birthday present

If I could meet my 29-year-old self for coffee, I would let her pick the table and once we’d arranged ourselves in the funky colored uncomfortable chairs of coffee shops everywhere, I would still her hand fiddling with the handle of her mug. I would squeeze my fingers around her palm. I would hold her gaze and we would breathe in unison, the sound of milk steaming pushing against the quiet between us.

When my ten-years-younger self gives me a raised brow and I feel her hand pulling away, I would say wait and, even though it hasn’t been invented yet, begin flipping through photos on my iPhone.

She would be spellbound by its screen, and I would say here, this is that time you saw a pod of dolphins playing, glimmering streaks in the waves as you drove north on the 101 to work one day.

And don’t worry about this, I’ll say as I scroll quickly through a few frames of gray shapes, ill-defined-darknesses that I don’t know how to describe, so I’ll say again don’t worry, this won’t last.

But look here, I’ll say, this is the day you’ll run the same trail you’ve run a thousand times, past familiar oak trees and sumac but something will feel different. You’ll realize that the alchemy of sadness has turned your heart’s protective shell to lead, and that you’re the only one who can do anything about it. Then you will feel free, but free like you’re falling.

Then this: the day you’ll take your lead heart from its cavity and ask your partner of 13 years to feel its weight. This is the day your paths diverge and you are both turned to glass that will be pulverized by the fist of the rest of your lives before you are melted down and reformed.

Then finally this: the time you’ll find yourself lazily floating on your back in a warm mineral pool in the Mojave desert on a cool Sunday morning in December, clouds in streaks across a sky so blue it hurts your eyes. How full and light you’ll feel, how clear, how still.

When I set my phone down on the table between us I hope she’ll understand that every tear in the big gentle heart she once kept wrapped in lead, every minute she felt caged by a life she’d stumbled into, was more than suffering for its own sake.

I hope she’ll know that the hardest days were how she began to define the boundaries by which she would not be contained.

I hope she hears the tremble in my voice as anticipation rather than fear.

And I hope she’ll see the deepening lines around my eyes and think this is a woman who smiles a lot. Her life must be amazing.

It is. I promise.


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