apple flag

by essayan hart

i forgive you. for raising a parade from a single flag. for needing the moon to be a light switch. for the stars becoming portals. i forgive you for sitting next to me, on a linoleum table top in the doctors office waiting room, and taking me fishing there. for manifesting the sea and the solitude. for making the world disappear. i forgive you for your power. for changing your name again and again. i forgive you. for breaking my heart, every day of my life. i forgive you for all of it.

2011.

on the phone yesterday, it was hard to bring to mind the brave 19 year old who lead our little doom parade. now nearly 33, you are rambling quietly about the girl who has moved into your apartment with her children.  about how she calls you old when you receive your disability checks. about how she wont allow you to leave your house.  i am biting my tongue, trying to teach you boundaries that should be as simple as tying shoes. the word “no” is unfamiliar to you. it tastes acid somehow. wrong.  because of this your homes have always filled with stray animals, stray families, stray lives.  she is taking advantage of you, i suggest firmly. she says i have to marry her! you whisper back.

there is a reason we haven’t spoken for the past 10 years, but i cant explain that to you. when i try, you say “i thought you hated me… you don’t hate me? i was talking to shannon and told her you wouldn’t talk to me. but i don’t remember. when did we talk. when was the last time i heard your voice?”

“did you read my letter”, i ask, and you say

“yes. but i didnt know about any of that, what you talked about. what was wrong. those years in arizona were great. they were my favorite. were they bad? what was wrong”?

1999.

you found the flag on the side of the road. it had apples on it, in a basket. someone’s discarded autumn lawn decoration. you are marching, lifting your knees impossibly high and smiling so wildly that the whole world dims.  that smile is my only real reason for living these days.  i march behind you, dutifully creating the parade you imagine us into.  we march all afternoon, in the cool mountain air.  by sunset we will be tucked inside with our vodka and our crayons.  this is a perfect day.

but there were bad days too, more often than not.

“ i am in love with you”, i would say,

you would turn to the sky and say something abstract, wander to sit at a blue table. blue, the color of friendship. i would offer you candy then, and you would pull out every sugar coated blue piece and pass it to me.

” i don’t like the way blue tastes”, you would say. and i would spend the evening in recovery, drawing elaborate blue hearts and slipping them under your door.

2003.

when you asked me to be your friend again, i started to say yes. i have recovered, in part, from the dimensional shift we lived through in arizona. i know that you are ill, and that you may never recover. i have carried your memory in art, in writing and in songs. i have never let you go, not for a second. it seems only fitting that i let you back in now, when i am strong, and close to sane.  when i open my mouth to speak, the phone starts making an unbelievable sound. like an alarm going off. it repeats in bursts, and i cant get a word in edgewise. this is divine intervention. i tell you i will call you back in a minute.

i call an advisor, tell her what is going on. show her the shape of the door i am propping open, lightly, freely. she asks me questions. i respond. in moments i remember that there is nothing more dangerous to me than the spectacular fragility of your mind and your life.

when i call you  back, i lightly close the door.  when we get off the phone, i lock it.

starting the next evening you call me every 15 minutes. this continues for 36 hours. you get drunker and drunker, and the messages on my machine get more abstract and alien. the case of beer in your system wears away the effect of your psych meds until you are screaming into the phone, crying.

“i made a mistake. you have to talk to me. they will be mad at me. i am a messenger. you are a prophet. i have to get this message to you.”

confidant now, brokenhearted and defeated, i answer the phone.
“give me your address” i say, and then i hang up.

the letter i write you then silences you.  there is nothing more to say.
i flip through photographs in a filing box. some are sewn together, bound in feather and wire. protection spells.  then there you are in all of your glory, in white petticoats and black cotton.  you are holding a flag you found on the side of the road, and lifting your knees impossibly high.

and i miss my friend.

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