And then sometimes we do talk about it.
The only light in the room comes from the moon reflecting off snow, and as the temperature falls outside and Switters nuzzles against her, she tells me how a doctor once talked to her about the only real question: To be or not be.
Her mother was forced out of the room, angered, and Ashley was made to accord for her own answer. As she talks I hear the beeping and whirring of machines, the low but plangent din of pale corridors and the shuffle of muted shoes. The pure whiteness of what light there is becomes the fluorescence of sterile rooms where I imagine a quite conversation taking place in which a young woman’s eyes don’t well up because she’s already come to terms with her choice.
I lie beside her, now, silent. All I can think about is how many times I’ve tried to give up and I feel like a fool.
Under all of this is the thing that we don’t talk about much:
How do you go on loving someone who you’re probably going to lose?
The idea is contrary to what we’re told of love. We’re told that you work towards love, even when it’s slipping away. We’re told that you fight for it when it’s gone and if it comes back you never let it go.
But we’re also told to let it go when the time is right. We’re told to see if it comes back, and if not, do it again. We’re told to hang on to the idea of love when we can’t hang on to love itself.
Buy love a cheeseburger with curly fries and ask it to stay. It will.
Make love a pillow from your own soft kisses. If it turns red it will stay.
Bring love the newspaper every morning. Open to the obituaries. If fear flashes in its eyes, it will stay.
Ashley stares at the ceiling and tells me how she’s going to have to hurt me if she has to make that choice again. I already knew that, knew that before we really got started with all of this, but I don’t know how to tell her that. I don’t know how to say that it’s okay if she has to hurt me.
It’s her life; it’s her choice to live it. I will simply abide her choice.
…Or at least I hope so. I can think whatever I want about myself, but sometimes I just don’t know. I don’t know how to tell her that, either, but I understand I don’t need to. She knows. Maybe because she’s been there, maybe because she knows me…but part of her knows that I’m speaking more to my hopes than to any real future.
And we’re both okay with that.
Because right now we’re talking about the thing we don’t talk about.