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First Forgiveness

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in January and I sit on the high stool in the kitchen, stunned.

Each time we have a conversation like this, I feel a little more exposed. The skin over my heart rubbed raw. Its cage cracked open. The first “I apologize” in 20 years knocks the wind out of my chest and glues me to the seat.

I know that was a hard thing for you to do. Or maybe — finally— for once… it wasn’t.

By now, you’re rooting around in the living room, pulling your boots on. “I’m going to take the dog out,” you said.

Meanwhile, I’m still frozen in the kitchen replaying decades of, “What do you want to eat? Order anything you like,” and “Do you need any money? Here, take some cash just in case,” “Oh, I filled up your gas tank while you were sleeping.”

These gestures — a white flag raised — always said with just a hint of desperation. A half-plea both too embarrassed and too proud to ask for forgiveness that I wouldn’t have known how to grant anyway.

I’ve only said the words out loud once before. It was in response to an ex who had apologized and looked at me expectantly through the static that followed. The phrase felt foreign in my mouth as I choked out each syllable.

I don’t think I meant it. I don’t think that it mattered.

But now, sitting on this high stool in January with muddled emotions oozing out of my uncaged heart like crushed berries, I think I do.

Forgive you, I mean. For all of it. For real.

One day, I’ll tell you. For now, when you come back inside, I’ll meet you at the door and fling my arms around you and hold you so tight that you’ll know. Like I always have. Always will.

And you do know.

When I pull back, your cheeks are tear-stained. You close the door — we’re letting the draft in. “I love you,” you say. You don’t want me to catch a cold, you offer to get me a good winter coat.

I see the apology stranded in your eyes. Words of forgiveness hang dead on my lips.

Instead, I say, “I love you too.”

Is it ever really enough?

I hope so.

It has to be.

Edited by: Maia McDonald

Cover Photo Credit: Rachel Goulston

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