July 11, 2010
I did something really bad.
Actually, I’m doing something really bad. I didn’t know at first, I promise I didn’t know. I don’t know why I’m trying to defend myself to you-- it’s not like you’re coming home any minute.
I’m sorry if that sounded angry. I’m not angry with you. Not anymore at least. I used to be. You left when I was so young. It haunts me, after all this time, the way I felt when I realized you weren’t coming home. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the drop of my stomach, the coldness that settled over me, like someone had drained all the blood from my body and just left my skin behind. I remember Dad, staring at the phone for hours when you didn’t come home. When I asked him where you were, he said, “Don’t worry. She’ll be home any minute.”
Do you know that he never even told me that you were dead? He got a call late at night when he thought I was asleep. That was the only time I’ve ever seen Dad cry, and it’s only because he didn’t know I was watching. The next morning, life continued as usual. He was in meetings and taking calls like they weren’t pulling your body up from the bottom of the lake. I felt like you had taken me with you when you jumped.
He never told me. He never said the words. Sometimes, I still wake in a cold sweat and hear his voice ringing in my ears, telling me that you’ll be home any minute.
I met a woman. I just spent a full five minutes sitting here, trying to think of some way to transition more smoothly, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. There’s actually something oddly fitting about jumping straight from my twisted nightmares into the fact that I met this woman. I’m not really sure how many details I should give you about her because I don’t know how much daughters tell their mothers about the women they meet. I’m also afraid because this is the only way that I’ll ever get to introduce women to you, and I want you to like her.
That might not be a completely true statement, actually. I don’t know if I want you to like her because I don’t really want to like her. You know that I’ve never been good at following the rules. At least I think you do. Maybe before you left, I was better. I don’t know. I wanted to be good for you. I want to be good for you.
Her name is Rose. We met in a bar on the 4th of July when I wasn’t drinking. She has the most gorgeous hair, shiny and soft and red and smooth until it gets wet, and then it’s all curly and somehow even more beautiful. She has blue eyes and a smile that takes the wind out of you and the kind of body that sculptors make shrines to. She’s whip-smart and confident. She’s funny too, but not in the way you expect her to be. Her sense of humor is completely childish and ridiculous and frustratingly endearing. She thinks puns and pick up lines are genuinely funny. She told me a knock knock joke, Mom. A knock knock joke.
She’s the kind of woman that seems too good to be true, and she is, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We talked and then we went to the pool and… adult activities ensued? I feel a little weird writing to my dead mother about the sex I’m having, but I can’t not talk about it because… holy shit… that woman’s tongue? I’m just gonna leave it at that because I don’t want to look back down at this page in half an hour and discover I’ve written erotica for my mother.
Anyway, it was just a one night stand. No matter how much I wanted it to be something more, that was all it was. She was gone before I woke up in the morning and she didn’t leave a number or anything except a package of powdered sugar donuts for breakfast. Imagine my surprise when I went to a family dinner that night and met Dad’s girlfriend. Rose.
It should have ended there. I made an honest mistake. Rose, well I don’t know how honest of a mistake it was for her. She told me that she “needed to be with a woman one last time”, which would’ve been a more convincing line if she hadn’t been making eyes at me across the table all night.
Dad’s planning to propose to her. We’ve been through this enough times by now that I know when he’s getting close. He likes her, but he looks at her the way he looks at all of his wives. All except you.
I think I might’ve lied when I said earlier that I wasn’t angry with you. I am angry, filled with this all-consuming rage because this isn’t supposed to be what life is like. Rose will be his fifth wife. But I can’t be angry with a dead woman for being mentally ill, so I’m angry at myself. I’m angry that the first woman I feel something for in so long is Dad’s girlfriend and I’m angry that Dad’s dating a woman that isn’t you and I’m angry that Dad doesn’t take me seriously and I’m angry that Rafael won’t look me in the eye anymore and I’m angry that everyone handles me like I’m going to shatter into a million pieces or climb onto a bridge in the middle of the night and kill myself.
Rose and I slept together again.
Do you remember the way you felt about Dad when you first met him? I don’t really know the whole story. I mean, I know the story, but I don’t know your side. I only know Dad’s, and you know how he is. I had to press him for months to get him to tell me, and he wouldn’t even say your name. He told me that he first saw you on the side of the road, gliding by the beach in your hot pink roller skates. You were the prettiest girl he’d ever seen.
That’s how I feel about Rose. Except replace hot pink roller skates with the sexiest dress you’ve ever seen.
I miss you.
July 11, 2024
I found her.
I’m sure you remember the letter I wrote to you after Rose faked her own death two years ago. Maybe if you were still here, you would’ve tried to talk sense into me after I wrote that letter. I’m sure I sounded… I’m sure no one would’ve believed me if I told them she was still alive. But I saw this woman’s hands, and they did not have Rose’s freckles. Rose could’ve so easily tattooed freckles onto this woman, but she didn’t. She wanted me to know that she was still alive.
It was when I’d finally stopped looking for her that it happened. I’ve spent the last five years having small heart attacks every time a redhead passes me on the street, every time a woman with curly hair bumps into me in the grocery store. I saw her everywhere, all the time. In passing cars, restaurants, magazines, I would catch a glimpse that would make my heart stop for a moment and then pound for hours afterward.
I thought she didn’t want me anymore.
Being with Rose taught me that there is a difference between loving someone and wanting them. (Being with Rose also taught me how to forge an identity and outsmart international security, but that isn’t quite as relevant right now.) You can love someone with every fiber of your being and still not want to be with them. I knew Rose loved me. Sometimes love just isn’t enough.
I was at the market today in Barcelona and I heard her voice. After hearing her voice everywhere for the past two years, I didn’t believe it was her until I looked up. She was right there on the other side of the stand, buying nectarines in a sundress like she’d stepped right out of my dreams.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I turned a street corner and you were there. I have all these ideas about who you were in my head, but I’ve got this crippling fear that I have no idea who you actually were. What if you are nothing like I remember? What if I’ve been remembering it wrong all these years, and you have four freckles on your left cheek instead of three? What if I’ve created this version of you in my head to tell myself what I wanted to hear and when I met you, there would be you and then this version of you that I’ve created to get by?
I held Rose.
I was moving toward her before I could even comprehend her. I was halfway to her before she saw me and I couldn’t breathe and then she was in my arms and I was sobbing in the middle of the market while her nectarines rolled beneath our feet.
I think I get it now.
Dad never told me you had died. He never said the words. I always thought he was trying to shield me in his own strange way, that he thought I was too young to be able to handle the news. I thought he had decided I was too fragile, that it would be better if he just went on living and then I would follow by example. But that wasn’t it at all, was it?
I think he was still waiting for you.
He was still seeing you in the streets and groceries stores and passing cars and restaurants and magazines. His heart was still stopping and then pounding for hours afterward. He was still hearing your voice everywhere, imagining you on street corners, deciding what he was going to say when he saw you again.
Rose is sitting on the bed beside me. She’s wearing a sundress and eating a bruised nectarine. I’ve never loved her more.