Tag Archives: recovery

“It Gains — the More It Gives. And Then, It Rises with the Fall.”

I was packing up the joint, sorting through it:

Consider it spring cleaning.  A much delayed spring cleaning, that is.

He left in the spring.  It took four months to move on — but only two to remember how to breathe normally.  And because he left in the spring, I skipped the cleaning this year and hoarded for a while.  Not my own things:  I don’t own much and prefer to live in open spaces, spartanly.  But I do tend to hold onto other people’s things; their words, mostly.

I’ve stored the sound of his voice on my answering machine, his worded messages and a shredded napkin with his absentminded scribbles.

The sound of his voice — was the first to go.  I’ve done that before, so I knew better:  Holding onto the voice belonged to the memory, and it could be the hardest to forget.

Harder than his touch.  His touch belonged to the skin.  About a million skin cells would go every day, and I hoped they would take the tactile memories of him — with them.

But the voice:  The voice belonged to the brain.  It was more than skin deep.  It sunk in and echoed around for a bit:

“Remember me, me, me… me.”

So, I removed it, quickly, surgically, no matter how much I wanted to hoard it.  That very week he announced his departure — the voice had to go.

And I remembered thinking:

“Where does everybody go — when they go?”

So many times, I’ve heard lovers speak of needing their freedom.  Does freedom really need to be negotiated?  And how does love impede it, anyway?

And then, they speak of “not being ready”, not being “in that place”.  What place is that?  I mean I understand structure in storytelling:  I do it every day.  I’m a fucking mythologist!  But to mold one’s life to a coherent line-up of well-timed events — that seems ridiculous, and somehow offensive, to tell you the truth.  To tell you my truth.

And in the mean time, the skin continued shedding layers.  It wasn’t following any particular chronology.  It wasn’t determined by storytelling, and its structure:  chapters, afterwords, closures, etc.  Every day, about a million skin cells would go, and I would hope they took the tactile memories of him — with them.

The written messages would go next.  At first, I would sort through them, like quirkily shaped pieces of a puzzle.  I’d spread them out on the floor of the joint, long overdue for its spring cleaning.  I’d tack ‘em onto the empty wall.  I swear to god, I knew there was a whole picture somewhere in there, even though I’ve never seen it (not even on the box cover).  If only I could figure out the line-up, I thought, I could understand “that place”.  You know:  “That place”, to which they go — when they go.

So, I would shuffle the worded messages, measure their jagged edges against against each other.  I mean, I understand structure in storytelling:  I do it every day.  I’m a fucking mythologist!  But with these bits that I was hoarding — all over my joint — something still wasn’t making sense.

Viscerally!  Viscerally, I knew that something wasn’t complete.  Perhaps, the picture wasn’t even there and all I’d been twirling in my fingers were orphaned pieces of multiple puzzles, as if solving a silly prank by a bored rascal.  Soon, it all began to seem ridiculous, and somehow offensive, to tell you the truth.  To tell you my truth.

So, the words would go, mere weeks after he announced his departure.

And I remembered thinking:

“Is he going — to ‘that place’?”

And in the mean time, the skin continued shedding layers.  A million skin cells would go, methodically taking the tactile memories of him — with them.

But what to do with the shredded napkin with his absentminded scribbles?  Where to store the fortune from a cookie that spoke of love and ended one of our shared meals?  The ticket stubs.  The birthday cards.  The tags from my suitcase with which I travelled to meet him in my two favorite cities.

They were the palpable proofs of our story.  Of our unfinished puzzle.  And I would hoard them for a while (at least a season past the spring, to be exact, never having done any spring cleaning).  My hopes for his change of mind had long been deleted along the sound of his voice.  After a while, I didn’t even want a reunion, let alone a return.  As much I as I could accept, he had departed for “that place.”  You know:  “That place”, to which they go — when they go.

I don’t go to “that place”, because the places where I dwell, I’ve chosen quite carefully; and I don’t take them for granted.  I want to travel, sure, often alone to my two favorite cities.  But I don’t crave being anywhere else but here.  And if I do — I just go.  That’s — my fucking truth!

Neither do I reconstruct my life to fit a story.  There is no need for that:  I am a fucking mythologist, I study stories every day!  Besides, to mold my life to a coherent line-up of well-timed events — that seems ridiculous, and somehow offensive.  It robs a life of its magical unpredictability.  So, instead of waiting to be “in that place” — waiting “to be ready” — I’ve always found myself up for it.

All of it:

Life, and the humanity that comes with it.

Love, and the humility that precedes.

Loss, and the utter humiliation that often follows.

But in the mean time, through all of it — life, love, loss — the skin continued shedding layers.  A million skin cells would go, every day, methodically taking the tactile memories of him — with them.

Perhaps, I was hoarding the palpable proofs of our story to teach the new skin cells about what was being mourned.  That way, when the old skin crawled, they wouldn’t be clueless.

Eventually though, the new cells — took over.  One morning, I woke up to find them in a majority; and they no longer wanted to hear the old story.  They wanted new ones:  new loves, stories, puzzles.  So, the palpable proofs had to go.

The old skin cells, shed all over this joint, were the last to clean up.  They had long expired, taking the tactile memories of someone I was now willing to forget — with them.

And so:  It was time — for spring cleaning.

A much delayed spring cleaning, that is; but oh, so very timely!

A Breakthrough Period. A Breakthrough.

Finally!  The skies have cleared.  Not a shred of a cloud upon the glorious skies that make this kinky city lovable and nearly perfect.  They make this city mine, for now:  Thank goodness for this city!

It had shoved, and yanked, and jolted me for long enough to have taught me by now just how much I could tolerate.  It had taught me my strength — and my forgiveness — and despite its endless attempts to shake me off its surface, I have learned to hold my ground.  I have learned to stay grounded.  And suddenly, it is crystal clear:  The storm has passed, the dark mood is over; the horizons are endless — anything is possible!  And it is time — to move on.

And finally, I have slept!  For eleven mother-fucking hours!  The late nights of being spun-out over an abrupt ending of my love affair have officially ended.  No more scratching my head, covering it with open sores; then licking them to healing.  No more pacing barefoot between the unlit rooms of my apartment, thinking if only I’d run up enough mileage I would come across — exactly! — what had gone wrong.  No more sweat-inducing nightmares with every unlikely character taking the place of the departed lover, playing out his departure over, and over, and over again.  (Leave already!  GO.)  No more endless texting session to all my brothers just so they could make me laugh, make me light again; but first — “make me understand”:

“Make a list of what you learned,” one of them, the most beloved and the only one to always outdo me in passions, recommended.  “But fuck it, V!  What do WANT?  Make a list of what you want!”  

So, I did.  For over a month, I was the perfect student of my own fuck-ups:  Jotting down “the lessons”, pretending to be perfectly content with “the experience”.  Scrambling for gratitude, getting a hold of it with my two fingers, then putting it against my body like a vintage dress I still could not afford.  When will it come:  Forgiveness?  I distracted myself with plans.  Secretly though, I’d still rewrite our chronology, on the edges of my pages, as if I had a fucking chance at finding out when it all broke.  When it all went to shit.

The body had started to give in.  How could it not?  He had become my pattern.  He took it with him.  All other habits got shifted; all other habits other than breathing.  And bathing.  But that last one I’d commit only because that’s where his ghost would hang around the most:  Balancing on the edge of my sink, in a caramel-colored light, feasting on me with a quiet gaze — so in love with me, still! — just the way he had done it that one night, in the beginning.

So, the system had gone into a self-induced shock:  Leaking and letting go.

“Has anything changed, drastically?” a gentle doctor — a gentle man — asked me yesterday.

I had been sitting on the edge of a cold leather bench balancing my bare feet on a metal drawer underneath, and my chin — on my knees.  It always happens, in these clinics:  Too short to reach the floor anyway, I fold myself into these fetal positions.  Child-like:  a little girl.  Before the doctor entered, I had been studying my toes, wiggling them against the fluorescent lights above to make my nail polish sparkle.  How — when?! — had I grown so much, yet managed to hide the little girl in the corners of my smile, or in between these wiggling toes?  Or somewhere in my laughter he had once claimed to love the most?

“You sure?  Nothing different?  Any changes:  in diet or medication?”

Had I been given the task of casting this gentle man during my time of having hit the bottom, I could not have been more merciful:  The doc looked godsend.  With a headful of completely white hair, the face of compassion, and gentle fingers that smelled of eucalyptus, he stood there — all kindness!  all gentleness! — and received my every head shake “no” with patience.

I felt like a liar:

“Nope.  Nothing has changed.”

But what else could I say?  “I lost a love?”  That’s not a symptom.  And even if I did confess it, how could I possibly word it without making it sound trifle?  Because women don’t die of a broken heart.  Although, I did once bury this one woman…

“Any pain?  Here?…  What about here?”

He was pushing into the corners of my hips, looking for the sources of pain in the corners of my body.  Well, I hope you find it, doc.  I hope you figure it out.  Because, obviously:  I can’t.

A nurse entered the room and hung above me, while holding my hand.  She looked like an older sister, or that one guru I once had who had taught me how to channel my compassion into my touch.  The nurse’s face would’ve looked calm had it not been for one wrinkle at the beginning of her right eyebrow.  I shifted:  Something felt cold.  The nurse squeezed my hand, caught my gaze and smiled, making that wrinkle disappear.

“You’re okay,” she said.

“You’re okay,” Dr. Godsend echoed a minute later.  “They call this ‘breakthrough bleeding’.”  (“Breakthrough”?  Holy shit.  You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me!)

“But is it normal?  Four weeks?” I was beginning to feel relieved; relaxing, landing into my exhaustion — finally!  Still:  I just needed to make sure.

“Yes.  We don’t know what causes it, but…”

Dr. Godsend lingered, giving me the last chance for a confession.  I passed.

And so had the storm.  The storm — had passed.  The dark mood — was over. 

“No Chekhovian deaths for you.  Not today!” another gentle man received me in the waiting room.  Had I been given the task of casting this man during my time of having hit the bottom, I could not have been more merciful:  Older than me, he had long accepted my transferences onto his fatherhood.  Gently, he squeezed me into his side and walked me out:  Slowly, child!  Baby steps, little girl.  One foot at a time.

From the top of the hill where this godsend clinic was built I could see my city.  Thank goodness for this city!  Although still covered in that fog of the Bay, it was beginning to feel warm.  It was getting warmer.  The storm — had passed.  The skies were returning to their endless-less.  And it was time — to move on.

No.  Women don’t die of a broken heart.  But sometimes, they do bury their lovers in their “breakthrough” period.

A breakthrough. Period.