Madison

I was certain I’d never see him again. We had moved to different states. Remnants of him remained in my life; an autographed birthday present, spirit-wear from not-my-college, low self-esteem, anxiety.

His number had long since vanished from my phone, and almost from my memory. But all it takes is a flash on a black screen to remember.

Night.

I’ve invaded your city, is it a concrete fortress or an open field?

Next day.

An open field, but please don’t pick the flowers.

 You saw the intrigue in my eyes. You remembered the times I’ve talked about the strangeness of love lost, and the forced-forgetfulness of everything that once was shared. The greatest tribute to our love you’ve presented so far: Go see.

I’d forgiven him years ago, but for the first time I felt like we were proud of each other. We didn’t speak of the war we waged. We had both found the other a worthy opponent, both capable of spirit destruction and emotional terrorism. We built a relationship (war) bigger than ourselves. We don’t talk about that, not anymore.

We talked about our lives now. We talked about the friends we used to have. We talked about our parents – all still alive, some more than others. The siblings, all thriving although my sister… we almost lost her a year ago. Me? I escaped Illinois, after falling in love simultaneously with you in Indianapolis and Chicago, to the city of steel and bridges. Him? Returning to the Midwest, after a couple years of suffering in the East. His future unstable, uncertain. The girl that loved him from the day they met? Angered and confused by his sudden upheaval. I wish I could tell her she’ll be okay and that I know that lump in her throat.

He drives the same car. He has the same coat. He still lets his hair get a little too long and his gait hasn’t changed. But the war-torn barren lands we had created in each other have long since recovered, growing over the defensive walls and the crumbling artillery we once used to fight our inevitable end. Our gardens began to thrive when we tended to our own.

As he and I parted ways, we stood in admiration of all we had grown.

Please don’t pick the flowers.

I return to the garden you and I are growing together. The saplings I asked you to plant have really put down some roots.

-Ashlee Christensen