Every story is an origin story because everything starts somewhere, even when it feels like we’re beginning at the middle.
The days have been running into one another and I suddenly remember it is nearly January and her birthday is coming up.
Was it the 3rd? The 5th?
I know it’s a prime number because of that night we got drunk on cheap Italian and tried to see how high we could go without paper. I had wanted to write it down, but she insisted.
“You know this! It’s all in here!” She tapped my head a bit more vigorous than intended, a sloppy pat following the poke. “You spend so much time arguing that you don’t know stuff, and the only thing that does is reiterate a narrative that isn’t true. I know what an ego boost you get from being the smartest person in the room, but false modesty doesn’t become you, lover.”
We weren’t lovers at that point, but it wasn’t the first time she called me that. And I wasn’t the only person she called that. We’re all lovers of something, she would argue, we just need reminding. Some of us love pain, some love to be sad, some love to be lost because it means not taking responsibility for the path that we’re on.
“Does that make us any less worthy of the moniker? Because the things we love might not be as acceptably palatable as good health or life itself?” Every inadvertent rhyme was catalogued by a half smile and a sideways glance to the right, as though her random rhyme file was somewhere in that side of her brain. Which makes sense when you consider what the right side of the brain prefers to devote itself to.
“See, this is the trouble, lover.” She was in mode now and I settled in for the duration, keeping a wary eye on the wine glass she was gesturing with. “We’ve forgotten that everyone deserves love. We separate it, parcel it out to those whose beliefs or proclivities align with our own. OR, in the case of some, to those with beliefs or lifestyle preferences we can accept as not a threat to what makes us comfortable. I really think that it doesn’t matter what you love, as long as you do. It doesn’t even matter how long you love something, duration does not equal depth.”
That might have been the start of it, that night. The start of the long journey that brought me to a place I honestly didn’t realize I’d never been. A place where I genuinely love myself, without reserve. Without the sense that I require someone else to give me permission to do so. Where the choices I make are in response to that, rather than a need to acquire that.
The background noise of a new year screaming itself into existence brings me back to the present. I wander to the kitchen and use one hand to bounce onto the counter, butt perched on the edge of the sink. Leaning back, I reach into the small cupboard above, the one where things I don’t use often get tucked. Fingers plucking the round glass of the whiskey bottle stashed there, an homage to the drinker I used to be.
Barefeet on parquet, ice in a mug because I haven’t got around to buying glasses, the familiar amber swirling until it smells cold, belying the warmth it contains. I sit on the floor because I haven’t got around to buying chairs and think about all the things I left behind on the way to this place.
All the clothes I’d packed from house to house, with a ‘maybe they’ll fit me again sometime’ mentality, too afraid to let them go because that might indicate I was getting to know myself well enough to only wear things that fit me properly.
And the less obvious things.
The habits, the vanities, the desire to be the smartest person in the room. One might argue that this is a side effect of aging, discovering how to travel light in ways inaccessible to someone with a shorter perspective on things. Perhaps less broad would be more accurate.
But age is not always synonymous with wisdom. She never made it past 29, another prime number, and I still feel the weight of what I don’t know pressing on my memory of her grasping at the ethers and making sense out of what still feels intangible most days.
I raise the glass, a quiet toast to a most favourite ghost, and smile with the right side of my lips.
Somewhere beyond the glass I can hear the chanting, the counting, as the world prepares itself for the newness of the next. “10! 9! 8!”
I join them in a quiet count of my own, a reminder that what I need, I already know.
2, 3, 5, 7, 11….