Preston Yancey is one of those people who give me hope that being mildly lost at twenty-something is alright, and this trying to cobble together some sense of life, this doing the best I can with the continuous now that I have, this often tedious shuffling toward Jerusalem, is all worthwhile, and that there is joy in this land of in-between, and that we can create something of beauty along the way. Preston Yancey is also one of those people who make me sort of bubble with envy, because my writing isn’t as sharpened and well-oiled, and that my words cannot divide sinews and tendons. Not yet. After going through my customary crush on competent, eloquent, and ever-so-quirky boys such as Preston Yancey, I am very glad that he has found someone who makes him inexplicably happy.
WHEN IT IS ALL NEW, A LETTER TO HILARY
July 25, 2013
Lake Gaston Sunset. Photo credit: Jackson Rollins
In what seems like another world now, with so much space between, Hilary and I used to pass digital letters back and forth to each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I smile at those days, smile half, over the way I was falling in love with her after every tumbled word without quite realising it at the time. Retrospect is a powerful thing. We now mark a series of new letters, back and forth, Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can read Hil’s letter that I’m responding to here.
I debated about this letter, which has something to do with the reason why it took me so long to write it. (We won’t talk about how I didn’t write you one last week, because as you know I was in your kitchen making you a birthday dinner, among other things, so I’m holding firm on not being guilted for missing a letter, even if it was the second time it’s happened in the year of these exchanges.)
I debated because you and I care a lot about protecting our story, about preserving the intimacy of us and the love we have, about keeping the online at a distance from that and giving only what is truly beneficial and, often, even then holding out. There are some things that once they have been spoken are no longer, and so much of us and our story is hidden in the thin places of self and space and time–it seems injustice to try to root it.
But today I want to pull back the curtain a bit, bring out a bit of that story for the sake of others. We talk often about how we don’t want other people to hear the story of us–meeting online, letter exchanges, flying across oceans and crying in airports–and think of it as the ideal, as the thing that they wish they could have, because every story of love is its own sort of extraordinary that really only the two people right in the tangled midst of it can understand. This is not that. This is not an attempt to loudly convince anyone of the love or the uniqueness or the wonder of it, but a sort of promise to those who have not found that sort of love yet.
You went running in prayer that day because you had read the draft of the third chapter of my memoir and you ached to have been in the story at that point. It was full of memories that would never be quite yours, would be shared but only in the after and experienced only in retelling. You felt the sting of not being rooted with me yet, as I had felt the sting writing it out and marvelling at the chaos and uncertainty that it all was, in a field with another girl who wasn’t you and could never be you, trying to make a bastard love blossom that would fade as quickly as it had been imagined. I told you that night on Skype that you were there and not there, that when I wrote those words with the honesty I could bring to the page they only flowed that way because you were there with me, somehow, in the magic of retrospect and reweaving.
It’s not the same, I know. It’s not the same as having been there or having haphazardly journeyed it alongside. Never mind the dreams we conjure with one another about what would have happened had we met then somewhere on the east side, with your red wine and my bourbon in an old bar that still had a coat room with a clerk that could be tipped well. Never mind all that, because the sting of being there but not being there is real and is not, I know, unique to us.
So what is the point of this? Pulling back the curtain enough? It is a promise to you and to those still waiting, that there is newness with you that is not like anything else. To hold you is to have never held someone before. To kiss you is to have never before been kissed. To brush our hands together or lean into you or take coffee from your hand in the midmorning at your kitchen table where we are at home in a still point of our own fabrication, that is to have never before known touch, pressure, or gift before.
Memory plays us like fools, pretends that we have a hold of it when what we have is a farce of our own design. But love makes us fools in a brave way, teaches to overcome memory’s trick with the firmness of words, vows, that are spoken in those gestures long before they are said aloud–in the hair elastic I wear around my left wrist, in the way you tilt your head when you look at me, in the crystal sugar bowl and the slice of lime.
I wanted to put somewhere public something of a promise to those who wonder if it can all be, truly, wonderful. I wanted to tell them that it can. You simply have to realise the wonderful comes not in the loudness of a story but in the quietness of it, in the way that you thought you knew so perfectly and so truly exactly what it felt like to be seen, to be kissed, to be loved, until one morning in the midst of the ordinary a woman looks at you from across the room and you realise what poetry must be, what it is to feel the vault of the earth in tilt, what it is to fall in love over and over again until you believe that you could still time if you only hold your breath just long enough.
Because it is all new. And it keeps being new.