I don’t want to get out of bed. The silk sheets have warmed to me, the dogs are in their beds, content. There’s nothing that says I have to get up. You turn off your alarm, sit up, stretch. Take your meds from the nightstand and go to the closet in the barest of dawn light that comes through our thick of trees this early in the morning.
“Love you,” I say to you in the dark.
“Love you more,” you whisper back.
I listen to you fill your water bottle and close your office door. The sounds of the start of another of our days.
I pull myself out of bed, no one to report to beyond the two dogs who want to go out. They need to pee, but also, they need to complete the first squirrel patrol and they might even get to chase a Robin. In and out we go, then to the coffee. I haven’t brushed hair or teeth, but the coffee is a priority. I know you’ll need it to get through another morning of meetings. I can hear you on the line now across the kitchen from behind your closed office door, answering questions.
When the coffee is brewed and the call has ended, I grab our two mugs from the cupboard. I pick ones that are matchy adjacent – blue thrown pottery, one with a white rabbit, one with a bearded braided Viking – and I pour yours first. It’s the easier one, just black, no sugar, no cream. I open your door with mug in hand and dogs in tow and we bring you your coffee. A quick chat in your room with gorgeous views of our forest yard and extra heat from the server equipment in the closet. We say good morning. You say you need breakfast. You love on the dogs.
As I leave, you give another “I love you.”
“I love you more,” I say back as I close the door.
I love you. I love you more. The argument we’ve had for nearly twenty years will continue throughout the day. By the time I climb back into the silk sheets that you don’t love but tolerate because you love me, we’ll probably have said it close to fifty times. It’s a reminder in each direction that this thing we have is still there, and neither of us is running away yet.
Such a shaky word that is; yet. I’m not going anywhere, and I don’t worry you are either. Not to any real degree. But human hearts are nothing if not vulnerable, and ours are no different. That vulnerability comes up through the rest of our day with repeated questions: Do you love me? Are you certain that you love me? Do you love me forever? Questions asked and reassurances given, back and forth, a piece of comfort in our normal day. Do you love me? I love you. I love you more.
Dark matter lives inside of me.
It’s a midnight colored spiral that moves from mind to heart to bowels.
It is a staircase for the dark set of emotions that travels with impunity throughout my every day.
It pulls negativity and despair to center where they high-five over chants of “Give up.” “Give in” and “Girl, You don’t got this.”
It celebrates every time I give in, and I do give in, and I do give up. Often times feeling the weight of those footsteps stomping up and down that internal staircase like tantruming children, waiting for someone to pay attention to their taunts. Needing someone to acknowledge their naughtiness, their existence.
The Dark matter exists.
It is real.
It is a reality.
It fights for it’s spot on my stage, sucking out every glimmer from the spotlight it demands until the audience can no longer tell if the performance is going on or if the heavy velvet curtains have been pulled.
Do we applaud now?
Is it over?
But it’s never really over.
I could accept accolades from a thousand loving hearts.
I could throw my arms around a thousand lovers.
I could bask in the glow of a thousand suns.
It wouldn’t matter.
Thor and his mighty hammer couldn’t knock this staircase down and close off its dark entrance to my heart.
The staircase will spiral through me, just as certain as the sun will shine on me. Just as certain as the moon will pull through me. And I will listen to those stompy footfalls until my last day when my eyes finally close.
You cannot conquer time. W.H. Auden told me that one day in his poem read in an English class, and I whole heartedly agreed. It was the truest statement I think I had ever heard, put into a poem that has lived on, through all this time, as one of my favorites. I’d always believed that time and death were connected since I was a kid, and I knew we were all running out of it from the moment we were born. I also knew there was nothing to be done about it. Time and his friend Death come for us all, and no amount of bargaining will deter them. I wrote about it when I was eleven in a cheesy little poem that I can still recite today.
Death is scary and mysterious
Strikes at any time
For different reasons, and in different seasons
It worries everyone’s mind
But death will soon come to everyone
And everyone will die
Because death is just another part of life
Yup, that’s the poem. Even eleven-year-old me was angsty and death obsessed, and a lot of that angst was related to the amount of time I thought I had. The amount of time others I loved had. And the crushing understanding that no matter what, just like the House in Vegas, Time in the end always wins.
My great grandma had that poem in my little kid handwriting stuck to her bedroom wall with a push pin. I knew I was going to lose her when I hung it there with the folded origami shirt I’d pinned next to it. I knew I wasn’t going to be ready, but she let me know she was, and I held onto that. In her raspy, ex-smoker’s voice she told me she was dying. I denied it. She told me she was tired, and she was ready, and she was irritated they wouldn’t let her put sugar on her strawberries. I understood that last bit. She always made the best strawberries and I’d go back in time for her to mke me one more sticky-sweet bowl of the sweet berries from her garden. But Time doesn’t play that game.
When Time and his friend Death came for my great grandma, my mother read my Death poem at her funeral. I was thirteen by then, and it was the first funeral I’d ever attended. I remember that moment and the service that seemed to go on forever. A man I didn’t know talking and talking about a woman he didn’t really know either. He mumbled on, trying to bring some sort of meaning to a death that was, of course, as inevitable as they all are.
From the moment we first breathe, Time starts our countdown, and most of us live blissfully unaware of when that clock will ring for us. No matter what we do with the time we have – whether we use it wisely or waste it. Whether we live gracefully or imbibe with the gluttons – we cannot stop it. We might not hear them but the clocks through the cities whir and chime and Death walks towards all of us, holding hands with her friend Time.