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November 8, 2020

Full Tilt

Holly Pelesky

I want to tell you everything you’ll never remember. How the sky looked when my head was full of words and no one to tell them to. From my seat in the cockpit, I first saw what tomorrow looks like. The clouds were gray, their tendrils reaching toward the ground where you were, asleep under that red chenille blanket, I imagined.

Remember why I started flight school? I said I wanted to be everywhere you were but also with you. I felt you charging through the air then, saw your hair in the wisps of clouds.

Do you remember taking pictures in the dark? Once I fell asleep with Daryl against my chest, her downy hair slick with fever sweat. I woke to you taking pictures of my hands, of her rising back inside of them. I never opened my eyes, but I smiled. I don’t know if you noticed how happy it made me when you hummed. You might not remember but you were humming “Danny’s Song.” I used to want that to be our wedding song. I never told you because you would have thought me too sentimental. 

The strange thing about flying through a storm is you think you learn when the worst is over but you’re only guessing. The sky flashed white everywhere, like that endless wall from our first apartment that we always talked about painting but didn’t dare because we were both afraid of heights. Before we went to buy that ladder, we said we would fill the wall with knock off art. 

I never wanted to take care of you, you know. I don’t mean I wasn’t willing to; I mean I wasn’t in it for that. I fell in love with the tilt of your chin at the art gallery while you stared at that picture that looked like a thunderstorm. When your gaze broke, you told me it was the imperfections that inspired you. I loved the imperfections of you too, but I didn’t say it.

I know you want most to be a self. Sometimes I boiled you a kettle and left your tea bag unwatered in a mug so you would think I forgot. I know you hate your hands for reaching after other people. But maybe if you had seen how I needed you, you wouldn’t have felt so dependent. If you noticed how my body eased when your fingers interlaced with mine. 

Did you know I picked up the guitar to make sounds as melodic as your voice? I wanted to hear you in my quiet hotel rooms, I wanted to imagine your slow glide between furniture where I was. 

I know you didn’t love me back.

I saw your back more than your face so I learned to read it. When you curled it into your knees you were frightened. When it hardened into an ironing board you were angry. I didn’t know if it was at me but I supposed.  It’s as if all you can remember now is Daryl’s body in my hands and you hate me for holding her most. I wish your resentment was one of your erased memories. Instead, your brain erased how your hand fit into mine and the songs you sang to me in the car.

I wanted to hate you, you know. So many times I thought how much easier that would make it to leave. I wanted the shape of your body to boil rage beneath my skin, wanted the sound of your voice to set my teeth into a fist.

You don’t know that when I left today, I had packed more than my overnight bag. My dress shirts, still on their hangers, are piled in my trunk. I would have told you I wasn’t coming home again, but you wouldn’t remember any way. 

I wonder how long every place I go will feel like a place I shouldn’t be. I belonged once, in 1976, in a green nursery with a humming wife who loved to take pictures and never missed an image she wanted to remember. Back when I didn’t have to beg for forgiveness, when I didn’t need the sky.