On “Yes, There is Always Tomorrow” and Things I Learned About Love
“Yes, there is always tomorrow.” Last night, in the middle of the night between fits of sleep never allowing dreams, those were the last words I said to someone. What I wanted to say was “Yes, there is most always tomorrow.”
Tomorrow doesn’t always come.
When I was a child, and the boys were chasing kids around, tripping each other, hurling rocks and childhood taunts, my brother Tom would run through the quad with open arms, chasing after me calling out “hugs!” He was bigger than me and when he caught me, he would squeeze so tight I thought my heart would explode through my little girl chest. When my brothers would tease me, never satisfied until I was in tears and they were teasing me for crying, he would knock on my bedroom door and sit with me. When I would make my brothers gifts as surprises, they would destroy them then watch me fall apart. I would cry and he would tell me it was okay because I made them with Love and you can’t destroy Love.
He was my defender.
When my mother died, I had to go live with my father. My best friend was dead, my defender was suddenly cities away and I mostly only cried when I was alone. I was most always alone. I was thirteen.
When I was twenty, I had burned my life to the ground. I had pushed away my friends and everyone who cared about me. I moved around between seedy motels in the worst parts of town with my things in one large box, broken and torn at the edges – bits of clothing left along the way every time I tried to go someplace new. I didn’t have a phone but wouldn’t have called anyone anyway. I didn’t believe in people, I didn’t believe in God and I didn’t believe anything was going to be okay ever again. I still believed in Love but had forgotten how to love anyone or to let anyone love me.
One day, I went to the house where we had all lived together: my mother, my stepfather, my brothers and me. My mother had been dead seven years and I had hardly seen them since. We sat at the table where we used to have dinner and I told them about my wonderful life and my glorious independence. Three days later, I went back and I told them the truth. I went back and I fell apart and I told them I was broken, that I didn’t know what to do or what I was doing, but I couldn’t do it anymore.
Tom and I went for a walk and I asked him if he ever felt dead inside, I asked him if he knew what that was like, walking around and being dead. He said no, that he was full of Love and he had God. He asked me if I still believed in God. I told him no, but I prayed every night. He wanted to know why I prayed if I didn’t believe in God. I asked him if he remembered how, when we were kids, I used to pray and close my eyes and try to move mountains. He remembered. I told him I didn’t pray to move mountains anymore but that every night, I would pass out, praying myself to sleep; begging God to send me a sign if he was real, to let me die. I told him how sometimes, I would still pray for the impossible, like my mother coming back or that I could undo the horrible mess I had made.
We walked and I cried and he didn’t chase me but he put his arms around me like he did when we were children. I felt Love for the first time in what seemed like forever and thought my broken girl heart would explode through my chest.
The next day, I moved back into the house where we lived together as children. For the next year and a half, he taught me about Love and told me everything was going to be okay. I didn’t always believe him, but on the days I did, I had hope. Hope didn’t keep me from drinking myself to sleep every night, but I felt better knowing that across the hall and down the stairs, there were people who loved me. I tried to let them.
I watched him give freely of himself and his heart. I watched when his first love fell apart and he tried again. I sat with him in his bedroom while he learned to play the guitar so he could sing a song to a new girl he adored. There was no special occasion but she loved that song and he loved that girl and he wanted to sing it for her. He wanted to give her a gift. He reminded me that Love doesn’t need special occasions.
When I would be locked in my bedroom, drinking myself to sleep, I would hear him leave the house at odd hours when someone needed a friend. When the world was too lonely, I would wake him in the middle of the night and he would tell me it was alright. That he loved me, and that as long as there was Love, everything was always okay. He told me that God loved me too. I told him I didn’t believe in God anymore because he wouldn’t let me die, but that I believed in Love. He said that was all I needed, just to believe in Love. That if I believed in Love, someday I would stop praying to die in the middle of the night.
When I was twenty-one, I was at work when I called Tom to tell him that I loved him. My stepfather answered the phone. I asked him if Tom was there and he said no. I asked him if everything was okay.
He told me it was going to be.
As I drove home, I felt pieces of my heart falling out. I opened the window so I could breathe but closed it again so the pieces would stay inside. When I pulled up to our house, my brother’s friends were sitting in the driveway with empty hearts. When your heart has been emptied before, you know what it looks like. I didn’t say a word and ran into the kitchen where we had dinner as children and where he listened as I told my stepfather about my life the night before I came home. I stood in the kitchen and my stepfather told me Tom wasn’t coming home. There had been an accident and he was never coming home.
I choked on pieces of my heart as they spilled out and my body followed them to the ground.
I got up and made myself a drink. I tried to fill empty space in my heart with anesthetic. For five years, I tried to fill a heart so full of holes it couldn’t hold anything.
That was eleven years ago.
He would have turned thirty-six years old today.
I am thirty-three years old and I don’t drink anymore. The holes in my heart have been filled with Love and I have taken the pieces that have fallen out over the years and made a mosaic of things I want to remember.
I want to remember that Love is real and it is limitless. I want to remember that it is the thing we still have when hope is gone. I want to remember that when I didn’t have any Love left, my brother gave me some of his. I want to remember that I want to be like that.
I want to remember that tomorrow doesn’t always come but at long as we have Love, there is always forever to look forward to.