I write this for Reive, not because our situations are so much alike, but because I want her to know that there is almost always a reward in moving forward even when you feel the urge to go back for something you left behind.Walking Backwards In a Snowstorm
Surprisingly, I was the one who left. Fooled around on him even. Just a quick fuck with someone he didn't know--out of anger, out of sorrow, out of wanting to feel like I wasn't invisible. Betrayal was an ugliness in me that I didn't know I was capable of until then. But of course it was more complicated than that--autopsies always are. We'd been together so long that our edges had become blurred. We had become an our
life. I wondered for a moment how much of our
life would still be mine once I left him.
I came home and changed into a pair of jeans and sneakers, fed the cats, watered the plants. He was there--hair pulled back in a ponytail, sitting in front of the computer, high. He got high a lot more these days. It was the only sign from him of possible unhappiness that I could detect. I told him I was going. He looked at me for a moment and I thought he might say something, anything to keep me from leaving. I probably wouldn't have stayed, but that he didn't even try left an old wound that still bothers me once in a while on rainy days.
We'd tried the conversation on for size about a week before. I told him that I was moving out. He was still so beautiful to look at that I almost forgot what I was trying to say. I had been so in love with him once. That I wasn't now didn't make the memory of how I felt any less acute. We made an odd couple, yet everyone who knew us said we seemed perfect for each other. He had dark hair, as long as mine, and towered more than a foot over me. I was fair and slight, the light to his dark. He was a sturdy person--a very still person. I was constantly in motion and I floated busily about him. A friend of mine jokingly referred to us as the redwood and the nymph. I told her later that I'd picked the wrong tree.
When I told him I was leaving, he had no reaction but to quietly and evenly ask why. I replied that I was surprised he even had to ask. It's just not working.
That's what I'd said. I was so angry with him. I'd tried to make my home in him for so long. I'd nested earnestly in his arms, but could never get warm enough. I wanted to tell him everything, every detail of his failure. The way he never saw me, not even a glimpse of me. That he was so goddamn lazy in bed--like his erect prick was prize enough just by its mere existence. I hated that he couldn't change a tire. I hated that he thought he was smarter than me. I hated that he'd left me to cry alone all night when my grandmother died. I hated that I'd spent the last five years of my life with a man who didn't like to dance, who never once told me I was pretty, who couldn't pick his fucking underwear up off the bathroom floor to save his life. I wanted to beat the apathy out of him, to shove his face into the carpet and shriek like a madwoman until his ears began to bleed. I didn't. It's just not working.
It was the sort of vague non-emotional answer he could appreciate.
We'd never said a harsh word to one another until a couple of weeks after I'd finally moved out. He called me up and asked how I was doing. It made me hopeful. Maybe things could change. Maybe...then he told me the reason he'd called was to let me know he didn't appreciate the mess I'd left for him to clean up in the apartment. "Now you know how I've felt for the last five fucking years," I told him before I clicked off the receiver. It was the first and last time I'd ever raised my voice to him.
Winter in Los Angeles can be bitter. Perhaps it's the juxtaposition of Christmas lights and palm trees, but the cold of it cuts to the quick. My dark days began with our friends' uncomfortable excuses for not seeing me, with the embarrassed silences when I happened to run into the old crowd. After a while, I gave up trying to hang on to any part of my old existence, apart from a couple of wonderful people who'd decided to cross the lines over into enemy territory. Within three months' time, my life changed so much that it was unrecognizable to me.
The initial bravado of making the decision to leave him behind had quickly dissolved into uncertainty, fear, and aching loneliness. I lived alone up in the hills, near the Hollywood sign. I drove home almost everyday thinking of Peg Entwistle. She'd jumped off that sign in 1932. It was the only time in my life that I'd ever been beaten enough to understand how death could appeal to someone who'd lost her hold on the tether to any meaningful connections with others. It wasn't a contemplation of suicide--I'm a survivor by nature, but it was a feeling of kinship with all of the other desperately lonely people I'd always known lived in this city. I was one of them now and it frightened me. There was a man I'd coupled with during this time. He was one of them too. We groped and clung to each other in his dark apartment. We tried without success to pretend that it meant something. I couldn't even make myself stay with him until the morning. He sat there in bed watching me dress. His eyes were dead. I knew mine were too. We nodded a dismal three a.m. goodbye, promising to call, knowing we never would.
I floated, as I always had before, but now without purpose or direction. There was no comfort in the rhythm of my days. My nights were full of ghosts summoned by regret and despair. So when he called after his return from Montreaux, I told him I wanted to see him. It was horrible. He was smug. I was ashamed. I was drunk by the time he came over…the couple of glasses of wine to steady my nerves had somehow turned into the bottle. I was maudlin. I asked him if he thought we'd made a mistake. I told him that I missed being a part of something. I cried. When I tried to find my place in his arms, he gently pushed me away and told me he'd found someone else. Another woman...in Europe...beautiful...she was beautiful...and she made him feel...so alive...she was unbelievable. I smiled sickly and told him I was happy for him. I was humiliated and angry with myself for letting him see me like this, for allowing him the comfort of my misery. He had to go. I barely managed to close the door behind him before I ran to the bathroom to vomit up the cheap wine along with the last few bits of my self-respect. I slept on the couch that night because my bed, the one we'd slept in together for so long, was too much to bear after seeing him so changed by someone else.
We saw each other a few times after that. He said he'd always remained friends with his ex-girlfriends. I never had done that. To me, over always meant over; but I tried, feeling like perhaps I'd made a mistake in leaving him...not wanting to lose any more of him than I already had. There was too much pain in it for me, though, and I soon realized that his pleasure in seeing me was only derived from letting me know how happy he was without me. The wheel turned slowly and Spring came in spite of all this. The newness of it made me brave again. I let go once more, this time with nothing to lose. This time there was the freedom in my floating that I'd had before I knew him, before I'd let his stolid nature ice my wings. I was reborn. The next time he called to see if I was interested in catching a show, I politely declined. He eventually moved to the East Coast and married the fabulous woman who'd given him so much more than I ever had. I eventually moved to a different set of hills, where oaks grow in place of redwoods, and gave myself so much more than I ever had.