As a child whenever my father would pack and leave for another shrimping trip, my distress would gather in my stomach, like a rushing whirlpool of lament. It would concentrate into an emptiness and the emptiness always managed to break free and I would cry. The tears were always familiar- big, floppy drops poured out of my eyes and the inevitable sobbing and hiccups would begin. My mom says I would cry for hours, my chest thumping violently, until I fell asleep. I thought he would never return and one day indeed, he just didn’t come back but that’s a story for another day. I knew heartbreak before I was five and repeated the process every other month because my father was always leaving.
As an adult I experience heart break often, and loss too. I am constantly falling in love with men who do not love me. The process repeats itself all the time like the crappiest ride in a roller coaster. It happened here in the Valley and it was unexpected, the kind of thing you hope for when you’re in a place you consider unremarkable, and it ended as all others, bittersweet like dropping off a cliff. The pattern goes a little like this…We meet and they leave some kind of impression, I’m incredibly cautious and I befriend them, noting their behavior with others, their behavior in private, their passions and interests. I try to find time to spend with them and somehow mercifully they grant me time or thoughts or moments. And then, two things happen. My excellent instincts inform me that it’s all downhill from this moment and my impatience informs me that it’s too great to pass up, “and look at all those other happy people, aren’t you in a hurry to be a happy person?”. Because that part of me that rushes and exalts is also the part of me that’s simple and kind of stupid. I ignore every warning, every sense that screams at me, “No don’t do it!” and I confess. It’s easy, almost cathartic. The resolve feels rational, and almost necessary.
I meet them at a place or I write them a letter and once or twice I texted (because it seemed like the easiest thing) and I wait. Because I have impeccable taste in men, they’re all kind. They look at me as if they’re about to tell me what happens to Old Yeller at the end. I feel like I’m what happens to Old Yeller at the end. They proceed to reject me. I try not to cry. They promise to be friends but they’re usually lying and because I have impeccable taste in men, I find out they’re in love with someone else or already in a relationship and had kept it a secret to avoid prying eyes. Then when they’re gone I cry. I sob those deep sobs, because abandonment is a complicated thing even if it’s one sided.
The best advice I have ever received is to not let it consume me. It’s wonderful because consumption is the only way I can explain what happens after any disappointment. I don’t mind being single. I never have and I never will, but things inevitably change when I find someone that I know deserves my attention. Mundane things become more joyful. I look forward to days in their company and then when they’re gone, I get sucked into a void. It’s like a complete change in perspective. It’s like the aging of my heart. All of a sudden I start feeling the small aches and pains of existence. My language changes and life becomes existence- a terrifying affair that carries no charm. Days drag instead of passing. Moments lack in luster and a tinge of loneliness colors everything I do. I know what you’re thinking, it’s called being sad and everyone goes through it. But have you really stopped to analyze the manner in which disappointment changes how you experience the world? Because I have, and am inevitably standing on a soapbox to talk about it.
My life is completely normal until these characters come in and out of my life and suddenly I feel EVERYTHING. It’s like accidentally stepping in a different person’s body or being seasick. I was fine before, why does living have to feel so sad? The pains don’t disappear easily, either. They stay and color my life for a while, as if my world is taking its sweet time in returning to focus. In the meantime, I can’t stop throwing up by the deck and no I don’t want crackers because I’m seasick not pregnant. That’s absolutely the best metaphor I can think of. Eventually things get better, but in the back of mind is always the fear, that it will happen again and it does.
I am not always a victim. I have disappointed men who thought I was the answer, and men who thought I was the one. Unfortunately for them, I never feel the same, and because they do not have impeccable taste in women, it’s never because I’m with someone else. I learned from the best so when it happens I’ll wait until they tell me how they feel or sometimes in my impatience, I will tell them that I know where their hearts are going but I just don’t feel the same. I’m kind to them, and I let them speak their feelings and I offer my friendship but I know that friendship is the last thing they want (or need) and so I’ll build space between myself and their lives. They leave and I try not to feel like a monster. We are two ships passing in the night.
I’m always promising joyful and fun posts. This post was supposed to be about the best taco place in the Valley. Instead it’s about heart break. I just thought that I should tell you. I thought you’d like to hear, so we could hold hands in the dark and share the intimacy of common experience. In the future we’ll tell these stories to our children and marvel at how we survived.