Marble chess piece

Funny how one’s brain questions, squints, guesses
How it
holds on
to ideas
only entertaining niggling sensations with grudging skepticism
Curdling those things the gut knows with complete

After 23 years, my viscera knew him.

He looked so very different and my brain just could not reconcile this man in his 40s with the no-longer-reality it held of the man in his 20s.
And also… I thought he was dead.

But my insides knew intuitively this was him.

You see, I loved him.

It was 1992. I was only 19. He was.. I don’t know. 20? 21? 22? He was quiet and shy. And brilliant. He was shy about his teeth so he didn’t smile very often. He had dark brown eyes and scraggly blond hair. He was super skinny. Skeletal.

He was so beautiful.

He loved biology, especially the work of Charles Darwin. When he talked about biology (a subject that was of no interest to me),
he lit up like the hill across the river illumined by the early morning sun.
Awful teeth forgotten
Melancholy evaporating
Animation enveloped him

He was fascinating. I loved hearing him talk about something he loved. I would have done biology all day forever with this boy.

He also used heroin.
Was he an active user then?
I don’t know or remember clearly.
Oh he was beautiful.

And he really, really liked me. He was one of the first boys that I knew liked me, that I liked back. I remember how he kissed. Tentative. Soft. So tender.

He gave me a marble chess set that I kept for years,
through marriage,
missing pieces.
It was grey and brown.
I think he might have been the first boy to ever give me an actual gift.
A pawn or a rook emerged occasionally as life passed and there he’d be, smiling.
Sweet. Shy.
So beautiful.

He was unbelievably sweet and kind.

I cannot remember exactly why we never really dated.
We did that first flush of new love slowly.
And it was so achingly wonderful.
He put the stop to it.
Maybe he was afraid of me dating him because he was prone to melancholy and was using some pretty heavy drugs. It is one of those niggling memories.

I was also a Christian.
Jesus believing church goer.
He, a die-hard evolutionist.
Never compatible.

But…he really, really liked me. And respected me.
I think he didn’t keep on with me because he tried to protect me from himself.

And I thought he had died in the intervening years.

We attended college together for only one year. And then, he moved with a large exodus of students. And that was that. Never heard from him again. No word. Nothing.

And then… last night, this friend request on Facebook.
And my belly broke open with warmth and joy!
It’s you! 

It was like seeing a ghost.
And it was like being given the most amazing gift – someone who was dead was now alive.
Someone loved and lost
was restored.

As I sat there through all these feelings, trying to figure out if it was really him… this deep relief and joy at the thought of loving him again (you see… I have loved him all these years). Finally, this splash of true hope that here was someone who knew me when I was me and would be able to know me now that I’m me again. Someone who thought I was lovely and not too much. Someone who tried to protect me.

I cried and cried with relief.
He was alive.
And stared at his profile picture, disbelieving
…and still hoping.

And then,
going through his photos and timeline…
saw that he was recently married.

I cried. And cried. And cried.

Relief and grief.

How can there be this emptiness again? This grief?
How can it be so vast and overwhelming when the window of hope and excitement was so short?

Even now, writing this, I have to hold back those awful tears.
That ugly cry that wails and wrenches the very edges of your deep foundations.

He is still beautiful.
He got to become a biologist.
He is no longer skeletal.
Heroin did not kill him.

He found a woman and married her just 5 days ago. And she loves him. And he her.
And I am so sad, I do not even know if I can act like a human.

How does a ghost get to be made flesh only to be taken away?
Love is a terrible, terrible thing.


(This post originally appeared at