“After a fall such as this, I shall think nothing of falling down stairs.” – Lewis Carroll
I had thought long and hard about the looking glass yesterday; about Alice’s writing. Mise en abyme, I had reflected upon reflection into infinity.
What do you see? What do you want to see? How do you break free from the seeing?
Day 1. I find the letters. The texts, the naked picture of another woman. I hear my heart before I feel it, thump. Thump thumpthumpthumpthump. The rhythmic pounding of a maniac attempting a jailbreak from my chest. I read the lines, ‘Sweetheart…” “I strangely miss you…” “I want to make love to you…” Each is a lethal injection. I am in bed, with my laptop. Maybe I am crying. I look at the messages again as though they had not already been burned into my brain forever. “Sweetheart, we are at the beginning of us.” I cannot read on.
Day 2. I jerk into consciousness from what must’ve been an approximation of sleep but more accurately, a nightwatch. I grasp for the phone and have missed no calls, no emails, no txts from the road that say, ‘Baby!” This is real then. I think the word “Hell.” I think the word “breakfast” and I note the instantaneity of the mind body connection as nausea folds me in half.
Day 3. I write, ‘I found out the truth about you.” A line from a song we wrote together. He feigns ignorance. On the phone I say, “If you can confess it all to me, I’ll know we have a chance.” But it is me who has to confess. Confess that there is no use hiding anything, I know all, I have seen all. There is no comfort in his voice, in his words. He is protecting it. Her. His new life. He’s already gone. When we hang up, I pour two fingers of bourbon. I think, “dinner.” I turn on the television and I don’t turn it off for two months.
Day 7 and I have lost 10 pounds.
It takes him two weeks more to come home and 15 hours after that to confess, to say the words, ‘I’m leaving.” It takes 24 hours for us to cry together, say what we will miss, to play each other our new songs, to hold each other, to get drunk, to cry, to make love one last time. He packs his things in a duffel, in a backpack, in a laptop case. The rest he crams into white trash bags, leaves them in the trunk of the car. Leaves his guitar. Leaves his rings on the table. “Don’t, “ I say, “Those are yours.” We look into each others’ eyes when his ride honks. Eyes that same shade of blue; mirrors of each others’ terror.
Day 1. Bed. I stare at the television but it is only images flickering across the barren desert landscape.
Day 2. I wake and make tea. I sit in front of the television and I do barre exercises. I shower. I get dressed. I play guitar under the table in front on the television. I write emails, I answer the phone.. H comes to check on me. We go out for dinner, I talk about it. I cry. I am in shock but I have the presence of mind to put on high heels.
Day 3. Day 7 and now the increments of time since he left have changed. I lay at night in front of the television.
Day 8. A txt, “I hope you are doing well, Shay. I really wish you the best.” Back to one.
Day 1. I wake and cannot get out of bed. I give in. Descend.
Days. Days and days.
Day 21. 3 weeks. And every morning, wake to the mocking sun and wonder,“WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?”
Day 30 and we are no longer in the same month in which he left. 30 days. Pay the rent, pay the phone bill, turn the page of the calendar. How many more days? I ask myself. “How many more?” I ask women who will know, ‘It’s going to take a long time.” Say women who know. Why the fuck would you say that? I think.
Then I stop counting days and start counting minutes.
10 minutes. Ten minutes after a stiff drink where I feel not-so-bad.
Add another drink and
Two hours with the guitar in front of the television. Laughing at “Good Times.”
10 minutes. I only cried for ten minutes today. Today is Day 1.
Day2, Day 3. And we are on a roll.
A cool spring night and a message from him, “I know you hate me. But I fell in love.”
Back to one.
Day 1. I cannot get out of bed. I wait until 5 o’ clock to pour a drink, civilized in my misery.
H comes to take me to dinner, I tell her, ‘I wrote him back, ‘Hey! I have a new number! It’s 1-800-EAT-SHIT’” chuckling when she giggles. It hurts to laugh.
Day 7. I go to the market just to talk to the checker. I eye the trunk of the car where the bags of him sit, radioactive.
Day 10. I wake, hungry. I eat at the corner diner, ordering the most giant, lumberjack breakfast I can find. Meat and bread and grease. I am ravenous. I eat and eat and eat and I feel wonderful, smiling at everyone.
He calls. He’s sorry. He loves me. It’s all over with her and he can’t believe how badly he fucked up and he loves me and he’s sorry and he misses me and you’re the best woman, Shay, and I’m sorry and I love you. He has to hang up, his phone is dying. Call me again, I say, choking on the words. And we’re back to one.
Day 1. Bed. My Mother says, “Please go outside, get some sun.”
“I can’t.” I tell her.
Repeat, Put together a string of good days, dare to believe it’s getting better and then answer the call, the love, the apologies. Soften, admit you love him too. Back to one.
Day1. Bed. but this time the cycle is faster. I say, “Don’t answer the phone, Shay” I say, “You’re doing this to yourself now,” and for the first time, I get mad. I write to him “Let me alone awhile. You’ve made your choices.” And when I do this, a light comes on in my mind.
I walk to a party at the last minute. I say, I am going to this party to meet people, to laugh and have a good time and enjoy the admiring glances of young men. I do, and I do. I give out my number, I flirt, I stay late. I keep it up, accepting invitations to parties, dinners, shows, intimate hangouts at the neighbors’ house. I start to put together a sequence. Day 3, day 7, day 15. One month of feeling good.
I put on an unmarked cd in the car and he begins to sing “God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You.” I cry so hard that I have to blow my nose on a sweater in the back seat. People in their cars watch me, rapt. I think to myself , Day 1. But I call A in new york and she says, You’ll come back to the surface faster this time. And within the same afternoon, she is correct. I think of the bags in the trunk. I think of the boots he wore to our wedding. I think “Goodwill.”
Day 60. Now months have passed where I feel good. Friends say, “You’re better off” and I don’t want to hit them and I don’t cry. I go out on dates with anyone ballsy enough to ask. I sleep alone on soft white sheets printed with tiny lavender flowers. I stay home or I go out and I tell no one my plans. In the serene quiet of my solitary bed, late late late, a shy thought whispers, “It’s better this way,” and I feel him recede.
I tell my mother, “It’s hard to let go.”
“Believe me baby girl, it’s harder to hang on.,” she says. And my whole body lights up in recognition.
I take a drive downtown. I turn at 6th st below Main and stop at the corner of a long strip of tents and a few cardboard attempts at structure. A beady eyed police cruiser has just made its presence known. I leave the car running, wrench open the trunk that I haven’t opened in months, remove the bags, the boots., swing them onto empty sidewalk above the gutter and with a handy Sharpie, I mark them. I peel out, wrong way on a one way street, as the refuse of the city lope towards the loot. In the rearview, I see the black block letters on the white white bags. FREE.