When we walk into the Old Pine Lounge and I see that expression on your face, I realize that you are not who I think you are. You are not the person I introduced you as, even to myself, you are not the person I talked about to loved ones. When I see your lip curl up like that, even in merriment, I realize that you are a mimeographed articulation of attributes from the man I dated three years ago, the one with whom I never got anything resolved. And I can’t help but wonder if he is the prologue to this relationship or if you are the epilogue to that relationship and where, exactly, this information has been hiding these last three months.
But I do this. I have this need to retrace paths already trampled by my clumsy footfalls, if only in order to be able to say, “Yes. I remember this. I have been here.” And I wonder what I hope to accomplish with all this constant navigation, circling the detritus of memories like a compass in constant rotation, charting out new beginnings until I am lost and dizzy and covered in dust.
And it makes me think about when I was a little girl and I used to spend hours at the table, drawing, head bent, upper lipped chapped in concentration, forests crumpled into balls beneath me, wastepaper basket spilling over with missteps just so I could eventually be able to say, “Look Dad. No eraser marks.” How that mattered. A lot. How I wove that cadence into the sound and step of every movement that followed, like a watermark beneath the surface of my thoughts.
And when I think about how it has altered the course of things, like tectonic plates that shape currents from the surface of the earth, it makes me think about Thomas. About how one day, when he was sitting in my lap, I realized how clear his eyes were, like undisturbed water, and how uncharted he was. And it made me start to think about how careful I would have to be in order to not mark him. Because when I thought about all the marks that had been left on me, and all the clumsy paths I had trodden, it made me afraid for him. And not because I would want to hurt him, but because I might not know how to not. You can’t crumple up a five year old boy and start over.
So I tread softly around him. So softly, in fact, that one day I realized he might not be able to see me anymore, that you could mark somebody with your absence as loudly as you could with your force, that this vein of fear I carried around in the centre of all of my movements was just a moat for all the quiet reasons that had built a wall around my heart and left me too afraid to leave any sort of mark upon the world, just in case somebody got hurt.
And when I saw Thomas play the songs and games I had taught him, I realized everything that I had missed out on when I was too preoccupied with the idea that I was the teacher, instead of the other way around. What he showed me was that he never lost sight of me, even amidst my fears and absences, that he never lost faith in the idea that I was navigating him somewhere, wherever that was. And that when someone is lost and dizzy and covered in dust you draw their outlines in for them, even if you have to leave some eraser marks.