Craig Peterson wades into the koi pond at the Japanese Gardens and fills his pockets with coins. He gets us all thrown out, but has enough change to buy slurpees at the 7-11. I’m thinking this as I follow her over the fence. December, twilight, the garden blue, the fish circling lazily in the pond. She rolls both of us cigarettes, and leans against me to light mine. Memory gets rebuilt by what comes afterward. Every garden and park and trailhead with that girl is marked by want. Wind-chapped cities. If I had been brave. If I had been braver.
The images muddle together like a child’s watercolor, and I can’t speak to the clarity of my own epiphanies. I followed her over the fence into a garden, and I remember blue on the trees. Her face cold and red. A girl receding.
The sentences lengthen now; I can feel myself stretching. Don’t you see? I have wanted to tell you about the moments that allow me to be new. All the cracks, and missteps. How I dragged myself forward on my elbows without any real hardship. These girls on bridges, never crossing. I can’t hold anyone together anymore. That was the vow I made, and I wrote it on paper to avoid forgetting. When I named my desire, I said, “I want to be loved as though nothing is wrong with me.”