Mr. Sandman

O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.

–  W. H. Auden

I do the worst harm to the one I love the most. The dreams crafted with crayon and glitter begin to crack. His flavor sours. His voice slips off key. I fidget under my sheets and try to sink back to the breathless place. I lift my eyes to the receding ceiling, carve a hole, and slip out without looking back.
Flight and stars. I careen over rooftops. This works until it doesn’t. Gravity always wins.
Nearing the middle of life, only now I am waking up?
In the half-place where I still squeeze my eyes shut and cling, I feel the grit against my shoulder, against my scuffed shin. I finally achieved flight, and yet I lay there with my wings limp on the earth and think, That’s it? That’s all it is?
He will never be better than the man he is right now. I am what I have become. It is this, not the next thing. Not the up there, out there, over there. Not door number two, three, or four.
This. Right here.
The moon does not bend to us. The night is not a swelling sea. He does not tuck jewels under my ribs. I do not hear the choir sing.
Does anyone else here hate the lover for this betrayal?
The abuse of disabuse. We are all battered. Notions no one ever named out loud (silver sprites and dappled light) reveal themselves as a worn felt hat. A trick deck. All face cards, an overabundance of Queens of Hearts.
Enchantment lingers, the coin tossed 100 times until the bets are off. Until the game is over. Forfeit? No, just bored with it. The aged ones are ready to move on. Their loves are pedestrian arrangements. We believed ourselves so much better. I will never speak so cruelly to my beloved. We will never sit in opposite corners of the house chasing down our solitary pleasures.
We believed ourselves truer.
At least I did.
Do I admit it now?
I hid the third dimension. He was satisfied with the point and line and didn’t lift the corner to feel around underneath. I tilted. He failed.
The angles were off. The roof gave way.
I re-wrote history. I razed the love I must (surely) have once occupied. I used a wrecking ball. Then an x-acto knife.
I claimed it was the wind and poor calculation.
How could I have possibly believed it would be easier without the lean-to we had erected? What did I think would be here outside our feeble shelter?
The fantasy fulfilled? Dreams in flesh at last?
Foolish girl. It is just exactly what was there before only without the micrometer of certainty to keep the storms at bay. Only with a lot more toil. Only truth (for what it’s worth).

And surely in time we will start to confront the failures of understanding and the disenchantment familiarity brings. In time we will face the knowledge of what we can never, never expect from one another.

– Judith Viorst, Necessary Losses

Waking up is not without pain. Nevertheless, raw skin and all, it beats the alternative.


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