Did He Fall or Did He Jump?
The first boy, who I ever loved, fell out of a window. I remember the moment I found out. I was at an art fair. A group of friends was gathered together, watching me as I approached.
I’m glad now, that I kissed him. We hadn’t been together at the time, but I’d loved him my whole life. My boyfriend broke up with me for it but now that Peter’s been gone for thirty years, I don’t regret it.
We lived in another world, Peter and I. We planned to get married when we were five years old. I remember everything about him. His narrow green eyes, his floppy blond surfer hair, his high cheekbones, his long fingers. I remember him from when he was a child and I remember him from when was a man.
At seven, we thought of ourselves as adults. We had adult plans. His mother disappeared sometimes to get herself together. I don’t know what kind of place she went to. The words always were Mary went away to get herself together.
In my child’s mind and in my adult one, I imagined the place as an enormous, intimidating, institutional, brick building with benches spaced out behind a walled-in lawn. I imagined Mary sitting on a bench, looking out, waiting to feel better.
Mary was flamboyant, larger than life, ginger-haired, green-eyed like him, beautiful, too beautiful, a magnet for chaos and madness. When she went away, Peter stayed with us. That’s how I remember it, that I was his protector.
We were in love when we were young, but then his mother took him away and left the country. I don’t remember if he said goodbye. I don’t think so. It was like he was airlifted out of my life.
The way I remember it, even knowing how fallible memory is now, was that I walked to his house one day and he was gone.
When he came back fifteen years later, time became an accordion. I couldn’t differentiate between the past from the present. All the chords in between were woven together, our disparate lives became one instrument. We were fused and everyone around us was the chorus.
I’d never been so public about how important a person was to me before Peter. Normally, I was secretive about my life, but with him, I let everyone know what we were to each other. Ours was a love that was more than love. We dated other people, but there was a shell around us.
I lied at his funeral, to his mother. I wanted her to smile. She had a beautiful smile and she had his eyes like he had hers. I told her the strangest lie. I said that when I asked Peter to help with the dishes, he threw them away. She laughed because it was totally in range of believable. Peter had no idea how people lived in this world.
He once asked me, one late night we sat up, drinking wine, smoking and reminiscing, “How are you so ok? How are you so normal? How did you figure out how to do that?”
I was so broken at the time, but so much less broken than him. We laid beside each other for the remainder of the night and just kissed. We had been children together. Anything more than a kiss seemed like it would wash away our childhood.
At his funeral, I smoked in front of my mother for the first and last time. Nothing mattered. Peter was dead.
When he first returned, after all those years, the perspective of my life shifted. Time folded. He came back like a storm rolls in. He promised to hurt or kill anyone who had ever hurt me since he had left.
That wasn’t the kind of world I lived in, but he was a place. We were both places to each other, hoping to draw the other one into our own narrative. He made me wilder. I made him tamer. Nobody won.
People were there when it happened, but no one could tell me whether he jumped, or fell, or was pushed out by one of his volatile friends, but that was the end of our story. I don’t like knowing the beginning and the end of things.
I knew as soon as I saw him again that he came with an expiration date, that I wouldn’t be able to keep him. I just wanted to bask in the middle a little while longer, stretch out our time, like an accordion whose bellows are fully open.