“Good question,” I said. “Sad story.” This satisfied her enough. She turned and urged us on.
We followed her into another room, this one smaller, the air heavier, more like how I’d imagined a cave. The chamber walls looked like ruins neatly stacked, with sedimentary stone bowls layered against each other upon the karst. A giant’s cupboard, nests for newborns, places to tuck our folded clothes. Who lived here? I thought. The group murmured such questions aloud. Our guide assured us the formation was natural—but how about the way a pile of rocks can mirror, can mock, our human world?
Have I tried to forget you? It’s hard to diagram, like the caves. I’ve tried meditation, tried taking your pictures off my walls, tried, later, to put them back up with forgiveness. I’ve tried writing your family letters in my mind, I’ve tried writing to you, have signed up for classes to stretch my hamstrings, my shoulders, to loosen my neck’s grip upon my skull. I’ve tried imagining you a bright light and hoped for you to remain that way, and I’ve tried stuffing all your darkness into the thinnest, most impassable part of a cave like this one in a single dark ray and then fashioning a door there that I’ve shut. I got married after you, and now even that is behind me.
But it’s been long enough. Had you been in the cave with me today, we could have, even after all of this time, laughed at the crab who guided us, could have hid and shook and bellowed and felt the stone hum and shift against the steps of others. Then we could have felt our way back into the darkness on our hands, using our chins and cheeks, licking the limestone from itself, crunching crystals beneath our molars, between our two bodies so they sounded like bones. I have caverns where you’ve crossed me, stalactites for ribs, and in my throat is a petrified jellyfish, bobbing there, stinging, you that circular river and me the stone that wears away slowly beneath you in time.