Love, Loss & Living Fossils

April 11th, 2015 § 0 comments

Is six years long enough to wait? They say it takes half the time of a relationship to get over it, and yet like most things we overestimate our ability to understand and process, and perhaps it is more honest to say it takes as long as the relationship itself. I’ve often thought the luxury of having left instead of being left is that I don’t regret you nearly as much as you must regret me. I am allowed to remember what I like, to pick through my memories without bitterness, and when I do I choose to think of the youthful adolescents we were when we made the most sense. Perhaps our entire relationship was like the final scene of The Graduate. Married, escaping eagerly toward a new life, Benjamin and Elaine look at each other while doubt creeps into their eyes, and a partner in crime begins to look more and more like a stranger.

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How desperately we wanted to find a life, any life away from home. It’s odd that we spent half of our 20s together and yet I remember us always as teenagers, running around SoCal with our parent’s credit cards in their hand-me-down cars, driving from one side of the valley to the other, from one terrible suburban restaurant to another. I remember that time in Old Town Pasadena when you were hit on by a waiter and we were startled and amused. I remember your shy smiles, wavy hair, strange shirts and the almost desperate innocence we shared. You were the first boy I’d known who didn’t paw at me like a shiny trinket, and for that I loved you. I was, to you, different from everyone else. I remember long lonely days in France, and crying in a nearby park one day around Easter for some now forgotten reason. I remember standing in our kitchen in Richmond in the fall of ’06 feeling like a part of me had died and saying aloud to no one, I want to be alone. We were changing even then, and not together.

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In the end you aren’t a stranger though, are you? I wonder if you would be now, but I honestly believe there is some impression of you forever imprinted in my mind, like one of those pinch pots I used to make as a child. Years ago, at a Wye Oak concert at Music Hall, I saw you standing with your back to me at a deserted bar ordering a drink. I knew you in an instant, and I don’t know how. The back of your head, your posture or stance, the way your fingers rested on the bar? A split second was all it took with my poor eyesight in a dimly lit room from behind. Of all the times over the years I’ve seen someone and thought, he looks a bit like… there was no thought in my recognition. In the way we sometimes recognize fear, I recognized you. How can someone so estranged be at once so familiar? Perhaps that innate, internalized understanding is exactly what takes so many years to untangle, after almost a decade of intimacy.

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When you turned thirty I wanted to share the moment, to write or call and remember with wonder like only siblings, childhood friends and teenage lovers can how young we once were. It’s hard to recall that youthful way of thinking, with all of its reckless ignorance and thoughtlessness. The feeling of desiring or believing in the unknown that fades ever so slowly as we age is still distantly discernable, however, like the smell of your cooking. Proust was right about involuntary memory. Shortly before I moved out, I remember sobbing against our roach infested cabinets after innocently eating leftover lentils you left on the stovetop. Everything I knew of you could be tasted in that pot, and the combination of spices and pigeon peas was as startling and painful as a slap in the face, and I dropped the spoon in horror.

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Does it ever feel inexplicable that we’ve changed so much? Remember those kids who moved to Chicago? Who encountered policemen with guns drawn their first night out? Remember that girl who vomited strawberry margaritas in our bedroom all night long on your twenty first birthday? Or our awkward first date by the water fountain in Valencia just months after I turned seventeen? Who was that boy leaning so causally while looking so nervously for a girl he’d met months before in Las Vegas? In Mexico City over the holidays I saw an exhibition by Sophie Calle, the most inspiring voyeur, who had put together a show built entirely around one breakup letter. As my boyfriend muttered to himself, never break up with an artist, I was reminded of what little evidence of our marriage I kept. Wish a happy thirty-second birthday to that 18-year-old I knew.

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