Dear Sylvia

"...Delight in life. Ahead is a large array of blind alleys. You are half-deliberately, half-desperately, cutting off your grip on creative life. You are becoming a machine. You cannot love, even if you knew how to begin to love. Every thought is a devil, a hell — if you could do a lot of things over again, ah, how differently you would do them! You want to go home, back to the womb. You watch the world bang door after door on your face, numbly. You have forgotten the secret you knew, once, ah, once, of being joyous, of laughing, of opening doors."        — Sylvia Plath

Beginning when I was four, my family used to take annual trips to Eastern Washington to look at the tulip fields. Large plots of land, stretched out along the highway; red, red, yellow, red, yellow, purple. Walking through acres of flowers chosen for the hidden virus in their gene.

We walked side by side, pretending our arms were made of wax. I'd shape your arm and you'd hold your position like a faithful mannequin. You walked ahead of us, his arm wrapped around your waist, stealing the bulb of a tulip that caught your eye.

It's spring soon, and I know we're not going back. The polaroids are gone, tucked away from the sun, tucked away from our eyes. I know you don't remember the gel in his hair, his toothpaste commercial smile; the sunglasses are off, he hasn't shaved in weeks and all you see is the disappointment you've buried for the last ten years. I know you don't look at the bright lipstick, her dainty clothing so carefully picked out, her hair meticulously styled so that not a strand will be out of place; instead there stands a woman whose constant demands you never seem to meet, whose disappointment in you has gotten so tiresome you can't even care anymore.

In my dreams, everything exists on parallel planes. As you sit in that dark, stifled room, straining your eyes to read those stupid numbers, in my mind you're still walking hand in hand. But I know that you're also in your truck on Christmas Day, racing towards Minnesota. I know you're standing at the doorway, watching the cops escort him from our house. The suitcases are being packed twelve different times, on twelve different nights. He's sleeping in four different motels. She's sitting in her too-big armchair, crying until she's nearly blind, too many times to count.

We're trapped in our ways. As a family our love has aged, fermented. The smell of the dirt, the abrasive wind, the slowly dragging hours are all costs too high for the old skeleton of our love to hold up. In my mind the fields are frozen, the bulbs are sleeping. I'll pretend the tulips aren't in bloom, waiting for us to return.

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