I am awake. It is nine a.m. I have been awake since two a.m., when I woke crying, my insides twisting, the broken edges of all the pieces of my sharply broken heart grinding together in grief, and slipped from bed to throw up in the bathroom for half an hour from pain.
I’m practiced at this now. I knew to bring my phone and a sweater, to expect the need for distraction, to know my teeth will chatter from the stress of my body’s reaction, all energy diverted to this misguided attempt to vomit my misery away as if my trauma were something I ate.
(I read the news as I sit on the floor. I read science fiction. I cannot, under any circumstances, read about code or coding or how to program. I cannot read about theatre or Frank Zappa or King Crimson or any other art prog rock the same way I cannot listen to any ravey dance music or Ratatat. Though central to my life, these have become tied to the worst of it, they have become impossible topics, impossible needs. My indoctrination was too complete. My love tied me to them as much as my ruined love now keeps me away.)
Sometimes, when I am reading in the middle of the night, freezing as I lean against porcelain, I think about writing. How much it used to run through my blood, how much I’ve given up, how much has been taken away.
This is the price of falling in love; poison, betrayal, loss, and pain and more pain. I am the little mermaid before she was sanitized, every step on land the same as walking on a thousand blades.
I am in San Francisco for an ex-partner’s wedding. Our break-up was many years ago, but it is still a stressful thing. I can’t help but remember when he proposed to me, then later declared that it was a romantic lie and I never should have taken him seriously. It was our first fight and the day after was the first day he began to abandon me. I spent the next six months fighting for us, stubborn in love, wanting his desire and happiness with every fibre of my being, but it didn’t matter, he had decided and forever after just drifted away. It was this, completely: “I chose her less and less. Everyday, for five years, I chose her a little less. I stayed with her. I just stopped choosing her. We both suffered.”
Yet here I am, a quarter away across the world to witness him finally follow through, but with someone else, even as I still wear his ring and his hands are banded with mine. Why? Because he asked me and I still love him and so want him to be happy, no matter how he treated me. (Isn’t that the very definition?) I am a trembling thing, helpless against it.
Micheal, the best and brightest, there is no justice that you are gone and that I cannot call you in the midst of this and take comfort in your wry voice from Calgary or Berlin or Tel Aviv.
How odd and foolish love is. How stupid my heart. How much I wish I could cut them both out of me these sleepless nights when there is nothing in my world larger than pain.
My most recent ex was going to be my date to this, my partner, my shield and armor. It was going to be fine and sweet and an adventure, a trip together with friends along the way and dancing at the wedding and smiles as clear as diamonds. My first real date to a wedding. My first a lot of things shaped like joy.
I wonder if he remembered, if that’s why he reached out with a message the very same minute I was putting a key in the ignition to drive south this week. A late night text, the first since New Year’s Day, when he changed his relationship status to boyfriend-of-the-girl he fucked on our one year anniversary and declared I was mentally ill for begging for his compassion. It might have been coincidence, but I miss you, he said, I’m sorry I hurt you.
My reply said, I miss you too, I’m sorry you did too, I can’t talk now, I’m driving to the wedding, and then that’s what I did. I turned on the engine and drove for five hours. Then I traded places with my friend Rafael, napped briefly in the passenger seat, and then did it again. It was a relief. I had something to do and finally, finally, maybe the chance to resolve some of the agony he chose as his legacy, the heavy bread of my daily meal of grief and pain. I drove and drove and the scenery changed and I barely cried.
“Her tender feet felt as if cut with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang had pierced through her heart.”
He changed his story the next day, of course, sober probably in the light of day. I only had one day with hope of relief before he read my journal and back-pedaled, practically tripping over himself in his haste to get away from the damage he helped create.
I suppose I understand. I imagine it is easier to leave me like this in perpetuity than face his own hypocrisy. To own his guilt would be to own a monstrous thing; that by taking the fearful lessons he learned through abuse and inflicting them on me, he has become harmful himself. Such a realization does not come cheap – it spits in the face of his best unshakable conviction, that he may be flawed, but he is Innocent. A Good Person more than anything else, the very kindest of all.
Maybe underneath it all, he knows. Why else send the first message? Yet no matter how badly he might feel in moments of late night, guilty whiskey weakness, I know I’m not worth it to him, just as I was not worth his respect when we were together. To treat me as an equal or a real person was too expensive for his conscience even when he was my partner and declared he loved me, so, honestly, I was a dimwitted idiot optimist for hoping otherwise. To think he might help me now, reach out and offer care after he has already discarded me, is a pipe dream.
Ignoring my daily wreckage is obviously easier. He doesn’t have to live with it that way. I bear the cost, not him. He broke me and replaced me. See no evil, right? I’m a write off, just like his other crashed cars. The worst that could happen is that he might one day see his own soul, but who believes in such a thing in 2015? That’s what drugs and alcohol are for.
If only I had some way to forget myself, too. Erase and negate my own vulnerable underbelly with chemical castration or hedgehog prickles and hide the fingerprints that trust left unfairly tattood on my skin. You would be disappointed with me, Michael, for wanting this, but nowhere is safe now that you’re gone.
Even though I see his reasons, I cannot agree with them. Taking responsibility is a difficult task, but he does not earn my sympathies. To leave another in pain is beyond my horizon, beyond that which I am capable. It is incompatible with my wiring. Incomprehensible. Cruel. Instead I am stuck – no matter how much I hate myself for it or my daily distress – it is like with the other. Why am I here? I love him.
It causes such agony, but it is the truth. Even as every day I struggle to endure. Even as I barely feel I can stay alive. Even as I sit curled on a tired bathroom floor, watching another day dawn again as my body misfires, as it has for months, my flesh unable to understand that there is no cure for this disease.