Your lips on a ram’s horn. A new year.
You explained religion as a binary, 0s and 1s. Thou shalt. Thou shalt not. At an early age, or so you told me, you decided your upbringing, centered as it was on the day set aside, was too simple a life to live. You craved complexity.
We were complex. That much is certain. We loved each other and showed it by the way we fought over every square inch of our lives together. I can’t ever remember a time when we simply said, “You’re right, that’s true.” Even the most inconsequential things. If I were to say, for example, “The neighbors are really loud tonight,” you would say, “Are they, though?” And then, as evidence, you would select some memory, from childhood, college, your years in Amsterdam, it didn’t matter, you would find some neighbor in the far past and say, “Now they were loud.”
Thou shalt. Thou shalt not. Your mother liked me. Your father didn’t. Your father could forgive the lack of religion within you, but he couldn’t forgive you living outside it. History was important. Your place in it was important. His parents had survived terrible things. And now you, with me. Your mother was always my champion. I always brought the right wine, the right gift when we visited. Your mother said, “Here is a boy who knows something about value.”
The night we broke up, dinner at your family’s, the new year celebration, was two days away. You were sitting on the other end of the couch, your head in your hands. It had been your turn crying. When you looked up, with a look of such horror, and said, “What am I going to say Saturday?” I laughed, and you snarled and called me an asshole. No. You called me an unrelenting asshole. And I laughed in your face.
Your lips on a ram’s horn.
Yesterday you came to the apartment while I was out and took most of your things. Your friends helped you. I went to lunch with my friends. They aren’t ours anymore. There is no more ours.
Your lips. But today, on the day when we should be walking together, to the front door of your parents’ home, today, in this new year, after I had cried, after I had watched far too much television with no value, I took a walk to the nearest coffee shop, just for the lark of speaking to a stranger, and what struck me most, at the corner of Buffalo and Eastern — children screaming their joy in a playground, the leaves beginning to rust on the trees, the effortless blue sky — was what a beautiful day it was. What a beautiful day had been created. And I thought, that if you had been beside me, and if I had said, religion could be this, too, religion could be gratitude, you might agree with me. You might just say, “I think so, too.” You might even shout it, for everyone to hear.
William Hawkins lives in Los Angeles, CA.