“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”  - T.S. Eliot

Oh, August. You creep in every few years to remind me that the changes have already begun. My favorite tree- the one that resides down the street from my parents, has already begun to pulsate color. Last year, I saw it as a warning. DO MORE. There was so much to do- and see. This winter is calling me to slow down. I can feel it in the way I can taste the first sip of the apple cider I always purchase for our Keurig. Or my mother’s Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. I have nothing to fear. I love these tastes. I know these colors. The leaves are  little reminders that the fear of the unknown and known- come without permission. My leaves are changing too. I am molting early. It’s not my choice. The universe demands we comply. Today, I hate the universe.

Little life cycles are on my mind tonight, as I packed the few reminders of a former flame and dear friend who decided that our cycle was complete. I almost smelled the words he spoke on Saturday night. Another hurried puff from Jason’s regretted cigarette.  The simplicity of Joshua’s trademark off-brand cologne. It was so familiar. Maybe I was different- I turned it around in my head and let it roll and twist. That phone call was hard. This was a terrible ending.

I had no armor to put in front of me. In many years I’ve finally stretched to understand that a hard exterior does nothing except dent and scratch. Instead, I was air. When he spoke the words that I had so often heard before, I listened and questioned and without pause I hung up. I seemed to just float above myself on kitchen bar stool as phone faded to its black screensaver. It was unfortunate. There was nothing more to say. That was that. I should probably grab the circus peanuts- this was going to be a long night.

Life was going to be quieter for the time being- an early Winter. I gave a silent eulogy for made-up band names and English accents. This would be the end of calling someone every morning on the way in the work to fill each other in from the weekend or night before. I thought instantly of the insanely-overpriced art piece I had shipped from Grand Marais after we came home from vacation. I imagined it in the entryway reminding him to keep creating more- more art and more purpose. I had failed as a muse- surely there’s a band-name for that.  It all seemed trivial like the toothbrush still sitting in my top drawer and his son’s Mario figures unearthed under the couch in today’s cleaning spree. Off they went. No one cared.

A year from now, this won’t matter. Or, that’s what I’ll think for just tonight. The pillows are stacked to my left and I’m listening to the hum of the fans and the soft thumps of what I can only imagine are the cries of all the spiders I’ve murdered since the kids and I moved in. I take my triumphs seriously. Today, it was three. I think we’re at a solid 280 on the whole. I am a murderer.

I stack the pillows so high on the left side of my bed to prove that the fortress of solitude is self-earned. This is important. I’m not saving THAT SIDE for anyone in particular- but sometimes, he was there. Most of the time, he wasn’t because we were on the phone. Tonight, I try to lay in the middle as I type on my stomach and my feet dangle over the edge.  I calmly explain to myself, (and the apparently fully-grown monster that I still believe resides under my bed) that pillow stacking is art for lonely people and I am choosing to be enlightened, instead. Ultimately, I am forgiving- as I bring my feet in and pout. I begin the nightly ritual of three pillows and the blanket on top- my body curled to the right and a million thoughts running through the brain. I could have been better. I should have sometimes spoken more softly. I should have listened with ferocity. What if I had said yes? What if he didn’t ask? What if everything wasn’t in such a hurry to become or change color. Who would we be then? I can’t be green forever- no one can be. I feel like I changed because I knew him- I witnessed something remarkable and I was marked.

I’ll eventually reconcile the fact that he’s never going to come in the front door with paint-stained jeans. I’ll never point out that if we look closely we can do the ink blot test. My steering committee of Hell has lost a member and my aisle seat on the way down will be slightly less climatic without our South Park voices or his uncanny ability to finish the songs I’m humming so poorly that it’s no wonder I even have an aisle seat at all.

Life will surprise you. You can lose best friends on Saturday nights or Tuesday afternoons. Gone! As if they fell from a small tear in a pocket, or were left on the table with the cell phone after a particularly rushed meal. Never to be heard from again. It mattered, but it didn’t. We learned from it, or so we’ll say. I’ll find new ways to make ass cancer funny, maybe. I won’t research autism until 1am anymore to try and think of ways to help his kid. Look at all this time. So much more room for activities- I’ll think. He’s not here to mime that we’re building bunk beds and one just collapsed. I’m still 33, I promise. But with him- it was easier to not be so damn old. Oh, August– I hate you so.

The truth is, I’ve practiced falling in love so many times that I almost have it down to the perfectly-relatable Hollywood script. But friendship- or friendship after love, still eludes me. I am a rookie forged in the flames of disgustingly-optimistic and entirely-too-pragmatic. I shouldn’t  have said yes. He asked because he felt it in that moment. Everyone did the right thing. Doesn’t that suck so much?

The leaves are changing. I’m already fine. Maybe.