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(if love is dirt then i am buried)

A story written by Carlisle Sargent.



Ten miles underground, buried. Next to a couple books whose chapters I used to thoughtlessly crease the pages of and whose spines I used to break, next to an old hairbrush and some ratty jeans and next to a gentle, sterile insistence on independence and degenerative freedom. For a couple years after the current melted into the past, I was mean. I can admit that now. It was a fearful mean, but mean is mean. And I was mean. And I mean that, apologetically, because today I am not so mean. I am so different, and the reason doesn’t elude me like it often has. For a while, the inside of my body was an emotional dispensary that allowed me both entrance and escape to a number of people whose names I might nearly soon forget, and I drew reason and choice from that. But now I draw from dirt.

If every night, I was able to trace the line of your hips against the sheets on your bed, I would never sleep. I sleep now so that I can wake up and hear your voice, and am most grateful when it is sighing, in love, in the corner of my ear. Once in a city where I felt very sure of myself - I thought I saw you. It’s not anything I would admit because the irony and perfection of it is nauseating. Of course it would be you that I would mistakenly see. Of course it would be the person I ended up falling in love with (isn’t it always) (and when I think about it now, of course it wasn’t you that I saw: your hair is a much richer brown and your shoulders are more leveled and your ankles, I know, would have been exposed). Does that fake memory prove the reliance I have always had on your existence? I think of your life before me as a hypothetical, and I give permission for you to do the same for mine. Play-acting. As if all of our previous memories were just a game that the universe and karma were playing with each other, flirting, continuing to escalate, until one of the two finally insisted that the two of us try to meet again, but more carefully.

And I am careful. Because what if I hadn’t traveled to Colorado and Wyoming to heal from the damage I did to myself? With some sad (and belated) clarity, what if I hadn’t thought about my ex ever again? What if you had stayed in love without me? What if we never sat on the roof in college? What if I really did make up the memory of my face in your hands, and had never thought about you again once our paths uncrossed? What if you never answered me? I am careful because precision was once my adversary, and now the steps I take are so purposeful. They keep walking me closer to you.

I grew up with an ache inside of me. I have written about it for so many years, have tried to rid myself of it, have tried to ignore it. I have hidden it in other people, so undeserving, because of the enormity of something I saw as unfixable. You have the ache too, but it’s different. And maybe it’s more. But part of why we fit is this: we’ve both fought and won, fought and lost, and fought for nothing. We take care of each other in empty spaces - where there isn’t room for anything but two hearts and eight million secrets. Did you know there is freedom in necessity? I am learning.

Last night, after you fell asleep, I snuck down the ladder and stepped outside the little cabin to see the sky one last time. But I quickly missed you and came back inside and laughed in spite of myself. You compete (and win) against the fucking milky way.

And, I predict, in ten years, hearing your heart peacefully beat at night will still be more religious than the celestial universe is to me.

And in one hundred years, you will be the universe: a small piece of it, in its entirety.

And I will love you still, without pain or question.

Buried, even then.