This will be the day we remember the flowers we picked. This day you rolled your tears across your smile. When we remember in our pain, we do not suffer. Our time is together joy. A moment. Where ecstasy is all we shall reap.
I sat in the freshly stained pew and felt the weight of what I could not explain. Loss. Trauma. How it has painted me has left me feeling quite alone.
When I was a child, I remember saying to my mother, “Alone doesn’t like to be alone. We need to give it ‘L’ as a friend.” “L,” I said, “is short for Love. If we give Alone ‘L,’ it would be AllOne. And Alone wouldn’t feel lonely anymore.”
To this my mother replied, “I love that you, my child, are a non-conformist. Especially within language.”
I watched my mother die. There’s a lot and not a lot to say about that. I miss her. It’s a hard reality to accept that you must miss someone for all of your days. For all of the time. Even when they send their ghost in their stead.
Wilson made me a surfboard when I told him I wanted to learn. He shapes boards as a hobby. I had this idea I wanted pressed flowers in the board.
It’s not that simple of a process.
So can we do it?
We hadn’t even started dating at that point. He was just a guy. A hot neighbor across the street. He wasn’t hot at first. He turned hot when I realized he was strange. That he was original and unguarded. In 1992 he was the School Spelling Bee Champion and Safety Patrol Captain of The Year. It was awe inspiring. I don’t remember saying to a friend at the time, but I was recently reminded I had told her upon first getting to know him that I knew I would know this person for a long time. Maybe the rest of time.
I had that same board with me today. It’s beautiful. The kind of beautiful that makes my heart ache. Because he made it. For me. Especially. Something that wasn’t simple. Something that took time to figure out. Because it came from an idea. An idea we had to figure out together. And we did. Slowly but surely.
The flowers were handpicked by Wilson with his mother on Mother’s Day and he delivered me a small bouquet. I have shared much of who I am with him and he had come to learn me deliberately, like a slow prune of bonsai. So I in turn, acted in reciprocal fashion. Took the flowers from that bouquet and pressed them. For my future surfboard that we were building and dreaming together. And goddamn that Wilson, he figured it out. Took almost a year to make, but he made me the board we dreamed up. No man had done anything like that. With me. For me. Before ever.
I was never one to be concerned about getting married or engaged. Everyone has always done it around me like it was the most thrilling, important experience of their female careers. But this gift, this gift. This gift was thrilling. It was important. It was everything.
When Wilson gave me the board I farted. I don’t fart. When I did fart at the reception of this gift, I was flustered to the extent of which I surprised even myself by reactively declaring with a swift-like wonder, “Taco Bell.”
Fiber, he said
And sugars, I add.
Then we went to the beach and surfed. It was sunset. Water everywhere.
I love you.
I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t expecting the board. I wasn’t expecting the fart. I wasn’t expecting the love. I wasn’t expecting Wilson. He just came into my life and was here. The thing I never knew I wanted.
I think I probably love you too.
You think probably?
Looks at me. I look at him. Realize he’s still not convinced.
“Well,” I continue. “I mean how does someone know? We can never really know anything, right? Or we just know. Or we just know we don’t know. So how is it that we can ever really know?”
Wilson kisses me. I open my eyes as our lips pull back into their personal spaces.
“I care not to lose you. That’s how I think I know,” I say.
So today. On this day of remembering we bid farewell. “Farewell to thee Our Dear Franklin, The Most Absolute Baddest, Frenchest Tortoise. To ever live.”
Wilson turns to face me sitting in the pew. He built it specifically for this moment. I had requested it. Franklin was French. And the French would be sure to have had some flair and style at a final salute.
I stand and throw some wildflowers over his shell. Wilson and I picked them on a walk this morning. We wrap Franklin in a scarf Wilson had brought back from Bali because we don’t want him to be sent off naked. We are taking him out on our boards to give him a burial at sea. To acknowledge our loss. Grieve.