“I come from childhood as from a homeland.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
“But the actual touch of her lingered, inside his heart. That remained. In all the years of his life ahead, the long years without her, with never seeing her or hearing from her or knowing anything about her, if she was alive or happy or dead or what, that touch stayed locked within him, sealed in himself, and never went away. That one touch of her hand.” – PK Dick, A Scanner Darkly
It’s a beautiful night and you’re not here.
The words form in my head unprompted. Before their arrival, I haven’t even noticed the brisk but not uncomfortable breeze, the orange-tinted moon, and the muffled sounds of the city. Now I’m acutely aware, but a question remains.
Who are you? To whom is this thought addressed?
I’m all too acquainted with the answer, but I don’t like it; it’s messy. You isn’t always singular, especially when you only really exist in my mind, with all your overlapping and converging memories and hopes and dreams.
Oh Megan, you think this is all about you. It never was, and it never will be. I don’t know why I ever told you to have a good life. I said it with the tone usually reserved for fuck you, so that likely negates the literal content. In any case, fuck you. I refuse to associate myself with anyone who thinks Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice contain perfect model examples of healthy feminist relationships ever again. Also, he looks like a bulldog. But really now, spitefulness aside, here is a story:
I like you a lot, I said. I love you, you said. Really? I said. Yes, you said. After you left, I went out and sat across the street from the empty city pool, because the weird blue glow of the smooth water against the night sky was the only thing in town surreal enough for the situation. There, alone except for inane late-night radio chatter and the tail ends of corny pop songs, I decided I would open my mind and guts to you, in the honest way I hadn’t since I was a child. So this is love, I thought, tangled around you. And so I told you. But no, because the moment some random dude pays more than a passing glance to you it’s not “I love you,” it’s “I’ve always wanted nothing more than a warm body and this person, by virtue of his masculinity, is an upgrade, sorrynotsorry.” If you stepped back from your self-absorbed life for a moment, maybe you’d realize that you have far more in common with Ayn Rand characters than you think.
Okay, so maybe I didn’t really put aside all malice, so go ahead and tell me again that it’s unjustified, as long as you can look me in the eye this time.
There’s you, Izzy. Of course. You’re so easy to acknowledge, I sometimes worry I’m using you as a scapegoat too often. You’re an acceptable past demon, one that elicits the I’m so sorry response, the one who is most appropriate to write an entire blog about. People would probably tell me that this is a silly problem to preoccupy oneself with, seeing as people literally died, but it’s okay, because there’s like a hundred more questions that beg for airtime too, the most pressing of which is how long you’d known of your end. If someone were to ask me right now, I’d answer that I’ve known for over six years for sure, and forever uncertainly. Maybe that question isn’t concerning to you at all and I’m just being selfish and relating everything back to myself and my inner life. I’ll never know, and I still can’t accept that.
And if one pushes back the layers of old mothbally sweaters hanging in the back of the closet of my mind, anther sits trembling, both excited and fearful of acknowledgement. For many years, you were a neglected child, resigned to a life of silent rage. Remember how they told you that unless you could get those emotions under control, no one would ever love you? And then this was immediately followed by how it’s not healthy to bottle things up? And so, even then, mourning clouded your days, although you didn’t recognize it as such and it lacked impetus or direction. It’s not that you didn’t want to verbalize, but that you lacked the vocabulary to do so. The medical establishment fails in creating adequate perimeters of expression and it takes the world’s greatest poets and authors pages upon pages to fully explain, so of course to expect a child with no sense of literature to detail her own collapsing psyche is unreasonable.
There’s a photograph of you and Izzy that I keep hauling around with me and pulling out when I particularly despise myself. I remember the day it was taken: scrambled eggs, kickball, a dead bird in the road to remind you of your mortality. Izzy screamed when she saw it; you didn’t. You poked it with a stick and she told you it was gross. You said that it had to happen sometime, shame it appeared to be a juvenile though. You don’t look unhappy in the snapshot taken in front of the house; your eyes are brighter than mine are now. Which is more trustworthy: the camera or the human mind? In the end, you too are now forever lost to me, but because I knew you so intimately, there’s a dull ache just in remembering, and again the desperation in lack of certainty.
I’ve written tens of thousands of words to you, that girl, so many letters, love notes, pleas for help. Each and every one has gone unanswered, but because I’m human and humans are irrational creatures, I keep sending them off, somehow hoping that this time I’ll get a response. I know you don’t reply because you can’t, but that doesn’t stop me. With every shout into the void, I become more frantic.
I don’t want to blame you for my woe. I’m the one who’s a mess: I can’t hold a minimum-wage job down for longer than six months, I “forget” to take my meds, sometimes I can’t remember what day of the goddamn week it is. And, um, dependency isn’t a part of healthy relationships, so it’s probably a good thing you’ve abandoned me, at least for your sake. I want to say that this is goodbye, but I know it probably isn’t the case, at least if statistics hold true. So many times I’ve tried to say goodbye, claiming that this time, it’d be forever, but every time some part of you finds me again, no matter how many miles I’ve travelled or what new hiding place I’ve found. And every reunion hurts just as much as every abandonment, but I don’t resist, because at least it’s a different kind of pain. So I remain hopeful. You’ll be here sometime, and then the panic changes course, attempting to banish you. Please don’t pull out one of those abusive relationship checklists.
With each separation, you change. Or maybe it’s me that does; it doesn’t really matter. Instead of being excited about discovering the new you, I grieve the loss of the old one. The homecomings mark knowledge of something I’ll never get back, and nostalgia pains me almost viscerally; it’s not at all like a nice vacation from which one returns exhausted but refreshed. Nostalgia is far too pretty of a word. There is no sense of finality or of sharp breaking with what once was. There’s just a wistful dainty lady patting at her damp eyes with an embroidered handkerchief.
None of this is a particularly new revelation to me, but I still cannot shake the sense that you should be here. I don’t try to torture myself. And yet, here I am.
As much as I rearrange the jigsaw puzzle pieces of my life, they never quite all fit. Maybe it’s because the puzzle’s too complicated for me right now, but I’ll figure it out later. Maybe I lost some of the fundamental pieces long ago, or maybe there was never a complete set to begin with. Maybe I didn’t really lose the pieces, I just misplaced them and I’ll find them when I clean out that one junk drawer. Maybe the puzzle was put out by a weird post-modern art group and the pieces aren’t supposed to go together in any meaningful way. Maybe this metaphor is really terrible. Lately, I’ve been finding the saying “life is short” to be odd, because no matter what happens, life will be the longest thing I’ll ever know.
And there is no moral to this story.