45. Drugs or Jesus

You think you know what pain is.

I thought I knew what pain was.  Abandoned my the man who pushed his grandmother’s ring onto my finger.  Left homeless, jobless, car-less, dreamless, broken.

I thought I knew what pain was.

I drag myself into the doctor’s office today.  My right hip, clenched into a knot they cannot undo for a year and counting, bent in agony.  I cry hot tears they ignore – because they are used to me, because they are sick of me – over the thin paper covering the exam table, onto the plastic pillows, onto the ground.

If they can’t cure you, it’s all in your head.

If they can’t cure you, eventually you should just shut up about it.

I thought I knew what pain was.

Robbed of everything I had made vulnerable for love, swimming in a dark sea of splintered words and shattered promises, I grieved for almost two years before I started to wake up.  Stirring in the darkness, putting a timid toe into a wading pool, I eventually dared to hope again.

I dared to hope, I dared to love, and all that man did was break my body and leave me to rot.

I am on the phone with my mother.  Poor mom, she tries to calm me down.  But today there is no comfort, and today there is no calming.  “If that man” and I’m screaming, “if THAT man can bring down some sort of fucking death sentence on me-” and I choke on my own tears.  There is nothing my anger can do to hurt him.  There is nothing my sorrow can do to save me.

I am lost in agony.  I cannot escape my own body.  There is nothing I can do.

It is at this point that people either choose drugs or Jesus.

And I gave up on Jesus ten years ago.

44. Expect

That giant purple eyesore.

Standing there. Staring at me. Making me feel like I’d been slapped upside the head by a grape.

I’ve hated it for two and a half years.  Just not enough to do anything about it.

I walk in at 10:30 at night.  I walk out.  I am shocked.

I’ve been wanting to paint over that purple wall since the second I moved in here, but I was broke, lost, and… well, mostly broke.  I didn’t have anything to spare, monetarily or emotionally, and just getting this cheap rent was incredible enough on it’s own.  I should be grateful, and I should shut up.  That much seemed a given.  I left the grape first because I was extraordinarily busy with simply remaining alive.  Then I was broke.  Then, apparently, despite hating it, I was used to it.  I hated it, but in a way that rarely crossed my mind.  Or in the way that only crosses your mind when you’re in the middle of doing something else, despite it being the first thing I saw each day upon walking into my bedroom.

I had always planned to wipe that wall of the face of the planet.  I finally made good on my word.  The unintended side effect of wiping off a thing that I hate is that the room no longer feels like mine.  It no longer feels like home. My biology has kicked in and all my senses are up, waiting for danger.  This is unfamiliar.  This is a bed that is not my own.  Hold tight, stay cautious.  You can’t sleep here.

Are you shitting me?  This is so obvious.  So obvious and so infuriatingly evident of my own lack of evolution I want to punch myself.  Two years. TWO YEARS on this fucking room.  No, not even this room, this wall.  One, single, hateful wall that all in all, the trip and the furniture pulling and the taping and the painting and the reputting of things…. maybe clocked in at three hours?  And I was avoiding that for three years because I couldn’t handle the psychological fallout of changing it???

I couldn’t embrace something not only good, but that I was certain I wanted, because I couldn’t invest $50, a few hours, and the metal shift it required.

Jesus.

I hate myself a little right now.  I wonder how many other things have waited two years or six years or ten because I wasn’t able to sleep under a different color paint job.  How many microscopic, unseen, unimportant, baseless biological things have kept me from what I wanted.  And me, stupid and rationalizing excuses when in reality, Darwin won.

God, I hate myself right now.

What is even more stupidly, pathetically evident, is that I’ve been wearing your old tank top for the past two days, and the teddy bear you got me is sitting on my bed.  I haven’t thought of you even half lovingly or wantingly in the two and a half years since I had to move here thanks to your disgusting habit of blowing everything up, and I embraced that fucking grape-ass wall like my life depended on it.

I am missing your mouth.  Your dirty talk in that British accent.

Because I feel out of place.  Because we were both out of place and stupidly thought (like young people do) that it made sense to find a place in each other.  Because you were where I went every last time I fell of the wagon.

The taste of you was toxic to me.  Poison.  We both thought we could somehow wring it around and turn it into something good.  But we couldn’t.  We never could.  The other day, for the first time in a long time, I mentioned the ring.  I still couldn’t bear to ask my mother what she had done with it, and she was smart enough not to tell me.

I look at the wall.  So elegant.  So sophisticated.  Everything I had hoped it would be.  Did it really take this, this to make me paint it.  Then I think on it.  Yes, yes of course it did. Because nothing short of the breaking of my body, forcing me to stay in one place would have ever made me paint that wall.  Because as much as I hated it, painting that wall was a bit of acceptance.  To change it meant I was settling in here, in the place I crash landed after the explosion.  The dust cleared, and I ended up here because the ad for the job said “Fortune 500”.  I never did intend to stay.  Yet here I am.  Nesting.  Am I mad because I’m giving in to it?  Or am I mad because it took me so long?

Swimming pools.  Movie stars.

Los Angeles, you mother fucker.  I only chose you under duress.

Dear god, get me out of here.  That’s what I’m thinking.  And that’s why I’m painting.  It’s a form of acceptance, and yet a way to exercise the only bit of control and refusal I still have left.

I walk into that room and I try to sleep, but my psyche won’t let me.  The energy’s too different.

 
What the hell did I expect?

41. Horizontal

I hated the way you said I had no “values” because I see people with compassion.  Because I believe love has solved more problems than condemning ever has.  Because I believe your version of justice would leave the world with blank eye sockets and toothless gums, choking down their own teeth.

I hated the way you thought that being an upstanding citizen meant looking down on everyone who had it less together than you.  That if you learned a lesson two years ago you were better than the person learning it today.  That I must be basking in secret sin to be capable of forgiving anyone I saw committing it. That I was tempting fate by not treating those who have failed with scorn.

I hated the fact that you actually used the words “that guy” all the time.  As in “I’m not that guy‘” whenever discussing behavior you felt was beneath you, because as we all know, there are nice guys and there are mean guys, and you are a nice guy.  If a girl deigns to stir emotions within you (or show an inch more skin than you have secretly deemed appropriate) she is a harlot and a bitch.  It’s better to say “I’m not that guy”  any time I offer solid solutions to proactively work around my illness or urge you to take time off with just the boys, than take me up on it and *gasp* relax for a second.  Better to resist and insist to the point of being insulted when I suggest you take a break, then throw it back in my face six months later.  That’ll teach me.  

Since I’m a liar, and faking all these hospital visits and needles in my spine, I’m probably just a few more hits short of spontaneous healing, so why keep pulling punches, sweetie?  Just let ’em fly.  

I sometimes want to beat myself up for not seeing through you, but I am not a mind reader, a soothsayer, or a ghostbuster; and you are quite the genius masquerader, self convincer, and pious martyr.  Glorious be thy name.

A tip of the hat, sir.  You are quite the specimen.

I woke up with a sore shoulder yesterday, because I sleep horizontally on the bed now.  That’s how f***ing gone you are.

40. Pi

The thing I didn’t mention about my birthday is my toes.

Ok, I did mention my toes.

My shoes.

What I didn’t mention is that since I’ve lost the heels people would compliment with envy, the beauty, the stride, and the height…  if I’m wearing a pretty dress I don’t have a lot of options.  Work flats don’t go with strappy dresses and boots make me look like a streetwalker.  But thankfully this is Los Angeles so in a pinch, a pair of glittery flip flops will do the trick.

In Massachusetts, I’m a high maintenance clusterfuck.

In Los Angeles, I get called “busted” because I don’t paint my toes.

It’s stupid to say out loud but an athlete may define himself by a weight class or a line drive.   An intellectual is allowed to hold their identity in their ability to reason and recall.  My strength, my beauty, my ferocity, and my ambition were expressed in a wickedly vast, slick salvaged, bargain basement, sky high heel collection.

It’s pre-party and only Cindy and Mel are at my house, unpacking extra wine glasses and opening makeup cases.  I’m hovering, vibrating in flux; a weird sad hummingbird tittering around my shoe based insecurity.  If I have to wear flats, I should at least put on nail polish.  Like looking good after a breakup, it’s less about inducing longing and more about the fact that you just can’t have any kinks in your armor.  No notches that don’t bend or holes in the armpit.  You can’t let the fragile parts show.

It is only when I get on the ground  that I realize I don’t think I can do this.  The bending and reaching.  The time it will take on one side.  I realize the physical impossibility of it.  No.  It’s your birthday.  Don’t cry.

As always, with a dumb sense of fight that can’t be cured despite an ever mounting pile of losses, I struggle to put all my weight on my left side and prop myself with my left elbow as I reach for the polish.

“You want me to do that for you?”  It’s Mel.  It’s a simple question.

“I got it”  I smile.  And I do have it.  I do.  I’m deftly painting my left toes almost like you might expect a girl to do.  From a distance, I could fake it.  You’d never know.  I finish, satisfied.  And then stupidly look to my right.  I twist.  I bend.  I grope.  I fail.  I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  There’s no way to paint my right toenails without gross bodily harm.  And I want to do it.  I want to do it so badly that I have a kicking, screaming, fighting match in my brain before I look up at Mel and start to open my mouth.

It seems simple to allow someone to help you; I know if I were seeing it from a distance I would wonder why it was so hard.  Hell, even up close and experiencing it I wonder why it’s so hard.  Shouldn’t it just be like letting a tall person get a box of cereal you can’t reach?  But it isn’t.  You see, you were never tall enough to reach that cereal.  But just yesterday, or at least, the last time you checked, you could paint your own damn toe nails.  Your life is suddenly full of surprises, painful puzzles you never see coming.  Over and over again, unexpectedly having to solve for pi.  You get ready to do something you’ve done a thousand times, like sit in a chair, or drive a car, or paint your own stupid toe nails… and you can’t.  You can’t and you don’t know how to live your life without everything you knew to do before sickness.  You don’t know the first way around it.  And when you finally start to figure it out you realize the answer is just a damn circle, a snake eating it’s tail.  An answer you can keep solving for day in and day out, from the moment you wake up till your head hits the pillow – and you’ll still never be finished.  Pi.

I realize why asking for help is so hard.    It is because with every concession, you feel you are reneging on a piece of your humanity.  In every trip I can’t make, in every part of my own body I can no longer get my fingers to, I’m losing a sense of adulthood, autonomy, and self.

But Mel is looking at me.  And she’s a nurse, she’s not dumb.  She can see I can’t reach.

“Yeah,” I whisper, “Maybe I do need you to do the right side.”

And I scoot across the floor towards her and let her paint my toes.  Grieving my losses while thanking whatever goodness there is left in the universe that someone is still there offering to help.  Because for now, whether or not I like it, I’m still solving for pi.

And today’s flavor is humble.

36. Stop

Stop!  Stop Stop stop.

I keep telling myself…don’t think it. Don’t dwell on it.  Don’t let your mind wander, it hurts too much.

But I can’t.  I’m losing it.  I’m tearing my hair out, I’m in grief on the ground.

I am only 29, and they tell me I will never have sex again.

Focus.  Focus on your life.  Focus on your investments.  Create your future.  Earn that  promotion, start your own LLC.  Learn Spanish, play guitar, get one of these stupid blogs published.  There’s more to life than romance.  50% of marriages fail!  Most happy people have whole communities I tell myself… I can still have that, even if I can’t have….

Stop!  Stop stop stop!

I am remembering what it was like to smell that spot where his neck meets his jawline.  I am remembering skin all over touching skin, “I love you” whispered into my mouth, my hands at the small of his back, “I love you, I love you”.

Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop.

I am 29 years old.

Will no one ever touch me again?  Will I spend the rest of my life longing for something everyone takes for granted, cut off by a wall of pain from my own ability to give and receive love.  This can’t be it for me.  This can’t be the end.  Please don’t tell me I have nothing to offer, and never will again.

Stop.

Stop stop stop.

Don’t remember his mouth, his hands, his breath.  Don’t remember how it felt to be held at night.  The lips lingering on the back of your neck, the arms around you, hands holding your breasts and exploring your stomach.  Stop.  Stop crying.  No one can help you, and it only reminds you how much it hurts.

Stop.

Stop stop stop.

32. Doorway

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway, and that’s a good thing.

When I watch the wrong movie and the man tells the woman he respects the work she does and wants her to be successful because she’s earned it, above and outside of their romance, I cry; he doesn’t come.

When the janitor at work gets me flowers on my birthday that should have come from him, because she still loves me, but he doesn’t anymore, he doesn’t come.

When the rain hits the California ground for the first and only time all winter.  Not even enough to banish the edges of the drought, but enough to finally wash away the heart he drew with his fingertip on my driver side window, he doesn’t come.

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway.

His pride is more important.  He will tell himself, and he’ll tell me, that it is maturity.  He will save me, really, from the back and forth, the wavering, the heart sucking, gut-wrenching act of pulling myself out of his arms sobbing, knowing somewhere deep down that in the end, all he’ll do is throw back a few too many and shatter me into a thousand pieces just like every time before.  His pride is saving me from suffering of a greater kind.  I know that.

And he doesn’t come.  And he doesn’t come.

And at two am I am up in the living room.

And he doesn’t come.

29. Too.

It isn’t until the morning after – the sunlight streaming through the half ripped out vertical blinds – that I really feel like shit.

I only had one drink last night, followed by a plastic cup after plastic cup of water, and a cold walk in the dark from downtown.  I spent an hour crying on a bathroom floor.  My phone, screaming accusations, but all in text.  He wouldn’t take any of my calls.  Or my thousand requests for Facetime to prove I was where I said I would be.  I was doing what I said I would be doing.  I am frantically texting pictures of my face, my feet, the room, my friends, and begging please.  Please.  I don’t understand.  Why are you doing this to me?  I love you.  Why?  Please.  Please.  And so many other phrases that turned out to just be words strung together that should have meant something but didn’t.

I cried on the cold bathroom floor until three am.  Begging and grasping and completely lost, why would he do this to me?  I didn’t do anything wrong… I love him so much… I asked him if it was ok to come down.  I went out of my way to stay with someone he could be comfortable with… Why is he doing this?  Why is he doing this.  And then I realize he is doing this because he has been drinking.  And I realize this is never going to end.  And I realize I should turn off my phone.  I tell him what I need to say.  Then I make good on my word.   I cried on the bathroom floor until three am. Then I washed my face, turned that phone off, and climbed into Travis’s bed, wearing his old sweats.  I tell myself I am not going to cry there, but I keep crying there, then asking if it’s ok with his girlfriend, then crying again.  He reminds me that the living room is freezing, that his girlfriend is a nice and understanding person, and that we’ve known each other since we were eleven.  Its’ ok.  I cry some more and tell him I’ll try to shut up, but since I’ve cried so much I’m sure I’ll snore.

Travis falls asleep immediately.

Travis snores.

In the morning, when the light shines in too bright and it’s maybe only 3 hours later, we get up, because it’s too light to sleep.  “I want to make you breakfast” he says, because he is a good friend, and because my stomach is empty, and because I have black rings under my eyes and am in desperate need of care.  I tell him that’s sweet but not to worry.  “I have eggs!” he yells, before realizing they’re past the expiration date.

“Eh, whatever” I say

“You really want to take that kind of a chance”

“I’m feeling lucky”

I pause.

“Oh fuck it, I’m feeling the opposite of lucky.  I’m feeling a million times worse than lucky, but I’m feeling so terrible a couple of bad eggs can’t make things any worse”

Travis laughs.

“Everything you say sounds like it’s a quote from a book or a movie or something”

“I think men fall in love with me because of that and then leave me when they realize I’m an actual person.”

He hugs me.  We go to Ralphs for eggs.

We make and enjoy breakfast.  I hand him my phone as it turns back on and ask him if there was anything not hideous or hateful said as it rings 6 or 7 times, indicating all the texts to wade through.  Travis checks the phone.

“No” he says decidedly.  So I don’t read them.

About an hour later, another one comes through.

“Everything after last night just left me more confused than ever…”

And confused myself, I read every last word from the night before until I am unshakable.  And all I do is copy, word for word, the final text I sent before I turned off the phone.

“If you are confused, allow me to clarify.  By the time I come home, I want all of your things out of my house.  I want you to leave your keys on the table by the door, and I want you to leave, and never, ever come back.”

He tells me he can’t get there.  He tells me this.  He tells me that.  He gives a thousand reasons and excuses but he has a functioning car and his crap in my home, so he’d better remove it.  I ignore it.  Travis illegally downloads Catching Fire so I can watch it with my broken body (movies are hard for girls who can’t sit) and it turns out movies where lots of people die are hard to watch after you’ve just had a loss.  I cry, then say it’s an amazing movie, then cry, then say I love Lenny Kravitz, then cry.

Enough people have died in the film at this point and I’m starting to lose it.  I ask Travis to pause the movie and he does.  He has me in blankets with a heater straight on me, and I’m still shivering.  He comes over to hug me while I start to sob.  The hateful words said to me, the loss of love I thought would last, the disintegration of everything I planned around me all over again.  And it’s only because I’m so broken and so vulnerable, only because I’ve been ripped up one side and down the other, only because the nerves are raw and the heart is bleeding, and the dreams are crushed, do I whisper in his ear what I’ve been stuffing into corners, under cheerfulness and positive platitudes, afraid to say out loud for the last four months.

“Jon died.  Jon died.  I could die too.”

“I’m scared”

And he holds me.  He holds me like a good friend would.