The Cynic

In these post-breakup days, I have had a lot of time to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working, going to school, seeing friends, working out, Christmas shopping, playing the piano, and…well, good lord. You get the picture. But one of the strange things about these days is the amount of time that I’ve had to just THINK. For whatever reason, I just hadn’t had much time to do it. Or I’d been spending all of my thinking time thinking about the wrong things. I’d been wondering where I was going to work when my contract ran out. Wondering if a certain horrible group project would turn out OK. Wondering what the flying hell happened to my relationship. All of those things can tend to take up a lot of time, and most of them don’t end up with answers. Now that my brain is no longer in survival mode, it can get back to “leisure thinking.” Things like “what if, like energy, there’s a certain amount of fat in the world? A morbidly obese person dies, and 60 girls gain ten pounds? They blame their birth control, but really it’s because the weight needed to be redistributed as the fat person rotted. Fat IS stored energy, right?”

Seriously. I pondered that through an entire grocery trip.

In survival mode, everything just stops while your brain just tries to get through the day. I had nothing to say and nothing to write because there simply hadn’t been a thought in my head that wasn’t about what I did that day. Even my internal dialog had become plot summary. As a side note, I hate plot summary. Conversation should not be like a third grader’s book report. I only want to know what you did so that we can then move on to how you felt about it, how you hope it turns out, or how it fits into your master plan. The big picture.

Anyway, with all this quiet around me during holiday drives, commutes, workouts, etc., I felt my brain open up. It had time to think. To wonder about things. To think of things it wanted to do. To slow down and try to figure things out. I started to give some thought to the nature of love. Like, maybe my relationship fell apart because I just wouldn’t know a man that loved me if he walked up and shook my hand. Maybe I was just THAT cynical.

But no.

I knew that one friend loved me because he listened to me bitch about my job ALL the damn time. There were long stories detailing such riveting topics as paper jams and mail merges, and he listened to every single word of every single one, without interrupting me, acting bored or changing the topic. If memory serves, he would even reach over and mute the tv or pause the DVR so we could talk. That man loved me.

What happened to him? If I wanted to blame him, I’d say that he found a girlfriend and forgot about me. If I told the truth, I’d say I wasn’t that great a friend to him (he supported me, and I’d be like “thanks” and then miss important things like his college graduation) and he finally found a girl who would accept his love properly. I still owe him an apology, and he’s going to get it if I ever manage to track him down.

I knew that another friend loved me because he talked me down from 100 different ledges after a particularly gross breakup. I’d get going on some rant, and he would just stop me with “Amy, this person threw you away. Like trash. Via TEXT. Why are you spending all this time even thinking about him? He should be wiped from the Earth, along with your memory of him.”

He helped me through that breakup and when his breakup came, I legitimately tried. I listened to his understated story of being tossed aside by a girl he thought he would marry. I thought he was fine, because he seemed so calm. I knew that he loved me because I got a chance to beg. To say goodbye. To tell him I loved him. When he killed himself anyway, it changed me forever and I forgot how to be terrified of everything. That man loved me.

I know dad was kind of contractually obligated, but still. There must have been countless times that he gave something up for mom, sis and me. Countless times that he didn’t get to do what he wanted to do because we were the bigger picture. Countless things he couldn’t have because he was squirreling money away. Money that became part of the down payment on my house. My car. My eyes. This is the man that made a goth girl do a mock interview because “I think you’re cheating yourself out of 20 grand a year with that nose ring.” The man who looked at a disheveled 10 year old and made her “have some self respect and iron that shirt.” The man who kept asking “no, really, what ARE your goals?” until I figured out an answer. He loved me enough to not let me get away with anything. He loved me enough to tell me that I could do better until I did better.

I’m still a terribly cynical person. I will check your actions eight ways to Sunday to make sure they’re true. I do this to protect myself.

But, by God, I know when I am loved.
And I never, ever forget it.

Advertisements

December 10 and the Event Horizon

Recently, a friend and I were discussing the time in someone’s life when he or she looks at his or her life and says, “I’ve been doing it wrong. It’s time to stop doing it wrong.” I call this time the Moment of Clarity. He, somewhat more ominously, calls this the Event Horizon. The more I think about it, I think maybe his term is a little more apt.

A moment of clarity sounds like some easy thing that happens where deer and bunnies fly out of your ass and your life is suddenly better. An event horizon is a boundary around a black hole. As in “you’re either going to do something BIG, or you’re headed into that black hole over there.” I’m not saying that having deer and bunnies flying out of your ass sounds pleasant (the hooves!). I’m just saying that the black hole makes more sense. Why?

Because huge life changes are usually brought on by something terrible happening. Very few people have said to themselves, “my life is awesome…let me change everything.”

The event horizon brings on all kinds of change, depending on whatever it is in your life that needs changing. Some people decide to stop drinking. Some people decide to finally pick a major. Some people realize that they’re living in a cage of fear and get sick of themselves and decide to start living, not that I’d know anything about that.

I bring this up today because this day 3 years ago was my event horizon. It sounds very simple to say “my friend killed himself.” It sounds like “this week on a very special ‘Blossom.'” It’s more graphic and truthful to say that someone I loved dearly died alone and sad in a tiny apartment in Los Angeles. The sheer insult of that. It’s egotistical to think that I should have been able to do something, but it made me crazy that I couldn’t even help clean out said apartment. All I could do was drag what was left of me to a church in Rivergate, hug his mom and do some seriously epic public crying. Three years later, it still burns. I still want to kick him in the face for it.

Alas, today is not about that. Today is about learning from that. I realized a lot of things all at once:

“You are emotionally unavailable.”
“You are wasting your life worrying about stupid things.”
“You are spending your entire life working.”

It’s all very predictable to realize that whole thing about life being too short after someone dies, but you know. Take it how you can get it. The point of death, aside from clearing up population real estate, is to remind us not to waste time.

One of my biggest fears was to really love someone and then lose them. When it happened, I heard it coming in slow motion. The week of phone calls. The car wreck I couldn’t stop. The begging. I saw a friend the day after it happened and I must have looked like hell; she just stood there having no idea what to do with me. I looked like hell for weeks. It became a sick game. Scare the guy at the gas station. Scare the checker at Kroger. When I wasn’t crying, I had pretty clearly just been. It was like everybody else on Earth was doing their thing and I was in my own little plexiglass box, watching. For months, I had dreams about seeing him, digging him up and bringing him home. In dreams, I went to 20 different funerals. I saw his mother cry 20 different ways. I was metaphorically on the ground, bleeding and wondering whether to bother getting up.

What got me up was knowing that he’d expect me to. When dad died a couple years later, what got me up was thinking “this is not what your father raised. Get your ass up.”

I accidentally performed an overhaul. Not everything worked out. I made a lot of mistakes. I continue to make a lot of mistakes, but I’d rather make those mistakes than sit in my house playing Soul Calibur. Sitting around playing Soul Calibur is easy, but it doesn’t make for a very good life story.

Diah taught me a lot of things. While I wish he’d stuck around longer, those last things he taught me were huge, necessary and life-changing. If heaven exists, he’s there. My dad is probably trying to teach him to play Euchre.

That’s how it is with event horizons: you have to lose big to win big..and you only win big if you get off the ground.

That Time Again

Today is December 10. In keeping with the tradition of the last 2 years, I’m running the poem again.

Other people have left over the last two years, but strangely, those sting less because the leaving wasn’t voluntary and misunderstood. It’s a special kind of nagging, stabbing between the shoulder blades when someone tells you to your phone’s face that nothing you can do would be good enough to stop the falling piano. Inertia, you know. The little spot between my shoulders will forever be sitting in a taffeta skirt at an airport gate, waiting for some flight that never arrives.

You can go weeks and months without thinking about that taste in your mouth, but it never completely goes away. In a sense, you hope that it doesn’t go away. If it does, it means you don’t care anymore. So, you roll it around in your mouth, get a good taste of it, then spit it out until the next time it bubbles up. The only thing worse than remembering his voice is the idea of not being able to.

For Diah

Memory reared its head it last night’s dream
I was at the airport with a flowering potted plant
Dressed in my finest clothes
Waiting for you

But your plane was late.
I slept at the gate, waking each time a stranger passed
Hoping it was you.
Days went by
My flowering plant wilted and dried to brittle brown sticks
My finest clothes became wrinkled and unkempt
I wondered whether you would ever arrive at all.

Then, out from the gate’s mouth, you came.
I squealed your name and ran to meet you
Swept up in a giant hug and spun around in circles,
I was so happy and you were there-

Then I woke up.

Hot Zombie Action

**I pondered whether to friend-protect this one, but friend-protecting is for smack talk and only smack talk. This would be “non smack-talk.” Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

He has this disturbing habit of coming to me in dreams. While my conscious mind has vivid recollections of his voice, I can’t willingly pull up a perfect picture of his face. This is pretty normal for me, as I can identify people by their shoes and voices because I spend an apparently disproportionate amount of time staring at the floor. I remember people as folds of fabric, laughs, hair. The faces always end up sort of nebulous. All that information is stored somewhere, though, because it comes to me in sleep. He’s there in sleep, exactly as I remembered. Maybe a little skinnier (death is the ultimate diet).

Last night I had a dream that he woke from the dead. He’d heard about my last dream, where I imagined I’d dug up his body just to get one last look at it. I put it in a garbage bag and took it home with me just to have it near me. I kept it in the attic. This was not a pleasant dream, as my subconscious used the opportunity to show me every single nasty detail of what I’d never seen and can now never un-see. Thus, he woke from the dead as a very good-looking zombie, just to make me remember something else. He was also a little upset about having died a virgin. (In real life, he was fiercely proud of this.)

In real life, I’d offered up my own red neon virgin sign. The old, “you’re going to die without having sex…would you like to?” I’ve been waiting for love. That love came in a different form than I’d expected, but hey. Desperate times. I offered sex if he would let me visit, or if he would visit me. I meant it, but he didn’t take me up on the offer. As a zombie, though, he’d reconsidered.

I will spare you gory details, but after the proverbial deed was done, his zombie body started to disintegrate. Not in a gross “pus coming out of your eye socket way,” but more in a “I’d hear a thump and look over at him and he’d be standing there holding his arm and rolling his eyes” way. We had to get him back to his grave asap, so we went to the cemetery to put him back. We got to the grave (which was so much more fabulous than the real-life one) and he just passed out, dissolving into a pile of dust.

Hello, December 10th. We meet again.

I have been on a ballad-free diet for a year. I only think about it 3 or 4 days a week now, so my shrink would probably be proud of me, if I were still speaking to him. What my shrink doesn’t know is how I stood in the craft store trying to decide what is goth enough for a goth grave without being so goth as to prompt the jesusy parents to remove my flowers. I settled on some dark burgundy flowers that would blend in nicely with the black and white ones that were already there. I went out there on his birthday and sat in the grass two feet above his ashes while I evened up wire stems, meshed flowers together, and tied a long black ribbon (one of the ones I had been using for my hair) around the whole thing.

I know it happened. I sat at a funeral and listened to people dance around the truth for an hour. I sat there, publicly crying, next to some hot friend from his childhood. Then I drove to a cemetery and watched men in coveralls put dirt over a 12-inch cube of my friend. I watched his mom make a point to leave before the dirt-laying started. I know it happened. I’ve been back to the grave four times. It’s near my house and on the way to Rivergate, pure coincidence. I’m doing immersion therapy. Each time I go, it still takes me by surprise, but there it is in inch-high bronze letters. All three names, first, middle and last. The succession you only hear when you’re in trouble.

That big bronze plate just lies there, telling me that I could live to be 100 and he will never, ever be on the other end of the phone. Never again can I call his number and just start a conversation with “talk me down, man.” I am left here to wonder if maybe there were more times that should have been reversed. Left to forever wonder if I could have done something, even though I promised that I wouldn’t wonder that. He even made me repeat it back:

“There is nothing you could have done.”
“Okay.”
“Say it.”
“There is nothing I could have done.”

But still. There it is, in inch-high bronze letters. According to my filing system, I wrote the following poem in 2002. He had left town and I was waiting on a visit that never came. Women. We’re like dogs waiting at the front door, with no sense of how long we’ve been sitting there. Honestly, if I’d known the clock was ticking I would have gotten over my fear of flying sooner. Sorry for the now rather melodramatic title…that’s what I called it in 2002. Who knew?


For Diah

Memory reared its head it last night’s dream
I was at the airport with a flowering potted plant
Dressed in my finest clothes
Waiting for you

But your plane was late.
I slept at the gate, waking each time a stranger passed
Hoping it was you.
Days went by
My flowering plant wilted and dried to brittle brown sticks
My finest clothes became wrinkled and unkempt
I wondered whether you would ever arrive at all.

Then, out from the gate’s mouth, you came.
I squealed your name and ran to meet you
Swept up in a giant hug and spun around in circles,
I was so happy and you were there-

Then I woke up.