And back again.