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Dear Sugar, now known as Cheryl Strayed, wrote once about the ghost ship, based on the sentiments of another writer, Tomas Tranströmer, who says that every life “has a sister ship.” Sugar says, “I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
I’ve been circling you for days, weeks, maybe even a month. I cannot bring myself to read that terrible message again to know for sure what the date was when you broke my heart. Suffice it to say, it was the last week of July.
Why am I writing to you? Woman who broke my heart. Woman who told me never to contact you again. Woman who did the unthinkable unfathomable. Everyone who knew us, knew us, says the same thing: I never thought she would do this to you. It’s true. Not a one of us.
People ask me if I could ever forgive you, but what I think they are asking might be closer to: what are you going to do when you see her again? The truest response I’ve uttered so far is that I hope I don’t because I would tell you the whole truth & nothing but the truth of what you’ve done. I would come for you with this broken heart .
But secretly, I hope that I never see you again. In my imagination I would be more indignant than sad, march towards you with volume up & fire everywhere, but I’ve met busted-at-the-heart-seem Lettie before, & I turn more into puppy soft & eyes that cry why. Granted, nobody has ever done me like this before, so for all I know, I may burst into laughter & continue on my way—this is all conjecture & hope.
This past Saturday night I read that pie poem aloud to a room full of cuties. I’ve only ever read it to myself, & my voice has always cracked into a cry or sob (as of lately), but I didn’t the other night. I became louder & felt stronger. I’m glad I wrote that poem right after that night because I could never extract those details from memory, especially now. The intimacies it holds bare are so tender to me, & I guess I shared it well because at the end, I heard the collective sounds of ache & disappointment. What a shame, their sighs said. But that wasn’t even the best part! The best part was my intro, it was something to the effect of, “Venus in retrograde fucked up my life the last week of July. I was in love with my best friend & she dumped me…for her husband. I told you it was complicated.”
I named it in a room full of people & I didn’t die. I even smiled & fucking laughed.
Even though you pushed me onto the sister ghost ship that sails on without you, I see you everywhere. I’m learning that this is the time of year when sunflowers reach for the sun & sky. They crowd neighborhood street corners, talk amongst themselves in near empty lots next to buildings, wave gently to me from behind street signs. They remind me of when you told me how you always wanted to run through a field of them. They remind me when I bought you two bright bunches for your birthday last year & how you left them at my house—we all know you left them for the same reason you would disappear for days & weeks at a time, & we do not approve.
I wanted everyone to know I knew your favorite flower, & how generously I could give it to you, how happy I could make you, so this past birthday I tried again with the sunflowers. You put them promptly into a vase, where they perched proudly on stem in the middle of your kitchen on the table who had a broken leg for months, & sang HAPPY BIRTHDAY! & partook of the frosting. Of that, we do approve.
You & I did a good job weaving our lives together these past few years, you are everywhere on this sister ghost ship. It will take some time for the memory of the gap between your teeth to leave me alone, for the futures we dreamed up of this & that to melt into something without you, for me to stop missing calling you at night. (Did you know, btw, that there are over a thousand texts between us? I love & hate that in the last one I had the guts to say, “Fuuuuuuck you,” & that my phone took the artistic liberty of adding all the u’s where I was too afraid to.) But the thing that riddles me is the way I learned about love with you—how to give it, receive it, dream it, care for it, ask for it, & how to run from it. How can I have learned so much with you & then be forced to continue without you?
The sister ghost ship where you & I got to love each other the way we wanted to totally went down in the ocean, I saw it. That’s what the birds, whales, & dolphins were feeding on when I was visiting whale country last week. Us in our 40’s in luxurious love, laughing & brushing against each other in the kitchen, now covered in krill in the belly of a blue whale; this wreckage can only fit comfortably inside the largest mammal on Earth; us drinking coffee & smoking outside the Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City on our annual summer road trip, caught in the small sharp teeth of the rare Common Bottle Nose dolphin; you asking me on our first real date before the end of July will probably have to be swallowed whole by those oceanic magical birds because that shit is gonna require bird magic; & waking up next to you, actually kissing you back, holding your hand, I don’t even know where those went. Maybe they will forever reside in those deep under the sea caverns you unintentionally shared about once in my living room while you blushed furiously. You always blushed with ferocity.
From this sister ghost ship, I salute you with middle finger stiletto nail covered in pink & purple & glitter. Good luck out there without me & my love.
Sincerely Not Yours,
Plutofemmebabe Death Eater Extraordinaire
I snuck a peek. July 27 was the day.