by Brock Kingsley

I denied it, this new land.”
                                    —Ada Limon

I confess I did not want to move here, to this place with its heat and a sun that shines an accusation low in a cloudless sky. I did not want to live among talk of the bluebonnets or the Northern Mockingbird singing its 200 songs. Or the pecan tree in our backyard, that hardwood dropping its fruit for the squirrels and birds to crack and peck. That tree that stretches high over houses with branches that scrape our roof shingles raw. The lawns scorch all summer, and in the slender winter window, the grass glazes over.

I don’t want to look at the cards you gave me: happy birthdays and anniversaries, another year sober, the ones signed from the dog or just because. These live in the dark, buried in a box in my closet, with my wedding ring, my father’s obituary, and a picture of Max—our sick black lab who died in my lap. They feel like failure piled on. To look would be to question all the decisions and revisions. To examine, too close, the old actions and wounds. To give myself over to tears. Maybe it isn’t you I should be confessing this to.

I confess that, at 40, I have never been so unsure or afraid.

I am made up of memories. Like a nostalgic movie montage: the laughing and kissing, the running through rain puddles, the singing of silly songs. The loneliness of waking in the still black morning with the dog. Watching the world come alive, how the daybreak kills the streetlights. You slept upstairs; I sat on the porch with a cup of coffee: I’m okay we’re okay life is okay everything is okay. Which tells me it wasn’t.

I wish I had never said as much.

I’m sorry. For the way my depression would come on like one of those Ohio snowstorms. You know the ones. They could drop two feet of snow on the city, hushing everything. Once the snow melted, it would flood the streets, leaving us all stranded again.

I still hold resentment and anger in my body—my abs flexed and ready, every thought another fist. I listened to a poet read a poem he wrote for his son, a poem about divorce. I should’ve written that poem seven or eight years ago, he told me. How long has it been and I still can’t write about ours. Each day is the day I’ll start to let go.

I wanted to stay in that Ohio neighborhood. It has changed more than either of us, but when someone says home, that’s still where I see. The place where I got sober, the place where we married. Not our first apartment in Indianapolis above the Greek restaurant, not the loft in downtown Fort Worth, not the house on College that we painted and worked on where we cut down the pecan tree, the house we sold.

I confess to all the things I didn’t say. Things I kept to myself, my silent agreement when you said, We’re not going to make it. In the middle of the cancelled vacation and divvied up furniture, I wanted to scream STOP—to smash the dishes and refuse. Love, I confess I should have put up a fight. I thought I could be a pecan tree, the state tree of Texas, strong and hard and quiet. Grow roots that were deep and vast and could never be pulled out.

I confess I am not as strong as I look.

Artwork by: Natalie Bradford

Natalie was born in Metro Detroit, Michigan and currently lives and works in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She’s currently pursuing a BFA with an emphasis in print media at Western Michigan University. She’s interested in exploring death, decay, and the circle of life through intricate pen drawings.

Instagram: @natalie.bradford