“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Ye gods, these nights just won’t quit. I keep clinging to the idea that this won’t last, but damn, I’m not sure what’s going to be left of me by the time I come out the other side.
I hold together fairly well during the day, although I seem to be on the verge of tears a lot of the time. But once the sun goes down, I start to unravel.
I stare wide-eyed into the dark. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I listen to the sound of my own breathing and the ghosts inside my own head.
I hate being alone at night. I’d give almost anything to have someone’s arms to curl up in at night: for comfort, for support, for the sense of safety and security.
But that wouldn’t be fair, so I sleep alone.
I dream of him, every night for the last week. Last night it was as if he’d never died, and we were back to trying to figure out how to make our lives work together. I woke up feeling like my chest had cratered in, my head aching. I am sleeping only five to six hours a night.
Every night I struggle for air, every morning I wake feeling hungover, exhausted and in pain, both literal and figurative. My joints are aching again, my ribs tender and sore. Grief slides within the muscle, twisting and binding. It wraps the bones, invading the joints. Every night, I am being unmade.
My friend Sarah urged me to get it out on paper:
let it spill
make a mess
get it out
So I did. I picked up some charcoal, scribbled with some white pastels, and the drawing above is the result. It is only the second time I’ve ever created art from an emotional place, and the first time I think I nailed it perfectly. The eye is open just a hair too wide: startled, staring, haunted. Disbelief and pain.
I am a little startled at the result, actually. But I feel a little better, and I’m hoping against hope I won’t dream tonight.
I still have 22 nights to go.
You are the hole in my head
You are the space in my bed
You are the silence in between
What I thought and what I said
You are the night-time fear
You are the morning when it’s clear
When it’s over you’re the start
You’re my head, and you’re my heart
“No Light, No Light” by Florence + The Machine, from “Ceremonials”
In the night, the voices echo: his, mine.
I am curled onto my side, staring blankly at the wall, listening.
I’d marry you tomorrow if I thought you’d go for that kind of thing…
I swear to god, if you let anything happen to you…
My eyes close. Open. Darkness, pale light. Haunted in the silence.
I don’t know how you do it, but you calm me down, every time…
I need you like I need air to breathe…
My left hand is open on the sheet, palm up, fingers curled, unmoving. My eyes shut. Open.
We’ll be old people together, I promise…
You don’t get it, do you? All I want is you…
There is no sound other than the whirr of the ceiling fan and the hiss of air between my teeth.
You’re the anchor that holds me to the ground…
You are the love of my life. You always will be…
I never knew it could be like this, how it is with you…
You say all these beautiful things and I want to turn around to see who you’re talking to….
Beneath a pale moon’s whispering
I wander again through the trackless night
Trying to find the we that was
Love’s fool laughing in the dark
Beneath a full moon’s staring
Down this road the bright edge of madness lies
Singing of the ribbonless wedding that never was
And the promise never delivered
Beneath a waning moon’s slipping
I chase our history through the broken stones
Of crashed castles built on the love that was
Fighting through the stumble and the pain
Beneath a new moon’s haunting
Peeling sanity to reveal bones lost in the founding
And the shards of a future that never was
Splintered in the night wind’s whistle
Come the morning sun’s rising
Good-bye in the night bird’s last song
Heavy head pillowed on dreams of what will be
Curled around my kintsukuroi soul
Love’s fool calling
Seven months today. The seconds and minutes and hours keep piling up and up, until a vast gulf of time and space separates me from where we were us.
I described myself as a galaxy last night. Beautiful and shining and full of stars and light and life…all of it held together by a supermassive black hole in the center. The place you and I were, until you died in a supernova that took me apart and scattered me far and wide, collapsing in on yourself until not even light could escape. Here, deep in the core of me.
I want to dive headlong into it, and see if I can survive to come out the other side, into the alternate ending: the Disney instead of the Shakespeare, the place where you and I made it and got our happily ever after.
I am sitting here, gazing at my half-finished project, my newest piece of art: a large piece of embossed copper. I am slowly going blind from the dazzle of it. Every once in a while, when I sit back to ease my eyes or my aching hand and arm, I look up for you, for your smile of encouragement, your pride, your interest.
Seven months gone, and I’m still looking for you.
You never really got to see me create. This was the gift you gave to me, sent to me as a lifeline to survive without you, and with it, you have saved me. I hope somewhere you can see, that you know what I have done, what I continue to do, in your name.
I don’t know that I would have come back to it otherwise. You and I both know our most of our energies were likely to be bound up in keeping you whole and sane and functioning. I don’t know that I would have had the time, with you and part-time school and full-time work.
I know your hand was in this. I can feel it when I pick up a brush without fear, trace a line in charcoal with confidence and grace. I can feel you when I burnish the copper, I can hear you tell me you love me every time I own my new title of artist. There is so much of you in me now, and all around me.
I think you may have pulled an Obi-Wan on me, babe, and become much more powerful dead than alive, and you had one hell of a zing when alive.
There is so much more to me now, because I am two made one, two souls bound. It may be my talent they see, but it’s your soul that produced it.
Two made one, forever.
Here we are
You’ve moved on
In my heart I know you’re not gone
Gotta find ways to shed this old skin
Where were you, were you in that room?
Were you watching as I wept for you?
Curled up next to your body so still
Wanna let go, don’t wanna lose
Wanna let go, don’t wanna lose
Wanna let go, but I don’t wanna lose
I fake it so well, most of the time. So well, in fact, I occasionally fool myself.
Today was one of the days I didn’t do so well. I was fine while laughing and chatting with others, but a poem written by a friend sent me on a full-body flashback, and I was living it again:
The way your breath stirred the dark…hands stroking, voice holding me up, tethering me to the earth, losing even that last tenuous connection as the world exploded in my head, in my heart, in my soul…
And that was the end of any illusion of calm, any semblance of peace. Need and longing and searing pain traced the length of every nerve as his voice filled my mind…
“We’re going to be old people together, I promise…”
“I don’t know how anyone could mistreat you, Angie, I really don’t…”
“Oh, I love you, I do, never like this, never anyone like you…”
“I didn’t know, oh, didn’t know I could feel this way without being high…”
Oh, gods. In the back of my mind, thudding up from the base of my skull, come the pounding strains of Placebo’s cover of “Running Up That Hill,” burning with all the frozen horror of an empty future; vacant-hearted, hollow-eyed, bargaining with gods who aren’t listening:
Tell me we both matter, don’t we?
You, you and me
You and me won’t be unhappy
And if I only could, I’d make deal with God
And get him to swap our places…
This pain is bottomless.
I pulled myself together for a while. Laughed, chatted, talked. For a while. Then one by one the voices stilled until the only one left was the one in my head. Echoing.
I made dinner. Ate it, standing at the counter. Didn’t taste it.
I could pick up the phone. I could call someone. Save me from myself, from my memories…
But I won’t. Sometimes I just have to be sad. The only way over it is through it, after all. Which is damn cold comfort when I’m looking at a long day tomorrow and a cold bed tonight.
Gold and silver line my heart
But burned into my brain are these stolen images
Stolen images, baby, stolen images
Can you picture it, babe, the life we could have lived?
I can. All the time. I just can’t picture the life that doesn’t include him. So I go from day to day. I don’t really plan ahead. I’ve made some long range plans for my future as far as education and career goes, but that’s almost it. I start to picture the new cozy apartment, the furniture just so, this color, that fabric. And then, my heart turns to the one who should be there to share it and he vanishes like smoke, sad crooked smile hanging in the air.
Are you proud of me? Are you watching me weep for you? Can you see how I struggle, see what I create in your name, in your honor? Are you finally at peace? Are you waiting for me? Tell me! Something, anything, dammit! Let me know you’re still with me, that you haven’t left me so alone…
It roils and bursts; it’s viscous and thick, this grief. It clings to the soul, coating the bones, freezing the heart into place, leaving it to thump and twist in its new prison of darkness and cooling stone.
And it isn’t. So what? What does that change? A temper tantrum over the unfairness of it all doesn’t bring him back to me. Nothing will bring him back to me. I am serving a life sentence, after all; I knew how this was going to go the moment I knew he was gone. When something blows a hole through a life, it tends to stay open.
I miss talking to him. Miss the sound of his voice, his insights, his warped sense of humor, his open and unabashed expression of feeling, of desire and hope and love. I miss his companionship, the way we fit together.
I’m afraid. Afraid no one will see me the way he did. That no one else will love me the way he did, feel so lucky to even have known me. That no one else will feel that thrill of want and desire that he did for me. The same things I felt for him.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to feel those things for someone else. I just turned 36 and have no desire to date. Sometimes I feel as if my best years have already gotten away from me, that by the time I get my life together and I have the financial security to be equal in a relationship, I’ll be into my 40s and most of my life will be behind me. Sometimes I feel like he was my last shot at lifelong love and true connection.
I know that’s mostly bullshit, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about it.
Seems like some days, not much of anything changes the way I feel. Some days, it seems like this is just the way it’s going to be.
Maybe tomorrow won’t be one of those days.