Dinner is cold but I’m still eating because I know that when the overwhelming sadness dissipates, momentarily, the hunger will spike. We are living with all our fabric in bags, on a mattress on the floor of a house that isn’t our home. We pay for a home, and we hope, but it isn’t enough. Beside me in our makeshift bed his hand grips my thigh as he falls in his dream and the frustrations and sadness and fear from waking life again transcends into his unconscious. While awake he doesn’t remember, but the body and mind do not forget. All night I scratch even though the physical itch has been gone for months.
My anger is a stifling distrust, nestled deeply in my chest. It plucks at my vocal chords, deepening and enraging my tone and suddenly I am screaming uncontrollably until the house shakes with me, with all the fear and frustration and confusion of this condition. Coursing and convoluted until it is barely recognisable as the form it once was. Roots that grew sharply into my heart and bloomed into my brain, thorn-covered vines twisting and choking around love and safety, leaving me a mangled notion of emotional attachment. The anger thickens in my lungs, it is a tar that covers every surface. It cracks my ribs, it hardens my heart, and this growing, gnawing, constant underlying fear takes control. Through lack of control it propells me into a state of attack, defend, escape, give up. It’s hopeless, heartless, helpless. Nothing matters.
Until suddenly the anger is gone. Dissipated, because he hugged me and he wouldn’t let go, thus quelling the shaking within me. Or because the tears arrived, melting the tar along with them, allowing me to breathe slowly, deeply, once again. I stay distant at this point, confused by the notion of forgiveness, and so far away feels like the distance across the bed as he asks me over and over again to just let him hold me. I refuse. Conceptually I understand, but self-esteem has never been lower, so thoughts of self doubt and distrust creep once again into my psyche. Preparing themselves for the next bout of anger. I weep alone, unsure of how to navigate this fucked up emotional landscape. He holds me anyway.
Marble statues, creamy gray, slippery & gleaming. Eyes wide but filled with glassy emptiness. Arms outstretched lazily for eternity. To reach; to attempt to receive their embrace but to touch only the cool chiseled notion of something long since past: wandering among them can feel so lonely. The air is stagnant and thick with the never-ending nothingness of quietude. Achievement lies silently at their feet. Pride arched in their backs, ego flushing from their biceps. The very basic foundation of their creation remains known, and yet, the thoughts muffled in their heads, stuck forever, encapsulated in a vision once dreamed and (possibly) executed remain a mystery. Hope is etched in their solid hearts, and a twinkle of desire flutters in the air: Please, just try to understand. We just want to be understood, they whisper from lips that never part as cheeks flush in the morning light. We gaze, we study, but understanding is miles away. Frustration leads to condemnation and soon again the room is absolute in its stillness. The statues smile weakly with frozen expressions as yet another chooses to simply give up. To walk away. And they, to be stuck for eternity never known in their entirety. There’s nothing for them to do now, except wait.
An ear infection that has existed for days, weeks, months (years?) A bite (from a spider? Tick?) A trip to urgent care and a prescription for heavy-duty antibiotics. A period, on time, but debilitating nonetheless. The impending death of a childhood pet. A fight which led to an (almost?) break-up. Lack of contact from friends. Reaching out to others, finding only air. Emptiness. The fabric of voices ever so slightly altered. Sounds, louder than usual. Something feels… off. Distrust. Insecurity. Fear. Panic. Dreams that feel real until suddenly, they aren’t. Reality that feels like a dream until suddenly, it’s not. Guilt. Missing work because fatigue will not cease. Paranoia. Dissipation of thoughts. Inability to focus. Constantly sleeping, mind racing, cabin fever. A tired body with a head full of frantic thoughts. Editing coworkers’ text messages. Continuing inside jokes long after they’ve ended. Trying to sleep at normal times. Responding to messages, sometimes. Thinking. Drawing pictures of feelings. Drowning in nausea. Too tired to stand. Too tired to think. Still trying, always trying, but too tired to try. Crying every night. Sleeping. Wondering when. Wondering why. Wondering if.
Whole milk tastes like going to one of the neighborhood kid’s houses in elementary school and trying cocoa puffs for the first time. It tastes like soggy kraft mac n cheese dripping with butter and milk instead of the “healthy” skim milk butterless kind your mother reinforces. It tastes like the drink served up with meatball spaghettios that you eagerly gobble only to moments later become panic stricken that you’ve inadvertently inhaled pork against your parents’ very stern wishes. It’s the guilt, mixed with sugar, mixed with corn syrup, that you sneak from your school friends during Easter even though you’re not allowed to. The lucky charms you steal from another student’s desk in fifth grade. He tells you no, he will not share, so you simply eat all the marshmallows and put the bag of cereal back on his desk. Of course he notices. Of course he never speaks to you again. Of course, years later, he never remembers why he dislikes you so much. But you never forget. The guilt. That [bitter]sweet, secretive, shame filled taste.
Entitlement to her partner’s time, to his innermost thoughts; to be the focus of his sole attraction: this mentality is the driving force behind her insecurity. A convoluted contradiction as she attempts any lifestyle beyond monogamy. Jealousy isn’t so easily smited when it is simply pushed aside. How does one hold oneself through the embarrassment, shame, and pain of insecurity?
Like muscles breaking down from intensive exercise, our partnership aches as it grows stronger. So, too, the fibers of Us pull apart and back together, each struggling to find enough slack to tug, to challenge, but never to pull the other over the line. Eyes full of hurt, leading to raspy throats filled with anger, to tears of sadness, to regretful self-doubt; the isolation of shame. Eventually we end up in bed, silent and together, but somehow so far apart and so alone.
The tired frustration runs rampant through my mind as I attempt sleep. A dull, constant aching underlying all my ruminating thoughts and I listen as you drift off beside me. The cat curled by my feet matches the cadence of your snores, nearby a fan is blowing softly, a nighttime of white noise is filling our mock studio apartment.
Moments of joy still find their way to us as we navigate this hazy new territory with no maps and little guidance. But each new challenge presents us with fear, vulnerability, and occasional failure. Attempts to speak from a place of love, respect, and trust are well-intentioned but often feel implausible.
The air is cool and I wrap myself in a sheet and handmade quilt, and despite your back to me I turn to face you, to hear the soft breaths escaping your lips as you finally allow yourself some comfort. With a slow exhale I remember that forgiveness is not condonation of hurtful actions, but a reminder that it’s okay to move on, when ready. And, I think, you’re someone for whom it is worth it to move on, when ready. We will rest, forgive, struggle, and together, we will grow strong.