This is a little rough piece of writing. But that’s what blogs are for, right? Names have been changed for reasons of basic good manners.
Love is at least partly about being located. I loved him, therefore I was; I loved him powerfully, therefore sweated, dreamt, was feverish with strength.
A small, secret voice in me believed he would die young. I knew I wouldn’t get to keep him—there was always something impermanent and impossible about Val. Since I couldn’t see a way we would voluntarily give up, I practiced mourning him, suspecting one day I would have to.
When he left me, in his ragged, explosive, startling way, I wondered why he hadn’t died. One of us had to, didn’t we? Otherwise how could we be separate? We belonged to one another, I thought. We made each other make sense, like syntax and inflection, we meant far more together than we had before.
Four and half months of reckoning and knowing absence as a hard, scraped out ache. It’s so inarguable that I forget to feel it for weeks at a time. Why bother jousting with reality? Right?
But, you know, reality is not so flat. There are intricate layers to the present moment. April 6th, 2010. November 20th, 2009. Dates can be like scars. They don’t move linearly. What my brain “gets”, my body rejects. There are two lifetimes. One, Val and one, not-Val.
We would say to one another—frequently, because we both took pleasure in repetition—that it was like we were born that first meeting. That day we laughed so hard and so long that our eyes met in guilty collusion and our friends came in to watch, though we were never able to explain. Later, lovemaking was the same: a joyful, bursting-upward movement; innocent, honest.
As a child, even when caught in thunder of giggles and secret jokes, I was suspicious, tracking for the next blow. What I trusted was that it would come. You can get good at living like this. You can become dense and absorbent and impermeable to surprise and learn to pride yourself on it. You can survive like this interminably.
Val surprised me. Because I let him, I suppose—but also because he wanted to. No one had ever wanted me to be surprised before. When you are surprised, you laugh differently. It comes out of your belly and shakes your bones. You are possessed by something so big you can’t help but be enlarged.
He told me that I taught him about love. That I healed him. I don’t know what this means anymore. Love to me is a steady thing. It ebbs and flows, but you know where it is. It is older and bigger than land. We can always go home to it.
I don’t know how to get there anymore. He was my way home and now he’s only a shape in the mist. I see him sometimes around town. I don’t say a word, but I take in his face. It is different. His nose is sharper and thinner, his chin smaller. His skin is as neatly washed out as a sail whipping in the wind.
How strange, because although there was no phone call and no funeral, Val did die. The one I knew so well, whose lips still mark up all the secret parts of my body, whose hand-prints scar me under the visible layers of skin. I still lean into his chest and neck at night sometimes. I still pull him close and smell his scalp as if he were my child—tiny, precious and destined to break my heart.
The person I see on the street is not him, because the Val I loved was devoted to me. He wouldn’t have left me for someone who is all the things I am not. He wouldn’t walk around arm-in-arm with her, as if I had never existed.
So you see? It’s not over, or not the way you think it is. You think because things look one way that’s how they are. But there are whole worlds living on, under our breath. I loved someone who loved me back with his whole spirit. It’s just I can’t remember anymore how he smelled.