How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that is does not quite.
– Jack Gilbert, “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart”

We lie. We say forever, when what we mean is for the foreseeable future, when what we have is a lover right beside us, willing to speak the same untruth. We forsake reason. We bear injustice. We hope, against all evidence, that this time, we really mean forever. That our lover means it, too.

I called it. But I wish I’d been wrong.

That day, I stopped believing every next man I met might be the one. It was a Tuesday, the day I also stopped believing other things—like that I’d ever fit into my high school jeans, or that the violent wind was the harbinger of change. That day, I started trying to live the life I’d been given.

I always call it. I almost always wish I was wrong.

And we knew, when we were young, that platform shoes hurt our feet, but we’d take them off and have a whine, and that would be the end of it. Now whole pieces of our bodies fall off when we’re not looking. Tendons snap, ribs crack, bones grow out of bones and pulse beneath the skin.

I said it. But no one heard me.

It was the day I realized my life is not a circle but a spiral, each rotation tighter and more intense than the last. What I still don’t know is whether I’m moving up or down, or what will happen when the spiral ends. How to see outside the storm when I live and breathe within its eye.

I always try to say it. I never can.

Here I am, back on the floor of the tub. Here I am, crawling through the house on hands and knees. Here it is: the rain falling hard, and I’m reading in the dark and smelling woodsmoke and thinking yes, despite everything around me that’s shouting an emphatic no, no, no.

I’d tell you what it’s like, but you’d never believe me.

They told me it wouldn’t always be like this, that it won’t, but I am beginning to believe that this is the only thing that’s constant. Everything else ebbs and flows around this, while this remains the same. This is the stage and never chooses the plays that are acted out upon it.