tempest-tossed

The moment I knew that which I could not say to him was the moment I stopped asking for certitude or progression and accepted what was as enough: that on the night of the storm we walked under one umbrella and he asked me to slow up my gait; that I tried to step into the rhythm of his breath and found comfort in the warmth of his arm. Beneath the eaves of a rusty tin roof we watched street puddles scatter and catch light until he said, Let’s go, and we turned in the same direction. Later, when we filled our mismatched crockery with rice cakes and tea and laid them on the floor, where we sat surrounded by his books, I felt like home. We listened to the radio as he showed me pictures from a summer years ago, and we laughed as the storm surged on, because we didn’t as yet know all that it would reave.

The storm has gone and he has taken off in its wake, picking up pieces of what it has broken. A week has slipped by like a separate life. I run through the after-hours in disquietude, trafficking between stoicism and obsession, yearning and grief, unable to process all that has come to pass. How does one process homes and cities folding in a matter of hours, friends missing and families separated, massive counts of persons dead, displaced, or disappeared? How does one process tales of the thousands starving and injured, setting up makeshift hovels by the roadside littered with debris and the decomposing bodies of their neighbors and loved ones, without food, water, medicine, fuel, or even dry clothes, for days? For days! How does one process the absolute repercussions of a fleeting storm, the knowledge that for so many people, nothing will ever be okay?

And how do I process the realization of my own narrowness, the shameful particularity with which I marshal concern, for the depth of my disquietude stems from this: that he is there, tired, sleepless, possibly suffering.  That he is there, and though I hold on to the things he left—a poem scribbled on the back of a photograph, a receipt, a question passed over in silence—he may not want or be able to come back for them.

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