There were so many nights I dreamed of his death, and woke up full of sadness. They were only dreams. But when I looked at his face in the light of my waking life, all I could feel was grief.
Some part of me was preparing to let go. Some part of me was protecting itself from the agony of goodbye, the kind that never gets any easier. Some part of me knew things wouldn’t get better. There was real reason to grieve.
The loneliness of his pain was unreachable, but still I held out my arms, grasping. Still, I longed to save him from things that no one could save him from. This is how I discovered how deeply I could love. I would have carried all of his hurt for him, if only he had been able to let me.
But that’s not how we’re built, and that’s not how life is, and so all I could do was keep believing in a future I knew would never come. It wasn’t faith. It was less than hope. It was more like a comfortable lie, the kind we wrap ourselves in to keep warm when the world becomes too cold to bear, the kind that keeps us alive.
There was nothing left to do but pretend. Pretend he wasn’t drowning in his own body. Pretend I wasn’t screaming, and grasping, and dying a little bit more each time I couldn’t save him. Pretend there was no reason for anger or grief. Pretend we could all reach the other side unharmed. Pretend there was another side to be reached.
And I loved him enough to believe in the impossible. I loved him enough to build an imaginary future and live inside that story. I loved him enough to keep pretending that love could be enough.
But it wasn’t. Or at least, it hasn’t been. And when you can no longer wrap yourself in the warmth of a comfortable lie, all that is left is the cold sting of reality, the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night, breathless and full of sadness, grasping for covers.
The night before the last time I saw him, I had a dream that he died. I dreamed I arrived at his house and found him dead in his sleep. I dreamed I sat beside him and wept. I dreamed of telling people the news. I dreamed of the funeral. I dreamed of the words I wished I had told him before it was too late. I woke up crying.
And when I got to his house in the light of my waking life, and found him still alive, I couldn’t wait to tell him all of the words I still had time to say. But when I opened my mouth to speak, he turned to look at me. And he was gone. And I could see it. And we couldn’t keep pretending anymore.
And I couldn’t find a single word to bring him back. And so I said “I love you” and tried to really mean it. And tried to believe it could, somehow, be enough.
And all I could feel was grief.