written after Mary Ruefle’s MONUMENT

A small world had ended. Like all worlds, it was made of time. The Canadian-American border stood between us would never vanish. I had moved to the island because you were there. I had flown back and forth, and you had been still. And now, I was sitting on a ferry, watching sky eat ocean. The water was the same, but now it was the one that washed me away from you. It was a rainy day on the island and people were wearing raincoats and scarves, dazed by the rain, which was not the typical rain of summer, which had surprised them, but the weight of it was the end of another small world, which had also ended, spring. I knew I would call on this memory of the end of us and I had gotten on the ferry boat willingly, no longer able to battle for us, as I had always been the one fighting, and the only skill I had left other than loving you was to leave, and to leave was to end everything. I was staring at the back of the seat in front of me, the ferry boat was full that day, the little girl with her fathers was swinging her feet, and I had begun to cry, and to think of our last kiss, which was a rushed kiss, and I had set my notebook next to me so I might write, might capture the world once between us, set in the center of my notebook, a summary of the world that made sense. And perhaps also in my mind was the hope that using only the middle of the notebook meant the rest could be for the rest of us, because surely this was not the end, our language had words no one else knew and our universe had constellations we had named on our backs, they might have looked like the Big Dipper, but we had named parts of it Arrow Home and Nigel and Elaine, after our love and our middle names, and our names became synonyms for love and our love became synonyms for names, and no one would understand if they overheard, and this could fill many notebooks. And then I saw the little girl turn and face me, her hair blonde and her eyes blue, my fully-grown face twisted in aching, and by then I was crying noticeably and still not writing, though there was the pen in my hand — like the ink knew everything and just needed to write it quickly — but there was no way to write about us because I could barely see, and the boat was rocking at a steady pace now which meant we had reached a certain knot and that certain knot meant I was already miles away even though I had just been in the vehicle, holding your hand while you did not cry, and the little girl watched everything left after and I said nothing and she said nothing except to watch me and I did not mind her being the one who watched. But the little girl’s fathers turned and saw me, resigned and weeping, and one whispered to the little girl to turn around and she did and I was alone again. With no one to watch my pain, I tried my notebook again and then the water, thinking I might see a whale or a dolphin or some other sign I could interpret as a good omen — I wanted to believe there was a good omen, anything — and I remembered in pain that nothing the ocean gave was meant for humans, even when the world is ending, and what a terrible categorization of our world, of breaking, of hearts, when I had left a future because I could not stand to live only on our island, not when we were so young, not when there were other places to see, I wanted only to see all that I could before we came back and built a cabin with our hands under a canopy of pine trees near the ocean, and you were good with your hands, had built us shelves and racks and small shelters when we needed them, and could build a home on the coastline where we could speak our language with more words, but I remembered you did not want it. I looked up then, and what happened next I can only describe as human touch when human touch is gone: I grabbed the net of the seatback chair and pulled as hard as I could with both hands until I was tired and still thinking of you. The little girl did not turn around again and the ferry made it to the other shore, the one you would not marry yourself to, and I made my way to the ferry deck and saw before the world had ended. I was amazed I could breathe, and I did, and the water looked the same, and our world that was over had ended.

writer & former librarian • A LIGHT forthcoming from Chicago Review Press 2022 • amandaoliver.comtinyletter.com/decorouslines

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