By B.L. Makiefsky
You were trying to quit. I just got started. I reached into your front pocket where you kept the loose cigarettes we had bought at Woodward’s. You wore a flannel shirt and no bra. The same flannel shirt you usually wore. The same no-bra. What if you had told me not to touch you? That you weren’t ready? But you didn’t. Not then. Not before. They sold a lot of things at that general store. Milk, chicken feed, cowboy boots, saddles. We walked past the lit and deserted fairgrounds, the empty stables, up the hill that overlooks town and shared the first cigarette on an outcropping where we sat. Took off our shoes, dangled our feet over the edge of the cliff. Kicking, barefoot, into the unknown. Your thin, but muscular calves, like sticks of chalk. All of town sparkled in the valley below us. All the stars of the desert night above. A man could make a lot of wishes on those stars.
I wished I hadn’t laughed when you said to call you Change Windsong, a name that spoke to the sorrows you endured and life you now celebrated. I wished you hadn’t trusted me. I wished your ex wasn’t crazy, and your young son didn’t have to share the one bed with you in your small cabin attached to the wood shop. I wished your father hadn’t abused you. I wished my mother would like you. I wished I didn’t look at you with two faces. Smiling and terrified. I wished I wasn’t lost, and the gravity of memory pressing down on us with its pinholes of light showed me a path. I wished the Midwest didn’t pull me back to the center, and that when I found myself in your arms, they were enough. I wished a star would fall, a sign. I wished that however long I waited on this star—a moment or millennium—its burning light held meaning. I wished your old Volvo would last. I wished I wouldn’t have said, each time I left you, I loved you. And I wished I had loved you, without first having to leave. I wished I had the courage to say nothing. I wished you had said no. I wished that each star didn’t beg with all its glamor to be a door to somewhere else. I wished there were more stars, and wishes came true. A bad habit, you said, when I had asked you for a cigarette that night when the ex pulled into the driveway with your boy, our ankles pinned in the twist of your blankets, the sound of his tires on the loose gravel stirring us awake.
I wished I could have stopped crying this morning. I wished I understood what part of me you reached, this wellhead you tripped. You and Daisy had returned from a workshop in L.A. on trigger point therapy. The two of you asked me if you might put into practice new techniques you learned. “No pressure,” Daisy said, and we laughed. I thought I was in safe hands. She, a chiropractor, and you, a massage therapist. I was on your table, face down, nude from the waist up. I felt your hands, mostly. I wish I knew what happened. My spine tingled, my heart ripped, my soul laid bare. Afterward you comforted me, held me, and said that muscles have memory. That our bodies are shaped by pressures, more than we can know, and carved up like the earth when the glaciers retreated. That we’re all tear stained, on the rebound, bending toward the light.
Tonight I wish it were so.