by beth loster
there's a sadness that comes over me when i realize my partner is right now doing something life changing without me.
he's taking his flight test to become a pilot for a small airline. he's starting a new career, after seven years in the army with three tours in iraq, and then some subsequent years of floundering through meaningless classes and jobs hawking shitty carpets to people, who couldn't afford even shitty carpets. he's finding his way back from lost, like we all are. he's in another state, in a city i've only stopped in once to pee and eat a dry sandwich. he's staying with a friend i've never met, on a street i've never seen, in a bed that is not ours.
i add st. louis' weather to my phone, so i have some semblance of connection to his experience. i'm unsure of how else to relate. i'm glad the weather will be nice for your flight, i say. as if that meant anything. it's all i know how to say. otherwise it's all acronyms and monosyllabic names of men i can't keep straight. i'm already so baffled by his absence that i can't even begin to process all of the acronyms and names. the weather i can understand.
i think of the writing i did once years ago in college, which is now, inexplicably, over 11 years ago. i was asked to write about a poem. any poem. i chose one of rilke's i'd latched on to even earlier in my career as a depressive. sometime in high school, when rilke's letters to a young poet was my anthem. a single sentence, even then, stood out to me.
for we need, in love, to practice only this; letting each other go. for holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
i wrote and wrote about that sentence. i wrote until i was spiraling, nonsensical, just a repetition of letters and sounds. i knew it was important, but i didn't quite yet understand it. so i just let myself feel and allowed myself to ride each idea that emerged.
i didn't edit an ounce of it out. my teacher loved it. i got an A+.
then, already, i knew. i knew this would be my challenge.
i do not have commitment issues. i don't lack dedication. i don't need grounding.
i need, instead, to let a little bit of that go.
or a lot, rather. really, really, a lot.
i need to let things be free. i need to unleash. unfurl. expand. i need eight thousand percent less of everything. i need ease.
let it go.
what does it feel like to let it go?
it feels like tonight. it feels like coming home to just myself for the third day in a row and the potential terror, not of solitude, but of not nic. does nic still love me if he's gone?
before he left the first time, i asked and asked. will you miss me? will you be so sad without me? will you cry bitter tears in my absence? i say it in jest. i make it hyperbolic to shed the gravity of my feeling behind it, to make it okay to hear no, because i didn't care anyway. i say something about romance. romance is not a word i attach to or care about, but it's so ingrained in me that i feel like i have to offer it up, like i'm supposed to want it. romance is missing each other terribly, i am sure.
nic says something classic nic in response, something pragmatic and true that i can't quite remember, but it was essentially: the most romantic thing would be just being fine.
the greatest proof of our love is that our love doesn't need drama and tears with physical distance to prove its validity.
it doesn't need drama and tears day to day to prove we're invested. it doesn't need drama to be real.
this is when i'm like: FUCK, NIC. because he's right. and it's true. and the truth of the matter is: i do miss him, because when we're together, we're stupid and it's fun and i love it. but it's fine. i'm fine without him. and he's fine without me. and maybe that's romance.
maybe romance is when your boyfriend's sleeping in a bed that isn't yours and he doesn't have to call to say goodnight, because you know you love each other. and you don't need the words anymore.
yes. he loves me when he's gone.
i come home and iron his shirts for two hours. i half watch a movie and eat a can of soup. i look at my phone, awaiting his name on the screen. the wave of sadness comes.
now i'm here. my partner, my best friend. his life is changing right now without me. i miss him. i am letting him go.
i'm sure i sound really fucking selfish as i write this, but i need to clarify: it's what i want. i want to let nic go. i want him to fly a plane and have a street i've never seen and know people i've never met. i want him to have a whole life that isn't mine, that has nothing to do with me. i want it for him and i want it selfishly, too, because it terrifies me and because it's exactly what i need. i feel sure that when i let him go, he will come back to me, more constant and more whole. i feel sure that, if he didn't, it would be okay for both of us. i feel this really, truly terrifying open heart feeling. i feel exposed. i feel like my throat is so open that i can breathe more air than a body is meant to breathe. i feel afraid and not afraid. i feel like my heart is beating, steadily and perceptibly. i feel like i am bleeding out into the world. i feel not like i am dying, but like i am a part of everything. i feel magnificent.
i feel that flicker of sadness and recognize it as the feeling letting go. not of nic, but in the beth i've held for so long. it is weird to say goodbye to some version of yourself you've seen and known and introduced to others for so long. it is weird to be fine, because i don't seem to recognize it.
my partner is doing something life changing without me right now and i'm fine. i am much more powerful that i give myself credit for. i am much more powerful than i was before. i have opened up. i'm not afraid of letting go of what i love.
goodbye old beth. it's time for you to go.