When I was a boy, I slept under starlight every night.
I built the big dipper with my small hands, all of it plastic
green glow and sticky tack gravity. My mother bought
the whole pack for a couple bucks at Alco, boy’s first
constellation constructer set. It came with a map of the sky.
When you’re a child things are exactly as they appear,
you need not explain them any further. Five pointed shapes
are stars. The Ernie sans Bert Sesame Street toy I lost inside
the wall was actually Ernie, as real as the traumatizing terror
I felt when his rescue proved impossible. My favorite
pocket sized glow in the dark robot was named “little green
guy” for the greenness of his little guyness. His loss behind
another wall was as equally traumatic as Ernie’s, the need for
both my babysitter and parents to finish their home renovations
as astronomical as the view of my ceiling from my bed.
This way of defining things expires with childhood,
once we learn that “love” is a word to be used with care,
more than an emotion used to explain our feelings
about ice cream and Nickelodeon programming.
When love becomes more than a word prewritten on the
Valentines our parents bought for us to hand out in class.
Last week I told you I loved you, unsure what that sound
from my mouth meant. I threw a net loose before
an anchor was in place. It was too abstract to be a little
green star/man/Ernie/wall dweller. I didn’t mean it in the
marrying way or even the “we’re happily together but taking
our time” way. I didn’t mean it in the way I’d tell my grandmother
before leaving after holiday dinners, or in the way my fellow dude
friends and I communicate such things via high-five or “later, bud.”
It was a “glad you’re still here” kind of love. A gratefulness.
A cold bath for our calloused feet. I found it through enough
sleepless nights spent remodeling every dark corner of our
misunderstandings. Some things are not lost, only unknowingly
dropped in a quiet place for safe keeping.