by Angeliska on November 11, 2012
One year ago, today, we went to Marfa instead of getting married. My love and I. We went out there, to the big sky and dry desert to try to heal, to connect, to repair our bond. We had an amazing time, a beautiful journey. I thought that something about being under those bright stars, huddling together out in the cold wind, seeing so much beauty, exploring it all – I believed it was a magical spell that would bind us closer. I had so much hope for us, then. Despite everything that was going so wrong, I honestly never, not even for an instant, imagined that a year from now we’d be split apart. We had been together for seven years. Seven years that went by so swiftly, so (for the most part) very sweetly. All over now in a flash – poof! It still seems like a bad dream, an alternate reality from the twilight zone – a possibility that I’d never even really considered: that we would not survive this intact, that we would not be spending the rest of our lives together, happily ever after. Contemplating this current bizarro-world reality is like looking at my life through a broken funhouse mirror – skewed and strange and seemingly impossible. I’ve been waiting for the day when I can fully accept it, fully understand that the person I pledged my heart, my life and my future to has walked away from me, from all that I held in my open arms. That he chose something else.
I made a wish, a true wish, with my whole heart.
It was not granted.
We, who were supposed to be joined so completely on this day, are sundered, separate, alone. How could this be? My mind still doesn’t have the ability to comprehend it. What is this – this loss? Empty spaces echoing out where something used to be: a warm hand, the most familiar face, a body stretched out warm beside me all night long. What is this emptiness? I walk around all day, going through the motions, choking on that void, that hollowness that builds up in my chest until I feel as though I might crumple in on myself, fall apart. I don’t have answers. I don’t have much – a sinewy shred of survival instinct that keeps my head up, keeps me walking. I have love, still – for myself, for my good friends and family, for my animals, my plants. Oh, and I have memories. Memories that seem fresh as yesterday, memories that stop me in my tracks and make me want to fall to my knees: the way he used to look at me – so in love. I miss that. I miss it all, so much. I have these little snippets, a handful of cast-off snapshots from a vacation that was meant to be a happy recollection one day – we’d tell stories when we were old about how we went there and were saved, how we remembered how much we loved each other, how we found in each other the best company, the eternal companion.
But that’s not what happened, in the end.
Like Sugar says, “Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” I visit this room every day, several times a day. I repeat those words to myself like a mantra when my brain boggles, when my mind feels like it will break, trying to understand what the hell happened to my life, to our love. I go to that empty room and I sit with it, this thing that has happened. Sugar says, “Acceptance asks only that you embrace what’s true.” Not that you like it, or want it, or ever wished for it – but that you sit with it, stare at it directly, acknowledge that it exists. This has been very difficult for me. I read the words I wrote one year ago, today. I look at the pictures of us, and I just can’t fit it all together. It’s like a puzzle with too many pieces gone missing. It doesn’t make a picture anymore. I meant every word I wrote, I meant them with everything in me, everything that is me. How could that wish not be granted? Every time my mind goes, “What!? How…? Why?” I have to lead it by the hand back to that small, quiet room. My mind and I, we have to sit in time-out a lot, sitting with this ugly thing, this huge sense of loss. Somedays, I feel like an Alzheimer’s patient who has to be reminded every day that their spouse is gone, is not there with them anymore. My hands reach for him in our bed in the mornings before I’m completely awake. I still save articles that I think he would enjoy reading. I have to stop myself from buying him presents when I see something I know he would like. We’re not there yet – we’re really not anywhere. I have no idea how to enter that particular transition. It’s not something I ever wanted, or imagined I would have to do – to disconnect myself from someone who had become part of my heart. It seems so unnatural – an alien concept, a shard embedded deep in my palm. It’s one I cannot seem to unclutch. I am trying, though – to let it go. It is so, so hard. I don’t know how to do this.
Maybe it’s not necessary to know right now. I have to trust that the knowing, the understanding might come later. Maybe it’s only necessary, for the moment, to endure it. A very dear, very wise friend of mine told me something else I try to remember on a daily basis, from a text she sent me in the middle of the night, in one of my more desperately unhappy moments – she wrote:
“Keep your head down. This is not the time for analysis or big picture thinking. This is the part where you eat good food, exercise, read, watch movies, hug your pets, buy a new dress, cut your hair, put hours and days behind you and before you know it, you get stronger and far enough from ground zero to see the big picture. But for now, you’re in the thick of it, so keep your head down. Time is your best friend – but most definitely not your only one.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lain awake in the dark, scrolling back through my texts to find that one and reread it, remember it. It’s among some of the best advice I’ve been given, and I’ve been trying to follow it to the letter.
In the meantime, I mend holes in my clothes, I glue together broken teacups, I fix wonky table legs – as if these small repairs could somehow symbolically add it, to help me heal the broken parts of me. I walk around most days feeling like one of those gory cartoons where the cat has a giant shotgun-blasted hole through their torso that everyone can see through. When people ask me how I am, I get confused, because I forget that they can’t see it. I’ve come to really hate answering that question, even though I know it’s always well-meant. I want to answer honestly, and then I don’t want to. Don’t want to lay my tragedy on anyone. I usually go for something noncommittal like, “I’m happy to be here!” or, “I’m happy to see you!” Those things are true, and speak to what’s happening in that exact moment. Right? Ugh.
Recently, I discovered that though some reprehensible technological loop-hole, I’d (hopefully only temporarily?) lost years and years worth of photographs from my archives. So, so many years worth of memories. Gone, just like that. I’m praying for a solution/miracle that might allow me to recover them soon, but right now, they are out there floating in nothingness. All the photos I took on our trip to Marfa, our pre-emptive honeymoon for a wedding that never happened – all vanished. Like it never happened. Another hole, a lacuna – a space where we were, and now, are not. All I have to show we were ever there are these pithy instagrams, cheery snapshots that don’t really tell a story. We went here, we saw this, it was pretty, it was funny, we laughed. We held hands. We wandered down empty streets in ghost towns at sunset, drinking scotch out of fine cut-glass tumblers, like real outlaws. We drove on rough dirt roads in the black of night into the mountains in search of hot springs. We nearly set fire to our hotel room. We held each other. We whispered secrets. We missed our train because we were hunting for rocks. We enjoyed each other completely. Each day and night we spent in West Texas was truly a magical adventure, and I will always treasure the time we spent there. Maybe next year, I’ll be able to tell these stories. Right now, they’re lost to me, in so many ways.
Here are some of the things we saw:
I’ll spend this year’s 11.11 high up on a hill, alone. Instead. Instead of walking down an aisle in a white dress with tears of joy streaming down my face as I prepare to marry the man I love. This year, too, there is no magical cave filled with all the people we love and cherish most gathered around us. There is no majestic valley where we will dance and celebrate into the night. Those things live in a box, a hope chest filled with cobwebs and dust collecting on a veil and wax orange blossoms slowly disintegrating. Instead, there is this howling sound. Instead, here is me and my heart. Still here, still beating, but not joined. Instead, I came out to the place where I come from, the land that has always welcomed me as its child, despite being harsh and forbidding for most but the hardiest of creatures. My plan is to camp by myself out at Enchanted Rock – to do healing rituals for myself, to listen to the wind blow, to embrace this newfound solitude I never asked for or desired. Despite my resistance, I have found that there are aspects of it that I have come to treasure. This past year has been repeatedly forcing me to face all my worst fears head-on, and one by one, I have been meeting them on the road. They leer and jabber and spit at me and I walk through them, dissolve them, pierce and pin them with sharp swords. I sit with them, too.
Offer tea. Breathe deep. Let them go.