I have no sailing experience. Aside from fishing on a lake – once – I have no experience with boats whatsoever. And yet I know exactly what it feels like to be adrift, lost at sea, with no idea of where to go or how to get there if I did.
It’s such a usable metaphor. Everyone knows what it feels like to be isolated and directionless. I’ve certainly been here before. But the difference between now and then is that before I would have nearly killed myself thrashing in the water. Now, I just want to lie in the boat and stare out at the distant horizon and wonder when it will get to me, not the other way around. That’s probably something that comes with age. It’s not terrible.
I’ve had two well-meaning people instruct me not to shout into the void. That is, not to put my struggles and thoughts in public, online. Another thing that comes with age is the ability to say, “Your constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, fuck you very much.” As well meaning as I know they are, sometimes shouting into the void is the only thing that makes me feel human. I have a voice, and despite being lost at sea, without compass or supplies or mobility, screaming my pain is enough to save me. But I am alone, and no one has to listen.
Maybe they’re afraid that I’ll say something injudicious about the person who left me here. I won’t. He’s lost and rudderless, too. We’re adrift on this sea of pain, unable to move or reach each other, waiting for the horizon to come to us.
The human body is an amazing machine. It – or at least, mine – performs standard mobility functions despite having not slept more than 2 hours consecutively over the last 2 days, or eaten more than 4 bites of banana. It breathes, though I keep filling its lungs with toxic smoke. It talks, though the brain is silently screaming. It does the things I ask it to do – and I really have no concept of how.
It does things also that I don’t ask it to do. Like process emotional information in my gut, leading to any number of noises from that region that I swear I’ve never heard before. It craves things I don’t really want right now, like sex, and pain. (Though thankfully not together.) It wants to run as far and as fast from here as possible – which is nowhere. Nowhere is possible.
So here I am, a mass of contradictions, stuck in one place yet churning and roiling as terrible as any hurricane. What do you imagine will give in first?
It’s such a small thing, forgetfulness. Such a tiny moment of mental lapse, barely a blip on the Radar of Grand Schemes. It’s so small a thing, and yet when it passes the memories that come roaring in to fill the space are torrential and crushing.
I had a small lapse in memory today. I started a new job and for a split second I forgot that I couldn’t celebrate it with my husband. Just a fraction of a second – not even a full tick of the clock. But then I remembered and I thought I would drown in the grief. The memory of all the first days on the job I’ve celebrated with him in the past led the charge, followed closely by all the first times of anything we’ve shared. On hot on the heels of that came all the firsts that will pass without his smile and congratulations in the future. The first Thanksgiving, that will be next month. The first birthday to go by without a fond kiss – also next month. The first time I really need a hug from the only person I’ve counted on to give them to me over the last 10 years. That was today.
Such a small thing to forget. Such a small thing. Like a bullet, this small thing is.
There’s nothing quite like that moment when your husband tells you he fell out of love with you “a while” ago.
On the one hand, it’s a punch in the gut, but on the other, it’s kind of a relief. It’s a relief to know that you weren’t imagining it. That it wasn’t your fault. That the dead weight you’ve been suffocating under IS actually that elephant in the room. Only it’s dead now. Like your marriage.
Of course on the other hand, you now have a two tons of rotting pachyderm to dig yourself out from under, so that doesn’t sound like fun. And honestly, I can’t think about that right now. It’s too much. My brain literally won’t even go there. It’s like, “Oh no, this is fine. It’s warm and heavy like a comforter. Just leave it. I like the smell of dead elephant. Really.”
So I’m just going to dwell in the relief for a bit. I’m going to languish in the absolute euphoria that comes from knowing this was not my fault. I’ve been rowing a boat for two people, expending all that energy, and I just looked behind me and it turns out there’s no one there. I can rest. I can stop fighting, and oh god does that sound so, so sweet.
At some point I’m going to realize that the tears streaming down my face mean something. Eventually, I’m going to want to tear things apart with my bare hands – I can feel it there, in the back of my mind, waiting for when it feels right. But not right now. Right now, I’m going to cradle that sad, frustrated, confused little heart of mine and whisper: It’s not you. It was never you. You are worthy. You are loved. I’ve got you and it’s going to be okay.
I don’t know what okay looks like, but I know it’s out there somewhere… waiting for me.
What is this thing inside us that keeps the love from coming out? This wall of silence and suffering and stoic fucking absolutism that stops us up like a cork in a bottle? While we’re pushing down on all our pain and despair and rage and frustration, sitting on it like a fretful traveler on a suitcase, we’ve trapped the love inside, too.
What is this thing inside that keeps us from speaking? This miserable gag of fear and pain and nagging fucking worry that smothers us like a pillow? While we’re holding our breath and clenching our jaw like some cliche out of a horror film, our screams are leaking out like blood – slow and sluggish and so dark.
Here we are, skirting the edge of something deep and black and elementally terrifying and you’re there, I know you are. But something inside us keeps us from calling out to each other. I’m here! Hold my hand – if you fall I’ll fall with you. I don’t know what that means. I wish I could catch you, but I can’t. But I’ll fall, too.
I’ll fall with you. If you let me.
My heart is painted over with the lacquered armor of more battles than I can now count, more love than I was ever entitled to receive, and more sadness than is polite to discuss. My painted heart is both broken and solid, heavy with reality.
It’s a trinket, I’m realizing now. A novelty to everyone who’s seen it. A sentimental treasure only to me. That’s human nature, isn’t it? We each have to find the glue to put the pieces back together again, chips and holes and new paint all part of the “charm” until you can either cherish it or can’t stand to look at it. But certainly you can’t expect anyone else to love it in the way you do.
My painted heart is in pieces. I don’t know how I will look at it ever again.
You see it there in the window, all glossy cherry red and plump to bursting. In your hand, it fits like it was made to go there and oh the weight of it! You just know you could feel that forever – no forgetting it was in your pocket, not ever.
The paint is hard and shiny, and layered on coat after coat. The most recent application hides the imperfections of the last – dings, nicks and scratches all easily filled in with another coat of paint. There’s a flaw in the side – a place where the material is malformed, but it’s hardly noticeable, you see. And the overall effect is so very lovely. You just have to have it.
You slip it in your pocket. It pulls your jacket just a tad off center. You were right – you never forget the weight of it. Not once.