Love Letter to you at 85
by Adrienne Creger
I met you—fresh-faced-peach-fuzzy as a kitten, twenty six, glowing brighter than the string lights on your Parkwood balcony: hot awkward blushing silence floated lazy like fog over small words that tried to stand tall, like proud, lonely trees slowly reaching branches across space to one day touch leaf to leaf. Cool autumn night air, meticulously chosen red wine and a dry pomegranate (because I’d never had one); your strong profile and “you’re not beautiful—you’re striking” is what your mother told you when you were like twelve and you said “Mom, I’m ugly” but she was wrong; you’re the eerie red sands of the Badlands, the unexplored seafloor, the deepest crater on the moon—in June. Well we stood with our roots in the ground and our branches stretched out and one day we couldn’t tell whose leaves were whose because we’d overlapped and so we pulled our roots out of the earth and we left our homes—and your dad’s sick and your mom’s unwell and you feel guilty and you’re scared to think of a year from now, five, ten, but you know that if you don’t do it now you may never—and so we packed it up in boxes and in bags, we washed it and folded it and stacked it neatly until we ran out of space, and so we crammed it into whatever it would fit in, messy spilling over edges, bulging corners of our minds—and we ran. Well I watched you grow from woman into myth into woman and back again and I tried to keep up with you but you’re smart and you’re good and you’re strong and I want to be more like you, I want to be more you, I want to be inside but trees can only cross branches and sway together in the wind and hope that if the other tree falls its weight will bring them crashing down together—giant and epic and splintery. I found your first gray hair in the back of your head where you couldn’t see it and I swore I’d never tell you and I watched wrinkles as they formed in your face from all the things you’d felt but when you’d say “I’m getting wrinkles” I’d tell you “you’re crazy—I don’t see any” I’d say “you’re fresh-faced-peach-fuzzy as a kitten, like the day I met you” and you’d smile like you didn’t believe me and I knew you didn’t and you knew I knew you didn’t but we’d let it sit in the air like smoke floating at the ceiling of a dark room where said and silent secrets ricochet off the walls and seep into the carpet. I’ve watched you carry it watched you dig holes and bury it watched it rise and watched you ferry it back down rarely sharing it but wearing it and I’ve watched it bubble over and watched you take that too like any other thing a single day can do. And now your skin is papery thin like dying red leaves—with brown spots and tiny veins—that float down from trees to be walked on to dry up to disintegrate back into soil. Now you don’t go running and we don’t need to talk much and sometimes we don’t remember and our parents have been dead for years and we had to learn how to do that when the trees around us dropped one by one until there were just two standing, but stooping, swaying more and more in softer and softer winds and one day one will snap and fall—giant and epic and splintery. You always thought I talked too loud in the morning well I thought you snored too loud at night or maybe we made a soft roar, the kind like waves breaking sandy shores or snow falling heavy from black sky like static and well still I see you fresh-faced-peach-fuzzy as a kitten, eighty five but twenty six, glowing brighter than the string lights on your Parkwood balcony.