All That’s Lit To Print

To Whom I Do (and Did) Not Love

By Cecilia Williams


Right now, it's the middle of the night. I'm lying in bed. I'm listening to City of Stars and brushing my hair. It's splayed across my pillow and I'm reaching over my head to get to it. It's beginning to become uncomfortable because my arm is cramping. My eyes are flickering. I'm on the cloud-edge of unconsciousness. You are dead.

Let me pause a second here to analyze that word. It's almost a sort of onomatopoeia: it lays there, cold and congealed on my laptop screen. As I hesitate on the mist-cliff of sleep, it weighs down my hip and tilts me back. That word is like a body to me: it is dense and undeveloped and vaguely malignant. And cold. I hate the cold, Andrew. I wonder what state your body is in—I know it's cold, but is it also like that word? Disjointed? Is your skin all gone? Your hair? How many calories have worms taken from you? How many calories are left on you? Are you only units? Calories (calorie + calorie + calorie) and molecules (molecule + molecule + molecule) and atoms (atom + atom + atom)? Is there no equal sign? In life, you were an equation—in death, an expression? God, if you had ever read that you'd tell me that I'm such a cliché nerd. I am. The weirdest part is that electrons still spin in each atom of your body. The atoms are alive; an arithmetic series. (n1 + n2 +n3…) See, melodramatic nerd. I even feel obliged to point out that the chemical bonds, both polar and nonpolar, are eerie: which bonds are broken now? Which bond was the equal sign?

Some child will read from molecules that were once your hands, Andrew. A boy, one day, in a million years, will kiss the molecules that your sophomore-year sweetheart once kissed. No one will remember the bearer of those molecules, though. How does it feel to be a footnote of a footnote of a footnote in the Churchillian-ly lengthy annals of humanity? I do not want to be that. I want the title page, Andrew. We were so different—it makes sense that we'd choose different lives. It even kind of makes sense that, just as you meandered—knowing and yet passive—through life, you meandered into what appeared to be a choice. I wish that I believed that you had chosen: that you made a list of pros and cons and planned, but I doubt you did. (I wish you had chosen because—if you didn't choose—then what's to protect me?)

I am writing this letter with selfish motives. (When am I not selfish?) I write this to ask for your absolution, because yours is the only one that counts. Everyone else, those therapists (the-rapists of the mind) and psychologists (psycho-logists) who told me you were selfish and it wasn't my fault are wrong—wrong to tell me anything at all: it isn't their place to absolve me because I shirked my responsibility to you, not to them. It's my fault. I don't wish you to take that away from me, for that is a little part of your footnote. Your footnote is my hands in Morgan's when she says, every week, that she wants to die. Your footnote is the sparkle-emojis I send to Evan every day during calculus when I know he feels like a letdown. Your legacy is my shame, but your legacy gave birth to my kindness. Perhaps your legacy is Morgan's life and Evan's giggle. (I know you never knew him, but he really does giggle. It's incredibly amusing.)

(City of Stars has just looped for what is probably the tenth or eleventh time. I should change the music, but that would involve moving my left arm, and I'm very close to falling asleep. I think I'll let it play again.)

Andrew, tell me you don't hate me for crying over physics homework instead of over you. (Did you ever take physics? I guess not. I am older than you ever were, you know. That's so weird.) I wish I knew that you wouldn't hate me for doing my hair for an hour yesterday morning or deliberating for two on the proper emoji to send to my latest crush. Is it, Andrew, wrong to waste my time?

This is one of those times when I look at some of our friends and my eyes go green because they have God to turn to. They believe that you can see me writing this and will send me a sign of your love, regardless of the fact that we never loved each other: we weren't that close.

They get to believe that you walk on golden streets with those who did love you, and that you walk with everyone because everyone loves everyone (or, something like that). All I believe is that you walked in front of that train by Tpumps and now you are being forgotten, person by person, as we dance and learn to drive stick and go to college and kiss and cry for other, trivial reasons. (E=mc^2 is worth a few tears, I might add.)

I cannot promise you my life will be one of daily rituals or constant grief—that would defeat my ambition to be on the title page of history—but I will give you these cloud-moments, these moments when air is liquid and I am floating. I pledge these moments to you, friend whom I do (and did) not love.


© 2017, All That's Lit To Print