Does this happen to you? You wake up and you are quite naturally and easily your cheerful and strange self, but there's a shadow at your back? Because, you've only just woken up. The actual details of your life haven't clicked into place yet. So you are funny and kind and feeding your animals and singing a song you've just made up and you're okay. You're okay until this thing, whatever it is -- a bill, a job, a fight, a man, what's next -- comes back to you in a rush. It's an awful wave of reality that's also a relief.
"Ohhhhh," I sigh out when it lands on me. I've got a hand absentmindedly rubbing back and forth beneath my clavicle, my body is unconsciously trying to soothe itself. My throat swells and throbs. I remember the train ride home last night and how I squeezed my face so tightly to stop the tears but they came anyway.
"I am falling to pieces," I said inside as I cried. "I am breaking into a million pieces and no one on this train will even look me in the eye." I wasn't resentful of it either. I felt glad. I felt like it was okay to quietly fall apart in front of the collected throng. That's what people do -- we come together, we fall apart.
I am thinking of all those times in action movies when a character looks down in disbelief to see that they've been mortally shot. They don't feel it right away. They have to look down. They have to prod the wound with shaking fingers because the eyes -- the brain -- can't fathom the gravity of the situation.
The problem when you're in a relationship is learning and accepting that the other, no matter how well-loved, can ever be totally known. I am bad at that. If a relationship is a book, I want to hold it, study its weight, parse the pages, see the story from every angle. I forget, when I am living, how books actually work. Half the magic of any really good tale is everything people inside it don't know. They stumble into the truth in fits and gasps, discerning each other in the shadows tangentially along the way. At least, this is so if it's well-written.
I can't know what another person is thinking and feeling. Not they way they do. But it's important to remember that it's the same with me. If I spend all my time sussing someone out, it makes it very easy not to be known in turn. Of course, a picture is formed, but it's half-cocked, wrong. Flattering in a way, like being handed a portrait of yourself and not recognizing it. Someone thought you worthy of study but what they took away wasn't right.
So I carry on living with a lead ball in my stomach and a vise around my heart. "Do you think the person who writes and the person who talks to me here, and goes out to that concert tonight, do you think they are the same?"
I cannot overstate how quick I was to answer my therapist: "Yes. Of course. But sitting here with you...it's about semantics, I guess. I can say on a page something like 'a lead ball in my stomach and vise around my heart' but I'm not going to say that in real life, not out loud, because that's not how people talk to each other."
My therapist nods. "You can more fully say what you feel in writing."
I nod back. "Yeah. Yeah. There isn't that pressure...I can see how that would be really frustrating for someone getting to know me."
So I keep living. I go on. I can't shake the sadness. I can't pretend it away, so I welcome it. I let it inside and give it a nice place to sit and I let it be. I keep myself occupied. I work. I eat pastrami sandwiches for the first time. I go to a concert. I talk to friends. I make myself tired and uncomfortable because I know it's good for me. If I laugh at someone's joke or meet new people, I am toning my life-muscle. Because being alive means being sad sometimes, and feeling that is better than nothing at all. If I go home with this mindset, return to sadness, I can be better. "I know," I say locking the door and feeling sadness bereft and panicked behind me, "I know."
Quiet and pain. Quiet and thinking. I am busy having the best time of my life. I am busy realizing that I want very much to be alive, in every way. Don't ask me if I'm dating, don't try to make me feel better, don't banish my sadness or try to understand it -- let it be.
So last night I went to a concert. I was bold and I smiled and I remembered how my arms worked. I remembered how music can make your body move sometimes. I laughed with a friend and felt that giddy bright sensation very cold white wine gives without it passing my lips. I missed you, and that is fine to do.
Earlier yesterday, when my hair was dry, I walked to the train. On every block I saw a sign, someone's cat is missing. Black and white, it says, "He answers to Pancakes." Mostly when I see lost cat signs in the city I go straight to awful logic of death. But this morning walking the dog, I studied the sign closely. Later on tonight I will go out again. I will do a double-take at every stray I see. "Pancakes?" I will say, tentatively at first. "Pancaaaaaakes," I will finally call. People will hear me and it will be awkward and strange and silly and sad but also maybe I will find that cat.