Josh Riebock posted this on Facebook:
If you were at the event in Grand Rapids tonight, and you’re interested in the short story that I read, here it is…
Behind the church, I kissed you with my eyes open. It was just so hard to believe that you were real. Were you?
It was night and the air was hot and the moon let us walk beneath her bright skirt, so we did. We walked on and on into forever, two tiny specks mingling with the stars, all of history, even angels. Crossing the street, you took my hand and we stopped. Traffic stopped too, cars honking their horns, the angry shadows of people behind glass cursing and shaking their fists at us, in such a hurry to arrive at places they didn’t want to be. We didn’t want to be anywhere else. The light turned green and horns kept honking and right there you told me that you loved me and this time I had to close my eyes. For some reason it hurt to hear. No, I wasn’t imagining that you were someone else. I was imagining that I was someone else. Someone who deserved you. Someone who could be what you needed.
Time brushed by against our cheek.
We bought a home and soon it collapsed. So we rebuilt it. And it collapsed again. I knelt in the dust and bent nails of our life together and I cried. You bent down next to me and you laughed, and said that we should find a place where homes can’t collapse. Where is that? I had to know. You said that place is wherever we are. Then I cried again. In the rubble I saw our collapse, and you saw our foundation. Is there a difference?
Soon our youth ran off.
We became gray. We grew shorter. Life shrank around us. And we didn’t know how to stop it. Maybe that’s why we fought. I shouted. You held your breath. I folded my arms. You combed your hair. Our faces turned red, but I kept my eyes open. I had to see your expression. Did you look at me the same as you did that night behind the church? After all these years, and all these kisses, and all these collapses, were you still real? And could you make me real too? Did I even want you to?
I needed you to love me. I needed you to let me go. But you never did. Somehow you always smiled through your pain, and wept over mine. And in the silent wake of our wars, you held me close and I felt safe. Safe from myself. I wanted to climb inside your chest, close the doors behind me, and lock myself inside, hidden away within someone who cared for me.
The end came more quickly than we thought it could. No one really believes in the end. But when it arrived for us, I asked it to give me one more minute with you. Just one.
Then I looked for a final time over our worn, sunken shoulder, through every page that we wrote together, through every poem and every bruise, every kiss and every collapse. I inhaled each one. And when I reached the last page of our lives, I tore it out, folded it neatly, and tucked it inside my lips. Then I leaned over and kissed you, whispering, Here is our story…
A thousand times I threw in the towel. A thousand times you picked it up, and used it to wipe the quit from my eyes.