The Double-Edged Sword

Snowy Night, detail

Snowy Night, detail

I know where you are
Safe in my dreams
You live on for me
And I hear your voice calling to stars
And heaven’s so clear
Still feel so near
“Out There” Kristy Thirsk

I miss him most at night, curled up alone around a pillow. I still sometimes wet the pillow with tears before I fall asleep; sometimes I fight the sleepy pills until I stumble, bleary-eyed and nearly incoherent, into bed. But always it hurts, and I suspect the part of me that will always belong to him will always ache at night. He was a champion cuddler, and I crave his affection, oh, so much.

I had an easier time of it during the blazing summer-my bed was so hot and sticky I didn’t want to share space with a gnat, let alone someone who put out heat like a blast furnace. But as the weather has gone from chilly to cold to frigid, I’m missing him more and more. I am surprised to find it’s even possible to miss him more. I’m feeling a resigned kind of sadness that’s almost worse than burning alive. This hopeless feeling of ‘Yes, this is just how it’s going to be.’

Hell doesn’t always burn, you know. Sometimes it’s vast, resonating silence and bone-deep cold. Not until you lose someone do you fully realize the devastating, tearing impact of silence.

I was lucky, at first. In the hellish, bleak days and weeks that immediately followed his death, I had a friend who was kind enough and with whom I felt comfortable enough with to spend the night, and let him hold me while the inside of my head raged and burned, while my lungs grasped for air. The bad, dark days and nights when spending any significant time alone was a very, very bad idea, and I had been sufficiently destroyed inside and out that one of my particular foibles had become utterly insignificant.

I have a thing about sleeping with people. I don’t mean sex – I mean the actual act of sleeping with someone else. In my head, it’s somehow become an act of intimacy on par with, and even sometimes exceeding, the act of sex.

Let me explain. In sleep, we are at our most vulnerable. Mouths open, drooling, snoring, we are stripped of all pretensions, of any vanity. We are defenseless, in every way. Thanks to a few regrettable life events coupled with an abusive, alcoholic ex, I have a real problem with being defenseless.

In the act of sex, we are still in control, after all. We can choose how into it we are, how much we’re willing to reveal. While it’s true that holding back dulls the experience, it’s still a choice. Not drooling in your sleep is not a choice you get to make. I have trouble sleeping in strange places – most of us do – but I am deeply uncomfortable even spending the  night at a friend’s house, and I can’t sleep on any form of transportation at all.

Around the time that the medication began to take hold, the relationship I had with that friend began to fray, and then implode. Since then, I’ve been alone in the dark.

That’s not to say I’m alone in spirit; I’m not. I know his love is still with me and always will be, and I have a growing network of friends scattered across the globe who genuinely wish the best for me and are concerned about my welfare, and I love them for it. But there’s a twist in the pain where that intimacy used to be: the curve of his arm, the warmth of his skin, the only sense of true security and safety I’ve ever found in love.

With him, I opened myself completely. Nothing hidden, nothing held back. With him, the strength of what we felt, what we could give, set fire to the dark. I was as exposed as I’ve ever been: me, who took self-protection and preservation and elevated it to an art. Next to that, what was a little drool on a pillow?

Exposed, utterly open, vulnerable. Completely defenseless against the loss that followed. Love and hope, risk and fear, loss and pain. The flip side of our great love is my great grief; the hole blown through my tender and exposed heart. I had no walls left, had marshaled no defense; when the blast came, my soul shredded like wet tissue paper.

Next to that, what are a few tears on a pillow?