Coming Back to You

I looked for you in everyone / And they called me on that too
I lived alone but I was only / Coming back to you

I remember him. He is with me – a mostly weightless load now. He reminds me of what was going to be and what wasn’t. He is the future I thought I would have, the person I thought I would be. Now we are two separate galaxies, orbiting each other. We move in synchronous orbit most of the time, aware of each other and living our separate lives. A few times a year we meet in near orbit. Never quite touching, but the could have been becomes close enough to what is, causing an almost singularity. Sometimes the crash is soothing – I feel him more closely. Sometimes, like all space events, the result is dust and light and heat and brokenness.

The orbits have fixed points: times in the year when we come close to each other and I plan for them: readily watching for a galaxy I can visualize with a naked eye. Other times I stare in the sky looking and unable to see him. I shrug my shoulders and decide that he must be at apogee orbit – the furthest away from me he can be, travelling slowly.

And the fields they're under lock and key /Tho' the rain and the sun come through
And springtime starts but then it stops /In the name of something new
And all the senses rise against this /Coming back to you

I am a woman at an offsite meeting, with pumps and pearls and we are standing outside the board room on a break. We are chatting, these new colleagues of mine and I. I don’t know how the topic turned to midwives. On our team, one of the guys is married to a midwife and one is the son of a midwife. That’s about the only explanation I have about why we should be a team of analysts, talking about childbirth.

In those uncertain days after Gabriel’s death, I talked about him. I talked about him to everyone. Objects in orbit move slowly at apogee – at perigee, where they are close to us, they speed up. I knew those moments would be quick and I thought the force of remembrance and words could slow the orbit down – keeping him closer to me for longer. I know now that there is nothing that can act against the force of geosynchronous orbit. He must needs move away, hitting apogee so that he can come back to perigee.

I did not tell them it was me when I talked about high risk pregnancies. I did not tell them about my son, I did not tell them about the stroke, about almost dying. I did not tell them of the small bouquet of flowers at a funeral 4 days before Christmas, from mummy and daddy. I did not tell them about being alive when you most want to be dead. I referred to another woman. I hid who I was.

Even in your arms I know / I'll never get it right
Even when you bend to give me / Comfort in the night
I've got to have your word on this / Or none of it is true
And all I've said was just instead of / Coming back to you

At this point – this point of far-ness in orbit, he is not there for anyone to see. He is a fleck against a pitch black sky; far away and moving slowly through the cold. I cannot explain to someone who is not accustomed to looking. I cannot move their eyes, talking in arc seconds to describe his path. I cannot say, I think he’s out past the Kuiper Belt, in amidst the asteroids just past Pluto. You can’t see him, but he’s there and he will come back to me.

I am the woman before you, in her pearls and black suit. I am the woman talking about risk and cost-benefit analysis, with a black berry on her hip. I am exactly as you see. I am a childless woman. When we are far apart I am nothing more than what you see.

It’s just this: sometimes you might see me turn towards the stars. I look at the sky, turning my face to the darkness. He is far away at that moment, too far to see with naked eye. It’s ok. He is coming back to me.

Do you find you ever feel like you are 2 separate people? Do you ever hide your child, or at least choose the times you talk about your baby? Do you map your journey through the year almost as an orbit? And do you find that you are more easily able to let your child go, knowing that they will come back to you in certain times and places?


(Lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s beautiful song “Coming Back to You.” There are many versions of this song, from Jennifer Warren’s album Famous Blue Raincoat to Leonard himself. The most beautiful version I have heard and indeed the one that inspired this post is performed by a Canadian Band called The Once.)