integrity · letting go · love · recovery

The Cousin.

When I was 19, my brother’s best friend’s cousin (got that?)
came to visit NJ from Ohio. His name was Ben, like my brother, so we just
called him “The Cousin” for clarification.
And, oh, how we fell. I wrote a poem about that too. (pasted
an excerpt below). The cousin and I have been each other’s… well, he’s been my
“if we’re single and 40” contingency plan. I said to him once that if I were
willing to let myself fall into the painting of the white picket fence
with him, I would. We were very good painters.
He was the first (and only) guy to send me flowers on
Valentine’s Day. He sent me a poem about my hair (that it was “everywhere” ~
not like that! ~ like it’s so unruly) and it had little hand-drawn cartoony
pictures of me with my unruly hair. Enclosed was a “self-portrait” he’d done in
Microsoft Paint or something, with a backwards cap, because that’s what 16 year
old boys did back then.
Yes, 16. He was 16; I was 19. Be grossed out – but that’s
how it happened. My best friend dated my brother’s best friend that summer
– of course it was summer – and the 4 of us were a raucus ball of Summer
Lovin’. We had a blast. I was his first. And although it sorta sucks to say, I
think part of what has kept our link for so long is that the fiery kindling of
that summer romance never had time to extinguish. The summer ended, he went
back to Ohio. But for the next five or more years, we kept up semi-regular
correspondence, lots of meandering, poetic, off-kilter emails. Jokes, and
references, and randomness – a randomness that almost, well, it made sense
between us. Our individual off-kilter-ness made sense to each other. We felt
understood; I felt understood. (I’m sure you understand) 😉
Last I visited him was on my drive out to San Francisco in
2006; we had another lovey weekend together – sensitive, understood, silly –
and drunken. Last we were both in New Jersey, I was no longer drunken, and he
couldn’t remember the mildly offensive things he’d said the night before. Then
it’s 2009 and he says maybe he should come out to California … and I tell him
that California didn’t fix me – I had to do a lot of work to get out of the
mess(es) I’d been in. And he says, Oh, and we hang up.
And I hadn’t heard from him in two years … till a month ago.
I was in New Jersey and I get a text from him. He hadn’t
heard that I was in town, he just decided then (cosmic Universe oo-ee-oo sound)
to text me. Remarkably, a “Calling in the One” exercise of that very week was
“Renegotiating Old Agreements.” 
(“Marry you when we’re certain we won’t find anyone else & are done
doing everything else” Agreement ring any bells? ~ cue music again.)
So we talk on the phone the next day, and I play “friendly”
catch-up because, really, what is there to say? … What is there to say when I’m
standing at the threshold of letting go of a promise written in gossamer? How
can I say, I’m getting “over” you. Because that’s not the truth either. I will
always be that 19 year old in NJ August heat in my best friend’s bed with my
hair strewn across his vibrating body. I will always be her, but I will also
always be the every-other-age-woman that I’ve been, including today’s ~ and
that woman is very desperately sorry to disappoint her 19 year old, and to
disappoint The Cousin ~ but I am available for a different kind of love now.
One that isn’t a painting of a picket fence, but one that breathes, is adult,
is still random and off-kilter, but, frankly, is no longer available for “if I
can’t find anything better” ~ because everyone is worth more love than that.
I still have a renegotiating letter to write and likely
burn, ceremony-like. And a potential conversation to have. Or maybe, as has
been suggested to me, a promise written in gossamer will simply fade when I
stop re-writing it.
***
(from “Love Poems”)
There’s a
voicemail I’ve pressed 9 to save for two years—it’s a joke, without preface, 
and he just hangs up when it’s done—and there’s a text poem about a porch and twilight
and hands I can’t yet erase, and there’s him, 16, in August heat, on the bench seat
of my 
dad’s cutlass.
***

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