Some mornings, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and sigh deeply. I cast a quick glance at the reflection and a million thoughts go through my head. At work I wonder how my colleagues can stand looking at me. I really should pull myself together. If not for myself, then at least for them. For the sake of the others, I should care more. I tell myself that every day. I try to make an effort. But the sleepless nights are just becoming longer, they keep on accumulating, and I’ve become an expert at telling what time it is based on the moonlight. Dawn comes earlier nowadays. I wonder if it’s okay to wear sunglasses inside?
She said she needed stories to tell her grandchildren, that’s why she did it. We all sat silenced at the dinner table. Her words held so much more depth than simple stories. Surely her motivation for adventure had to come from elsewhere. No, she pointed out as we asked her and she continued explaining her thoughts. She recalled that one of the greatest childhood memories we all had was listening to our grandparents’ wildly vivid, sometimes unimaginable stories. Whether there’d be truth to each chapter no one ever knew. With innocent eyes we were blissfully carried away to years before our own existence where things were completely different, or so the elderly claimed. We couldn’t question them because we hadn’t been born yet and thus had no legitimacy to do so. The adventures and mischief told of were exciting and unlike our parents’ stories, there wasn’t much of a moral at the end because frankly, grandparents’ anecdotes didn’t require that. Grandparents were allowed to be foolish. Old age justified petty crimes, the cases being dismissed a long time ago.
She continued telling us how she one day came to realize that she to-date had very few stories to tell her future grandchildren. What was she going to tell them? “Oh, children, I remember that one time when I got excellent grades” she mimicked with an old persons voice. We laughed. She was right. We had spent half our life playing it safe, saying no more often than yes, considering the future before acting in the present. But was that really the way it was supposed to work?
I don’t know if it was the excessive amount of wine which had us all nodding in unison. Somehow we all agreed. We needed to collect stories. And so, our adventure began.
It was a day that she claims to recall vaguely. A day where the world had come apart and the skies had opened with torrential rain to grieve. It was a day that she had tried hard to forget, to categorize at the far back, in the darkest corner of her head. A day where the universe was against her and all of nature’s forces seemed to agree. It was a day where she had decided, then and there, to give up. And the only thing that her memory had registered was the precise feeling of failure and hopelessness. And of course, the few notes in her calendar: to give up on love.
“You’ll thank us later,” they said. In a mess created by oneself, they had cleaned it all up. Mess after mess, pile after pile, plunge after plunge, deep dive after deep dive. You get my drift. Misery had been lurking in every possible corner and they had had enough. In a moment where you are not capable to see clearly, where you are no longer able to set things straight, they take over. An intervention for the better, although you fight it. But they’re stronger. They haven’t been in the battle, they’ve just been watching on from the side lines for a very long time. And they’ve had enough. They’ve decided. There’s nothing you can do about it. You have no more force to fight. They’re your only option.
So you do thank them later. Sometimes the day after. Sometimes much further down the line. Friends, also known as shit pile picker-upers. And for this, you always thank them.
He held her. Ever so tightly, he kept at it. Her sobbing eventually slowed and the tears fell at a more harmonious pace. Yes, it was all so tragic. He couldn’t lie to her and so his words of comfort were limited. Saying that everything would be alright would be a fib of grander sort, one he could not bring himself to tell. All he could hope for was that his embrace was warm enough to keep her calm.
If there’s a story, sure. If there’s a moral, most probably. But I have no interest in any of it. Why? Because this is heartbreak. And it’s the worst fucking feeling in the world. No matter how beautifully I try to describe it, the feeling still remains: I’m shattered, I’m hurt, I’m torn apart. And it has everything yet nothing to do with him. I doubt you’ll ever read this thus I can be completely honest and exposed. I did it all wrong but I had the best intentions. I had such high hopes. Then timing came and screwed things up. I cannot speak for you. This is a one-way perspective, as seemingly it always was. I’ve realized that now. What started as a whirlwind of pink embellished splendor quickly turned into a hurricane of thundering, black, lightening bolts. Sparks flew uncontrollably, igniting fires I have yet to put out. You make me so anxious.
I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learnt, I’m just not sure that I’m ready to understand. To me the plot is still thickening and I fear the ending. To you, it’s all over. You’ve taken your bow. The audience applauds your role. It dawns on me. An actor. A stage. Lights. An audience. Where was I? Too drunk to see probably.
No, I don’t know what I’ve learnt. I really don’t know. And perhaps that is the scariest realization of all.
“And as time passes, you forget.”
The silence of words just spoken filled the empty spaces of the room we sat in. I had to let it sink in. I didn’t want to forget yet I didn’t want to remember either. The painstaking duality played evil tricks on my mind constantly, although I have to admit, the forgetting had the upper hand as I grew older. Perhaps it was purely physical, a bodily phenomenon, Alzheimer’s light or whatever they called it. To compensate, my mind actively sought out memories and pushed me in certain directions. But I did forget and I had forgotten, especially the big things. The little things were harder. All of sudden, in the middle of a phone conversation on a busy street, the passing of a taxi would cause the greatest flashback. I would abruptly drop my phone and stand completely still, outsiders probably wondering what the hell I was doing, not to mention the person on the other line. It was those moments, that flock of memories, which never seemed to be forgotten.
I believe it’s called the psychophysiology of trauma. The body remembers. It’s quite fascinating. And so, even though my memory might be failing me as time passes, my body holds the memories, which in a sense, however tragic, is comforting.
“Yes, you forget,” I replied, smiling, knowing that to me, you’ll always be here, somehow, somewhere, no matter how old I grow.
“I don’t know, I know I shouldn’t,” he said.
Here we were yet again. Almost every conversation boiled down to the same aching itch from his part. I’m not going to lie. It was tempting. He was tempting. But he was forbidden fruit and I would never forgive myself. Our actions would ruin everything we’d worked hard on to build up.
“But why?” I asked.
After all these years, he still hadn’t managed to answer my question. He breathed silently and looked away. Took a sip of his beer without looking at me. Then he spoke.
“It’s because, well, I guess you’re the one that got away.”
There it was. Boom. Out there. A response. I should have applauded it, ‘wohooed’ as we chimed our glasses together, asked the dj to put on that Katy Perry song. I couldn’t though. Concealed behind his words were years of regret and sadness. Stupidly, it had never crossed my mind that’s what he thought about me.
His words resonated with me long after we parted that evening. I had laughed it off, in all my nervousness, responding something about ‘that’s a great line for my speech at your wedding’. He had looked at me with frantic eyes and I quickly added that I was kidding. I was kidding, of course. I’m not a home wrecker nor do I aspire for a sudden career change. It was what it was. Yet to be someone’s love regret awoke an awkward feeling within. He had admitted it and that was brave of him. But what had he expected as a result?
If it crosses my mind?
Yes, more than once. More than it should probably. But I don’t mind. Not any more. Because even though the pain lingered on for a long time, and it occasionally surfaces once in a while, I’ve gotten used to it. I can deal with it. I’m equipped, armored. The battle wounds haven’t quite healed and the scars are left as memories but I accept it. It’s become a habit. Although it may not be the most pleasurable one, I allow the thoughts to stay for a while, to meander across my mind in their own fashionable way. The difference now is that I know when to wave goodbye to them, kindly showing them the exit. And they leave.
So yes, it all crosses my mind now and again but it’s simply a crossing, not a battlefield anymore.
He looked at me with wounded eyes. I had done it again. If I was proud of it?
Pride had not graced its presence in my body for a long time. With each one, after each pair of eyes had stared at me with a despaired gaze, a little dignity left along with them. It didn’t make it easier and it wasn’t at all planned. That’s just the way it turned out.
So I’m not sure the relevance of speaking of pride. The answer is seemingly evident, isn’t it?