Some Things Never Change

I walked to the lake today.

The sun had barely risen, and the world was quiet. Unmoving.

I saw you in every parked car I passed.

Turning the volume down to a respectable level.

Both hands tight on the steering wheel, in the 10-2 formation our mother taught us, that I never listened to, that you never forgot.

Always so cautious. Always so careful.

I couldn’t help but wonder if things would be different had you been less so.

The park was empty, save a few dogs and their owners.

I took a seat by the water, underneath a tree with tangled roots and vines that branched overhead, connecting with the branches of a tree on the other side.

The second tree had a smooth trunk, and strong branches. It seemed to be supporting its twisted sister. Without its weight, what would happen to the skinny vines above me?

Would they fall and bring the whole tree with them? Would the twisted roots be strong enough to stand on their own?

A resounding no was the chorus in my mind. That mangled tree didn’t have a chance on its own.

I focused on the white flowers floating on the lake’s surface, with the same bright petals as the ones I picked out for you on that last day.

My therapist keeps insisting I should talk to you. That you won’t ever really be gone if I keep our conversations alive.

So that’s what I did. Or tried to do.

To be honest, whenever I try it, it feels stupid speaking and receiving no reply.

Because all you ever did when you were here was talk back.

And offer sage wisdom that you swore you made up and didn’t find on a Pinterest board.

How could I keep our conversations alive when a vital part was missing?

So I sat in silence instead, trying to understand how things had gotten to this point.

Where life was no longer you and me. Only me.

And the lake rippled ahead, and looked, all of a sudden, very inviting.

How easy it would be to walk into the water and just keep walking.

Go on and on until the floor fell from beneath me, and my head went under.

I would be free from these thoughts, this grief, this unending despair.

I could’ve done it. I would’ve done it.

Except something happened just then.

What my therapist said would if I only kept trying.

I heard a voice. Your voice.

Telling me how stupid it would be if I did. How useless.

How it would change nothing, save make things worse.

I shook my head, breathed deep, took another look at the lake.

It was just water. Not an escape. Not a release.

And your wiser-than-thou voice said, obviously.

I saw your smile then, and those twinkling brown eyes.

And a sound came from me. A sound I hadn’t made it months.

Laughter.

The sun had risen, and the wind was cool against my tear-stained cheeks, and those twisted roots stood firm beside me.

I laughed and laughed.

And I heard you laugh right back.

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