Locked In

It’s been a long time since I’ve read my friend Rachel’s blog. I saw a reference to it in a mutual friend’s Facebook status update and realized how much I missed it, so I clicked the link, read a few posts and suddenly came upon a sentence that made me catch my breath.

In a post titled Love and Marriage, about how things change so many times in our lives and in others’, she wrote, “A friend here was walking down the beach with his new girlfriend as if last year he had not been doing the same with another.” The image was like a slap, because a few weeks ago I learned my ex was engaged to a woman he’d been dating four months, as if nine months earlier he had not been planning a life with me.

How is that possible? I’ve had a few loves in my life—some short, some long. All ended. For me, losing a lover is not like losing a pet; the way to get over the loss is not to run out and get another. For me, however the relationship ends, the loss of a lover shuts down my heart, often for a long time. Before meeting my now-engaged ex, I had not been in a relationship for five years.

The relationship with my most recent ex ended bitterly. And yet I miss him—or rather, I miss the contact, the rhythm, the feeling of being home. I’ve seen him twice since I learned of his news. Neither time sent me reeling; my heart has not yet healed enough to suffer a setback. I don’t want to be with him, but I could no more imagine being with someone else right now than I could imagine driving to the moon.

Would I like to be in another relationship? I would. But it’s as if my heart has locked-in syndrome, aware of the possibility of love, yearning for it even, but unable to move toward it. If I had a wish it would be that my heart unlock, that it open, wide and soon and bright with possibility, whether to someone new or someone familiar. That it lead me again to feel I am home.

Photo credit https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8422/7622876406_032bd37388_z.jpg

My goodbye

I’ve moved to the porch now, where cell reception is better. It seems warm for December, although fall, winter, and spring temperatures in New Orleans can be mercurial. Only summer is a constant: hot, damp, and still.

I’m sitting on the steps, where we sat with martinis and wine after every day of Jazz Fest, where I sat the day you sent the brass band to beg me to stay with you. I’m leaning against a column, my elbows on my knees.

“Well,” I say, “I don’t suppose you’re interested in a farewell cocktail…”

“No.”

“So…are we just never going to see each other again?”

There’s a pause, but not a long one.

“Not on purpose.”

I take a breath and let it out slowly.

“That’s really sad.”

“It is sad,” you say, and your voice has a pitch that I recognize from past conflicts—higher than your normal baritone, and guarded. “It’s not what I wanted for us.”

“Me either.”

This time the pause is long, moving well into uncomfortable.

“Ok,” I say, finally. “So I guess this is where we say goodbye?”

“Goodbye,” you say, and the line goes dead.

I sit on the porch a bit longer. I am surprised at how little emotion I am feeling. I didn’t  expect this phone call, didn’t expect that you would want to sever all ties. But I don’t feel the desperation and panic I  have felt earlier during this long breakup. Instead, I feel… released.

When I go back inside I realize I haven’t cleaned today, so I pull out the vacuum and run it across every floor and every rug in every room of my house.

 

Your goodbye

“Can I call?”

“Sure.”

I lie on the floor with the phone on my chest and the Bluetooth in my ear.

I feel the vibration, then hear the beeps.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“So…what’s up?”

“I’ve been thinking about it…

And  I can’t envision a scenario in which we could remain in each others’ lives.

You’re friends with my ex, and if you are on the periphery of my life,

What would stop you from saying to anyone I met,

‘Let me tell you about your new boyfriend.’”

And you’re right.Your ex and I are friends now—and yes, I would feel tempted to warn away

Anyone I saw  sucked into the orbit of “wonderful you.”

But even as a friend, I could never trust you now.I’d always be waiting for the other shoe to drop,

For you to say I blew up your chance at happiness…

After telling me I was your ticket to paradise.

If I lost you

If I lost you, I would lose the person who saved my life. The person who—in spite of receiving what can most generously be described as a shock— immediately shook off her own hurt to take care of me. Who gave me information I never would have had. Who was in constant contact to make sure I was ok. Who put herself back in the line of fire on the slight chance it could help me come to terms.

But eventually my drama wore you down, too reminiscent of your own, I know—I’m sorry. If we could build a friendship on just us, I would treasure it forever. If we can’t get there, I’ll understand, and I’ll treasure forever your kindness to a stranger during a dark dark time.

And although eventually I will forget him…I will never forget you.

Second place

When you said you never loved anyone

As much as you loved her —

Why did I pursue?

Why did I think I could

Make you love me more

By being kind or calm or patient

Or whatever else you saw in me that moved you?

And then, when you didn’t,

Why was I content with second place?

Did knowing you loved someone more

Give me some secret thrill,

Keep me guessing, keep it fresh?

Clearly there is a place for second place

That I have yet to understand.

Heart worm

You said: “You’re in my heart.”

And I said: “Like a heart worm?”

And you said: “Yes. And if you let me  in I’ll be your heart worm too. I’ll settle deep into your heart until I’m a part of it and I will take care of it.”

And so I did …

And you didn’t.

Conversations

Good night, love. I wish I could stay.
[Hey,where are you? Can I meet you somewhere?]
I’d do anything to get you back.
[I think we're finally out of each others’ lives for good.]
I’m no longer looking backward at my unhappy past, but forward to our future.
[I had to end it; we had no future]
I sent a brass band to your house, to beg you not to leave.
[Want to meet for coffee?]