The shadow of you
I try to rehash the day I knew you didn’t want to be with me anymore. Your friends came up and told me that I should look out, I should anticipate that you were talking to someone else. And there was really no good way to confront what exactly was happening. So it seemed most logical to catch you in the act of doing it versus just attempting to guess based on the circumstances. It was like hard proof was the only way to really prove it to myself.
I remember how much you made me feel like I was in the wrong. Like I was crazy for creeping on you even though you were doing something that was wrong. You made me feel like a fool. Like some washed up kid who had no idea that she could be played. Like I was just along for the ride of your deceit after all that we had been through. People at your school thought I was an idiot. People at my school thought that I was gullible. I mean, 4 years. Why? Why did we even decide that that was a good idea? Dedicating oneself to something, truly believing that this was the end all be all? Why? Was it easier to believe that it was worth it, not knowing the damage it would cause?
I gave myself to you. Like everything, every little facet of my being so much so that it made me ill when I realized you gave that up for someone else. And then you dated her after me. So just in case there were any doubts that you may not have been into her, you made sure to double down. And I remember I hated her for that. Thought she was a slut. Thought she was the one who interjected herself in our relationship. All the f*cks that I figured should be directed at her, when they should have been directed at you.
You made me look weak. And did you ever once think about how that would affect my future self? If you had just told the truth to me then maybe my future relationships wouldn’t have been a mockery of insecurity and intentional self deprecation. Maybe I would have thought myself worthy of something more than minimal, more than bullshit, more than checking phones and questioning whereabouts and finding makeup that’s not my own on other boyfriends’ pillowcases. Maybe I would have chosen differently.
Or maybe I would have even chosen to just be by myself. But I couldn’t because I got lost in you, thinking that I had to share myself with someone else so deeply in order for me to gauge who I really was as a person.
It took me years to realize that I didn’t need a second half. It took me years to realize that I still harbor shame for something that I wasn’t even really responsible for. And shame for continuing to think of you.
Why won’t you get the f*ck out of my head even to this day? Why are you still in my dreams? Even after all this time I am still left with the shadow of you, which hurts even more than that first realization you didn’t want to be with me anymore.
Today I went back to church. I haven't been in a long time... only for funerals. I remember when you used to take me. I was always excited to go because you made it exciting! Sometimes you sang in the choir, up in front! Sometimes we'd go to the church social and there would be cookies and hot chocolate. You helped me to understand what it meant to be part of a community, even if I didn't recognize it.
A lot has happened this past year.
I lost you. I lost a friend. I lost the ability to find a peaceful place within myself. And I'm not sure why it didn't come to me until today, but I realized it was time. Time to go back to church.
In a strange and silly way, I was nervous. A "new" place, "new" methods, and maybe my own new perspectives towards religion. But the moment I stepped foot in the door, I was welcomed. People thanked me for coming!
When we sang, I was drawn back to times when you would hold the hymnal, your finger moving along the page to point out the words for the verse so I knew what to sing (or at least pretend to know).
The pastor talked about the old and new covenant, how concepts may evolve but they still invoke the same message. How, no matter what, nothing can mitigate the unity that can be formed as long as there are common goals of love and service.
I will go back next Sunday. I will navigate my new interpretations of God's word because I know that you exist within it. I know that you were with me today.
I remember a boy named John.
He was gaunt,
a rake almost.
His glasses enormous,
an extension of his face.
And when he got angry,
he got REALLY angry.
Like foaming at the mouth angry.
One morning the teacher left the room.
Another boy stole something of his.
He got up to defend himself,
and I stuck my foot out to trip him.
When he got back up,
we waited for the anger.
But it eluded him.
He sat back down.
After all these years
I see John.
I did that. I was the source of
And the embarrassment lingers.
But only for one of us.
I read that controlled brush fires
mitigate uncontrollable forest fires.
Clearing debris eradicates
unwanted smoldering that leads to
I read that a man killed his wife
I read that a mob attacked a bystander
I read that a group shot their leader
For God's sake!
"Why is it so cold outside if the sun is shining?"
You said you didn't have an answer.
I feel like that a lot
now that you're gone.
Like you've become this ongoing force,
this celestial body that I know
encouraging life to move forward.
But I can't seem to shake the chill
of your physical absence.
I know I asked a lot of questions.
I miss your answers.
I miss even when you didn't answer.
When you chose not to elaborate
on the Earth's hemispheres,
you didn't know that the same question
I asked in childhood
would serve as a mirror to reflect this future grief
Fabricated figures fading,
On a Flight
I met a woman who
met another woman on another flight who
was afraid of flying.
“She was terrified,” she said.
“I held her hand for almost 2 hours!”
She laughed, at first, but then
seemed a bit flustered.
Then she asked me if
I’d ever met someone who
was afraid of flying.
I held her hand.
Imagine if I was…
I was warm.
But maybe I felt warm
because everything else looked cold?
I was young.
But maybe I felt young
because everyone else seemed old?
I was enlightened.
But maybe I felt enlightened
because everything else appeared unclear?
I was courageous.
But maybe I felt courageous
because everyone else showed fear?
I was at ease.
But maybe I felt at ease
because everything else seemed unsure?
I was rich.
But maybe I felt rich
because everyone else looked poor?
I was inspired.
But maybe I felt inspired
because everything else seemed bleak?
I was strong.
But maybe I felt strong
because everyone else looked weak?
And I wonder if I really was,
or if I came to be
through the detriment of others.
If so, does that make… me?
If I visit home, I get to run into 5 ex-boyfriends. I get the scoop on which neighbor leaves their trash cans out after collection day. I get free drinks at the bars where I used to work. I get to rattle off reasons I haven’t been back for a school reunion.
People ask me why I’m not home anymore. Why did I join the Peace Corps? Why did I decide to live abroad for 6 years of my life? Why would I want to do that?
Well, because why the hell wouldn’t I? J. Maarten Troost gets me. Or maybe I get him? Either way, he’s helped me navigate the questionable waters of complacency.
From cava highs to cannibalism, Troost speaks to a part of my soul that is the
“unapologetic escapist.” Getting Stoned with Savages reminds me that no place should be home for long.
I want to fall into an abyss of grog with fellow Fijians, experience the pain of a centipede foot swell, hear about the logical reasons for eating men, have my porch disappear in a ferocious frenzy of a rain storm, and navigate the masculinity of boar tusks.
There should be no definition of normalcy. Normal is what we make it to be. And, with that, I will never sit idly for extended periods or imagine a luxurious longevity of comfort. It’s the discomfort that makes this life worth living.
I must look beyond the diaper-ridden reefs to catch a glimpse of the dawn of a new day. Take a treacherous boat ride and fear for my life. Covet the lyrics of Vanilla Ice and let them guide me through a Maneaba village dance. Partake in the grandeur of canned meat.
To live is to embrace unpredictability, to serve as the opposition of anything and all stagnant.
If Covid ended tomorrow...
I would book a trip to Amsterdam.
I would cheer at a baseball game.
I’d partake in a Broadway play.
Go bowling and reserve my own lane.
I would buy a ticket to a bad movie.
I would peruse at the mall just to “look.”
I’d stand in line to kill some time.
Go to the library and check out a book.
I would take a novice cooking class.
I would dance all night at a bar.
I’d make amends with long lost friends.
Go to a concert even if it’s subpar.
I would this
and I would that
as would any other.
But if I really could, I would
hug my grandmother.