For a good while, there was nothing to tell. Still restlessly riding in the passengers seat, watching someone else's life in motion. I watched my body move satellite from my conscious being. The quiet seemed to emanate from the closing doors of your greyhound bus.
What had started as a drinking problem transitioned into extensive, exhaustive alcoholism. The nature of our relationship changed completely. In what felt like an instant, I didn't know you. Wild mood swings and black-out nights left you confused in the mornings. I would be the receiver of countless messages and phone calls that you would never remember; and the things you said, I would never forget. I felt gravity wane as I bloodied my fingers trying frantically to grab hold of the pavement, of our foundation, of what I wanted but couldn't take. You visited again, but this time things were different. There was a distance between us. Instead of trying to remember, I was looking for someone I could forget. As you walked out the door, I took a long, hard look at the person exiting my apartment. I knew it would be a long time before I saw you again. I knew we would not be the same.
My health began to spiral. Was it excess? Was I the cat that got the cream? I was as fat as royalty. I had never been a small girl and this has become something of a defining and defeating element of who I was then and, despite enormous weight loss, who I am now. For whatever reason, I had a difficult time blaming your regression on the absence of your good-natured being. I turned the blame, like a gun, toward myself. Unlovable, undesirable; I couldn't exude the charms I contained. I couldn't make you want good for yourself. I couldn't be the one to make you right. I was a damaged package, and my allegiance was deniable. I began to look at myself not as a human, but as some kind of monster. I regressed to a state of hyper-egocentrism, believing that everyone I came in contact with saw me as this derivation of what should be human; a mutation of "woman". I took your emotional and psychological blows with little resistance from then on. Submissive, I began abusing laxatives, purging and starving myself. You became the center of my universe, and my only motivation.
I spent the next two years painfully in love with a ghost I couldn't shake.
I dream of baking and frying fluffy, fresh confections and hoop-shaped culinary concoctions. Great American Doughnut Shop, open 24 hours. Surely there is a 3am shift I can fill. Sprinkles and powdered sugar, and hot coffee (no experience required.)
Today I have made it my personal goal to work as a doughnut-slinging waitress, cashier and baker(ella) at the small doughnut joint around the corner. Four booths. Cigarette stained wallpaper and drop ceiling. Men in denim slacks and suspenders with gummy, toothless grins. A short stack of soft doughnuts for each.
Loosen your "Bible belt" Kentucky, you've got room for one more.
Though I had recognized my need for a sabbatical from our friendship, distancing myself became something of an impossibility. I credit the distractions associated with moving for the short-lived success of my existing relationship. Nursing kittens, selecting the perfect hanging flower basket and the attendance of my first official college classes occupied the bulk of my time. I saw endless possibilities in my new surroundings; among these possibilities was chance for the re-birth of a psychological connection with my "ordinary" man. Together we were treading water, for these few months at best. A postmortem heartbeat, but no pulse.
While "I'd still jump in front of a flying bullet for you", it was easier for me to say "what difference does it make?" I was in the business of embracing the "here-and-now", and in doing so, reducing my universe to a more manageable size. My mission called for the compression of our ever expanding, abstract relationship. Categorization. Marginalization. Assimilation. But you were the square peg; unwilling to join the ranks of ordinary men.
So we planned your first visit. You arrived on a late night bus. I remember watching you descend through the folded doors of public transport. Breathless, I took a mental photograph and stored it somewhere safe. You were no longer a ribbon of fluid on my post-frontal cortex. It had been well over a year, and I had missed you more than you could have possibly known.
The few days we spent together were pegged with moments I vowed never to forget. Drunk and in pajamas, we would stay up late discussing everything and nothing; connecting the dots and discovering a common language. We lay on the kitchen floor in the dark, sharing a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey and you grab my face, giving a hard look and say
"I would defend you to anyone. You know that right?" You held my body tight.
A 1-2 punch. I was yours. A moment I would never forget. You would change me. Define me. Own me. I still remember how soft the hairs at the nape of your neck were as I clung to your body, my arms around your shoulders, running my hands down the back of your head.
When you left, I couldn't watch. R walked you into the bus station, even shook your hand. I sat in the passengers seat. It was a quiet ride home.
We were unclassified, and we would remain unclassified.
I expected this summer to bloom like a stem of Kentucky goldenrod, with blossoms opening in both tandem and mosaic patterns, synonymous with our dreams and plans; nonlinear, and with no particular goal. It has become something of our fashion, a "laissez-faire" approach to an abstract end. "Happiness", for whatever it's worth.
I have rarely been spoon-fed the products of my efforts. My goals continue to lay in abstract and less conceptual works. To make you "warm", to aid in the ease of your slumber; muse, to make you want the things you need and need the things you love. In these first two weeks, I've seen failures in my efforts, non-efforts, spoken and non-spoken desires and the fruits of all, raisins in the sun.
His criticisms make me feel negligible. I find myself questioning this prospect of "love", juxtaposed against his uncanny ability to reduce me. Yesterday I was questioning the mistakes I'd made. Today, I am questioning the mistakes I am bound to make if I continue on this path.
I fear total collapse.
Tonight, I feel faded hues of a watercolor backdrop with its foreground unfinished. Uninspired. Microscopic. Have I been wrong all along?
I felt the vulgarity of his decline conquer my body, satellite from his own, and with little cognizance of the level to which his decay had spread. I would retreat, in an effort to save that which sustained me. I had lived in Buffalo one year. Naive and nearly twenty, I grasped at my existing relationship with hopeless hands. A hasty move into an 80th street townhouse from our humble single floor, two bedroom on Caravelle Drive would serve as an oasis.
It was August. I was nineteen. You were twenty.
I fled the technology which connected us. This time I promised myself that I would put in a real effort toward making my relationship work. He may have loved me blindly, or maybe he just didn't care; either way, his money was our means and he showed no reservation in buying a fix.
We agreed that I would stop working, attend college full time and spend my free moments assuming my gender-role in the way of caring for kittens, a vegetable garden and any other extraneous tasks assigned to the "housewife."
I wanted to give myself more to lose. I wanted to believe that I had made the right choices. But I was nineteen, and my fortune told of bigger, better mistakes.
The administrable micro-chasm that was my life had expanded, in a single moment, to the universes surrounding my own, and swallowing their surrounding universes in an infinite realm of space, time and possibilities. I could see the curvature of the earth. I was high. It was this feeling of want and need tugging at my limbs from the same direction, pulling me effortlessly away from a controllable world. I was weightless.
I scrambled for an answer mentally; biting my tongue and the insides of my cheeks to fight the Cheshire-grin forcing its way to my surface like a vanguard surging unfamiliar territory.
"Oh you know, he's very literal. 'be together' doesn't mean any more than occupying the same physical space. He's probably just lonely."
That was enough. He trusted me blindly, unaware that he had lost me just as blindly. From that moment forward, the pulsing, breathing, fleshy and thought submerged entity; my blood, flesh, and bones belonged to my best friend, who I loved as well.
I wondered if anyone else could see the scarlet letter palpitating on my chest, which would rise and fall for the moments of nourishment I would seize from the attention you gave me.
And just as soon as I had reached an emotional climax, hanging on your every thoughtful word, the drinking began.
I left my home town with an ordinary man. Not more than a few inches taller than I. Early onset male pattern baldness and 8 years my senior; he made enough money to keep us comfortable. Three years later I would find myself enrolled in a college course titled "Sociology and the Family", and discover the degree to which I had become a post-high school statistic: Female. Emerging from a broken home and having a distant relationship with both of my parents, I was "finding comfort in an unchanging situation." Imagine statistical charts and data claiming some significant number of women who had grown up in broken homes, later forgoing college in a juvenile and submissive attempt to find consistency [typically depending on a man.] As I flipped pages, there were names and studies for and surrounding every mistake I'd made. I was dwarfed by this discovery.
I am Molly, #44783. I am among millions of others who have, both cross-culturally and over time, made this very mistake. I am in good company.
...And just like that, I moved out. Toppling head over heels into what would become a three-year-low.
It didn't take more than three months. My contact with him became aggressively persistent. Each morning I awoke and took a knee, praying to the Gods of technology. Phone calls, text messages and emails had become nourishing; the things of my dreams. I can't quite recall how our friendship had blossomed into this deadly foxglove, but my memory of its momentum is as clear as if it were yesterday. We were present. We were unstoppable. As unstoppable as nature itself.
I was sitting on a cracked, unfinished hardwood floor in a pre-war apartment in downtown Buffalo. Pauly Issue was pressing Busch into my best friend's hand and she had reached penumbra, basking in the light of his attention. I introduced her. "This is Janelle. She is a gem." Eclipse. I quickly retreated. Text messages. Technology. Omnipotent technology.
Alone amongst the crowd. Ghost faces now. Ghost faces then. I felt the phone buzz. I was holding it. I was waiting for you.
"I love you" He says. I tell him "I know."
I was breathless. In my mind I imagined myself throwing my body into traffic. Kicking the heads off every blooming flower. Breaking windows and punching walls. Kissing with passion. I was alive, finally, and with reason. I became what Buk would call, "A [rat] in the gravy of two gone quite mad. without a chance." You were completely out of reach. You were dangling 50 feet above my head. We needed each other.
The next morning, I remember I was driving R and I home from breakfast. We were in my car. My phone buzzes. "Who is that from?" I ask. It was from you. "Read it" I said.
Five years ago he came home from college to summer with his parents. I was on the cusp of a not-so-inevitable high school graduation. I had worked at the grocery store for almost two years. When I found out he would be among the self-loathing college students hired by my store as summer help, I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to run.
This person makes me nervous. This person makes me anxious. This person laughs at my expense. They all do, but from this one, I simply cannot take the embarrassment. I'll make a fool out of myself just trying to slide under his radar.
I think he took comfort in knowing that no person he had the capacity to respect bore witness to our interactions. My shame was his safe haven. I have not forgotten that feeling.
That summer we took long breaks. We shared bags of cherries, spitting pits in the parking lot. I could have worked 80 hour weeks with you. I was convinced that they were paying me too much. Years later he would tell me I was his "only light" that summer. I've never found a way to make him understand the degree to which he controlled me, from invisible beginnings.
I moved to Buffalo in August of 2005 with a man I would inescapably grow to resent for keeping me from him. I told myself it was love. That got me in the passengers seat of a moving truck. That got me as far as it needed to.
For the next three years, I would be riding in the passengers seat.
I am summering in Kentucky, in a very small, and if I am remembering correctly, sterile, second floor apartment. A place I haven't seen in 3 months, and have gradually swayed myself to stop thinking of as a place to call home. For the last two months, I have put a knowledgeable effort behind finding home in other people and places, and in myself.
An effort was put forth. I tell myself that too.
In less than 48 hours, I'll be arriving at a newly constructed, open and operational single-A minor league ballpark more than 900 miles away. A black-haired girl will seat me in a location he can see. When we meet again, our lives will change. Its become something of a norm, my life fluctuating at his whim.
We've talked ad nauseum about a dog. He's got his vision. I've got mine, and somewhere they overlap in the way of a border collie mutt. "I'll call him Stinky until it sticks." I know the dog will love him more. So does he. Just the thought of it. Hot, sticky summer. "Our" dog. Kentucky. Baseball. I can see myself sitting on the floor with my head on his knee. As loyal as our dog. As predictable as his dining recommendations.