To be ever closer to you is to be completely away from you first. I learned that the whole time you were gone. Before then, it was impossible to be alone. From the beginning my life was crowded with people; there was never lack of attention and I was secretly spoiled by it. Then you were everywhere I went. You slumped against the door when I was in the bathroom, you gazed steadily into the store, the building, the entrance, or just a general direction that I left you from, you occupied my seat in the car, my side of the bed, ahead of me in time, knowing that’s where I was going—you had to be everywhere. Before long, anywhere without you, became a nowhere.
I wanted to tell you I went on a long quest of quelling my fear of being alone these few years, after you left. Sometimes it came disguised in a cloak of inspiring desire and seductive passion. But when I am back with myself, I know it all comes from a loss of you.
Now the aloneness is abundant. I have nothing but time. One evening I sat by the window and watched the sky go from full blue to full black. It must have taken two or three hours. The old sense of forlornness was with me.
Do you know there’s a purplish pink, splashed with white, glowing with uncertainty, in the sky’s transition from full blue to full black? It’s like between life and death there’s a cautiously balanced, suspended state. While brief, when you are in it it feels like forever, its pearly luster both a gloat of resurgent happiness, and a burning hint of permanence.
I wish your life had that transition. I wish it passed through a pinkly purple before the darkness fell.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
This isolation is universal. So universal that my mom and I, on opposite sides of the globe, are experiencing it at the same time. I don’t remember another single thing we had shared like this, in the same way, at the same time, for the past decade or two. It’s appalling how far we’ve grown away from each other, and how it takes a global pandemic to pull us back on the same track. Before we couldn’t share even the most basic elements of life: sadness or joy. She wouldn’t understand my sadness—she wouldn’t understand why I am still thinking about you—and she doesn’t resonate with my joy. Nor I her. Her most curious question for me is always “what did you eat today?” And I am often so irritated because why does that matter? I am eating whatever there is to eat. Why don’t you ask what I read today, what I learned today? But that’s all vanity. I despised questions that are close to the raw function of life, basic to human’s everyday need; I thought I deserved better questions about “something higher”, about the development of mind instead. You might as well ask what color of my poop is today. I thought. But why is that so abhorrent, why is that not a valid, even superior question to ask? Did I move away from a life centered around basic needs, a life I knew so well of, and had I immediately, upon ascending, turned back to look down upon it with disgust? Is that where all forms of self-hatred start?
But this isolation, this freest of free time, this removal of an everyday job and an everyday contact put things back in perspective. Turns out, I can return to care about food, about life minutiae, about the most basic elements of happiness, and sadness, I just needed to remove all the distractions. Turns out my mom had always been ahead of me, had always been right. She knows clearly what’s worth pursuing in life all the while, when I, I don’t know what I am even after.
The few years that we lived together, codependently, just the two of us—in between her two marriages, she used to tell me everything. Things a preteen wouldn’t normally be exposed to or care to know about. Things like how much money she had and how she planned to use or save it, like what she saw in her past marriage and in marriages in general, like how people with different characters and roles acted at work.
I remember this kerosene lamp we used to have. Blackout happened frequently in the area, and it’s always when our favorite TV show was at some climax moment, and the next thing we knew we were plunged into darkness. We’d fumble in the dark towards the balcony and from a cabinet in the corner took out the old kerosene lamp. Setting it on the table, taking off its heavy, oily glass chimney, a tiny flame from a match, and suddenly there was light. It always worked promisingly; I never remembered having to change the oil or the wick or having to do anything extra. Like the Aladdin lamp where a genie comes out upon request. Its sooty, dancing flame tells a slow-developing story, a story no less mysterious than Aladdin, a story that always ends with ambient light suddenly filling the whole house and a cheering “electricity is back!” followed by the storyteller itself being blowed right out.
I remember the few dishes I loved for her to make, soft egg pancakes, a soup with “flour clumps”, fried eel we ate with bare hands, remember how she made lard from pork fat, and how the residual sizzling dregs of fried crispy fat smelled like heaven.
These all happened in a short period of time with just the two of us, before she remarried. My stepfather is the kindest of all men, but he was not as cool as my dad. And the harsh way I treated him came entirely from the remorse over the loss of that little space mom and I used to share.
Deuce, it’s like that little space we had. I told you things you were not supposed to understand, but within a shared space it all made sense. People tell me you are at a better place now, which I don’t doubt, but what about that space that’s forever dissolved?
If a separation is in any way damaging, it’s never to the individuals, but the once shared sacred little space. A space where we live like we never had, where joy and sorrow, hope and suspense coexist and coevolve, where I see myself through your eyes, and liked what i saw.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
There are two kinds of pain, Deuce. A sharp kind, and a dull kind. It’s much easier to notice sharp pains; they are always on the surface, seizing attention. The dull kind is the sneaky one. Quiet, reserved, refusing to speak up, tamed most of the time but when you least expect it, it bursts forth savagely. The two kinds are like two types of children. An unruly, crying one, running to you and collapsing in your arms, and a dark, mute one standing in the corner that you know you should worry about more.
Pain most often starts out sharp, to gradually be buried through distractions, avoidance and pretense, from then on out perhaps never again to see daylight. Rarely is such a sharp pain directly met, before it can be buried, with courage, and directly coped with until it dissolves, disarmed, into mournful understanding. More rare is when a pain is dull from even the first onset. And that’s dangerous. There is probably too much of it, spurring the emotional immune system into overdrive with so much antidote so as to feverishly numb us, for as long as it can. The direct coping time is thus pushed miles away, though one ominous day we’ll have to face it again. Maybe years or decades later — when that pain is old and gray, or maybe three months from now while it is still wily and young.
I see you turning into a dull one albeit you started out sharp. I see a dull pain in my friend. I want to be there for him when it acts out, but the slyness of a dull pain is you never know when.
When you were alive I was also lively in love. When you were gone we went through the hardest time of our lives, dealing with the loss together. Then when the sharp pain receded, the ease with which he wanted to replace you wounded me, because I hadn’t moved on. I could never move on.
The rate of me moving on is appallingly slow. So slow that I’m always the last. So slow that natural selection is bound to eliminate me. Everyone is ahead of me and I am dragging them all down. Staying here and not getting better is my only quality, be it a feature or a bug.
It is Day 68. I haven’t made any progress.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
Looking back at this time from the future, I am afraid mine is going to be shaped by two failures: first failing to get you, then failing to get over you.
I hope you have become a better person like you wanted. But I resist that idea myself. There are empty parts of me that I would like to keep empty, so when others come along they’d have a room to fill. I want to remain illiterate of many things so they can tell me. I want to ramain a terrible cook if I were one (which I’m not; I happen to be a great one). I want to remain terrible at filling the space (which I am). Someone can fill it with bright colors of their paining, with live music of their taste, with warm heat from cookies and bread baking in the oven, and with fragrance from flowers blossoming in the garden. And I will grow along. I’d maybe give up growth right now just so we can grow together.
How long does it take to shape something you lost into something you once had? Deuce, you tell me. To me everything is in a never-ending state of flux, oscillating between life and death, mocking our every attempt at permanence. Right now the loss of you is the only permanence to me.
To see you again is to be completely free from having to see you again. To make my point loud is to not make a sound. In an eternal loop I see myself falling, getting up, and falling again. I was so weighed down by you; I couldn’t get anything done.
“The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment.” (Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.)
Why can’t we say what we want? Even to our closest ones?
I had a dream with you in it I cannot get out of my head. Usually a dream dissolves the second I open my eyes. But this time it is me who refused to let go. I grabbed it hard and dragged it into the other world I opened my eyes to. It stayed there. There, with everything bearable and unbearable, everything I wished you could be. But what could I hope to catch on this gray, foggy morning where I opened my eyes? Not your breath, not your heartbeat, not your sound or shape, color or mood. Not the smile on your face, not the light in your eyes, not a good day of yours, not a bad day of yours, not a poem scribbled down, not a melody whispering in my ears, so powerful that it had drowned out all the other music of the world. What, my dear, can I catch now, in all the quietness that is the absence of you?