gratitude · loss · love · relationships





The Cousin, of teenage fame and love unquenched, is getting
The Cousin (cousin of my brother’s best friend) and I had a
long-running on-again-across-oceans-again relationship begun when we were teenagers.
I found his photo recently when I was clearing out my “g-d box” of items taken care of by time and fate, and those still remaining in an
unresolved stasis. I didn’t put his photo back in the box, unresolved though I felt it to be — For the last month
or so, it’s sat by my jewelry box, the image of 16-year-old innocence and a complexity masked by his easy grin. I’ve spoken to it, asked it where he was,
if he was happy, what he was doing, if he thought of me, if we were through.
Last we’d truly spoken, I’d confessed that his moving to
California to join me was likely not a solution to the untethered life he was
looking to escape. California didn’t save me, I told him on the phone the night
of our last conversation. I had to do a lot of work for that to happen.
Our previous dreams of running away together, of his coming
to California with me when I initially moved, that painting of the white picket
fence that was more fantasy than reality, the painting of a life I wanted to
fall into with him, but knew was not supported by truth… All this was crushed
when I told him, No, you can’t move here to escape your life.
Years passed. There was one phone call, miraculously
coincidentally when I was home in New Jersey in 2011, clearing out my childhood
home before the house was sold. A fitting time to call, as I packed up a
childhood, and all its experiences. It was where we met, in fact — in my living
room, with my brother, his best friend, and his cousin, visiting from Ohio.
The brevity of that initial visit, a summer of love, to be
sure, meant that there wasn’t a foundation of reality to build upon, a life to support
our connection. And in that house, a few years ago, I packed up the life of the
person who’d fallen so passionately and deeply in love — as well and as messily
as a 19-year-old can do.
Our phone call wasn’t long. It was more a confirmation that we’d
allowed the strains of time and place corrode the thread that connected us.
But, I’ve never felt complete with that ending.
And so, his photo remained in the “to be resolved” pile in
my mental hopper, and for the last month, on my dressing table: his cheeky grin,
dark mess of hair, lips that rival a female porn star’s.
And that’s how I recognized him when I saw his photo put up
on Facebook yesterday by his aunt.
Time had changed him. His hair receded, cut short long ago
for a military life he chose when he couldn’t move here.
But his lips are the same. That pouting lower lip I
clung onto for hours. That framed his eager smile, formed his caressing
words, and confessed his inner demons.
And he looks happy. On a hilltop in Hawaii with another
woman. Someone who is available to make him happy, who can be there on his
journey when I can’t be, since I can’t be.
That’s our conclusion, then. It’s not the final phone
call I make to congratulate, to plant another seed or water a long-dead one. I
am not saint or enlightened enough to not want to love him still, but I am wise
enough to know we can’t – in the present, in reality.
So, I can put it here. I can write my gratitude for his
finding happiness, what I’ve really wanted for him, no matter my personal
desires. I can put here that I am glad to see him alive, well, experiencing
life. That this conclusion is fitting, acceptable, and perhaps a happy one.
But I can also put here this conclusion ends a chapter that has
spanned nearly half my life, has fed me great happiness, and has let me
experience a connection with another human that I thought eluded me – I can put
here that as I turn the page on “us,” I pack up that painting of the white
picket fence with a mournful finality.

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