I remember the morning you left, driving in your mother’s car, to learn things that would benefit your future. It was cold, and you left the car running outside for a long time, while we ate breakfast. Hearing it running outside was pulling my stomach as far off as the distant place you were leaving toward.

We said very little to each other, as we usually did, but understood everything we needed to. I remembered when you found the shirt you were wearing, at the thrift shop we often visited, looking for uncommon things. I never liked it, but I always liked that you did.

Still, whenever I hear tires crunching on cold ground, I remember this morning. The smell of exhaust fumes across cold, moist dew. The fogged rear-view window. The silence and stark brightness of a clear November morning.

It was the first time I had to find everything again, and what it meant. A pepper mill on the counter top, next to a discarded paper towel. How much butter was left. How vacant that old couch really was.

I always envied friends who could just jump into playing and socializing so quickly, to get past, or at least bury, whatever more difficult things they might be feeling. I have to lock the doors, close the windows, and hide the telephones. At the time, being the first time, I wasn’t sure if I was crazy or not. The couch, all to myself. The parts of you left strewn in all directions. This was all part of me now.

I remember Randy coming to visit that first day. Somehow he knew not to be all chipper and excited about the new life that was now opened to me with your leaving. He even picked up many of the things of yours, around the house, looking at them, then setting them back down, and walking on to the next. Eventually we decided that finding some very good fish for dinner would be the best thing.

I learned that when you go to sleep, and when you wake, is so dependent upon another. My own sense of time began reasserting itself. Nights grew longer and mornings became unknown once again. The house, so empty, began to bristle with familiar energies. Creative energies.

I began moving furniture, items and rearranging colors. The house became like a potted plant that began to bloom, pushing out through the locked windows and doors. So much of you was still there, and would be for a very long time. Even still, but here, in a different place. Under earth, in the roots that feed the vines.

I was not surprised it took you weeks to write, in those days of pen, paper and mailmen. But I was surprised at what you wrote. I was surprised because I knew all the words, and all the feelings. I was surprised because they were unchanged. After all this around me now, that had grown so lush and green, and you, moving on to all the new, unchanged.

I tried writing back, but I didn’t know what to say. You are happy that there is someone out there who loves you? And that person is me? I cannot deny there is truth in that, but the love is not the love we had before. The love is more like a distant observation. It is remembering what was, and how I had to re-learn all the things around me. The person you believes loves you no longer truly exists. How do I write this to you? Is it cruelty? Is is justified? Would it help you, or hurt you?

So this is my reply to you, many, many years late in coming, and arriving indirectly. The course you chose was not to make a change. The course you chose was to allow you to remain the same. And I did not realize that until today. It happened, listening to a song that said, “I wear your shirt. I wear your shoes. And when you write a poem, I know the words before you write them down.”

Ach, down in the roots, what magic gets done, that the vines never even realize. A distant observation? No, I do still love you. You give me so much, even to this day, and just imagining you makes me very happy. I suppose it might come down to, it’s not always easy seeing through someone else’s eyes. It’s rarely what we imagine. But maybe it’s the effort that counts.

No, that’s not it, really. People make changes for themselves all the time. Sometimes they surround themselves with all sorts of things, go to all sorts of places, and play all manner of games. They raise families, they make career changes, they donate themselves to tasks, they learn foreign languages. All these things that are on the outside, seeping in. Then, what happens, when the focus is on the inside, and that inside begins seeping out instead?

What happens when the inside meets the outside? Or the outside meets the inside? Can it even be said? Grilled fish at 7pm sharp.