As a memory, physical pain is phantom.
In the moment you are sobbing and thinking to yourself that it will never stop. You are going to die. You are moaning on the bathroom floor. Your eyelids sag and you are done in. There is a knife in your bladder and it is keeping you awake. There you kneel, your soles on the heating vent, too hot while your toes freeze. The cold periodically crawls up your shins and onto your thighs, around to your spine, while the blade twists and gives little jerks in your gut just in case you begin to forget that it’s there.
Then, after a tear-streaked, reckless drive to the hospital at 12AM, after a sympathetic nod from the nurse, after a baggie full of little white pills is thrust into your hands, you are sent back to your bathroom floor where you swallow and sip and sigh and shift your legs this way and that, hoping for the relief the doctor promised you.
The pain dissipates.
This was my Friday night. The past week was spent in bed. My bed, or his bed, or the living room floor, or the front seat of my car.
Another month, and true to form we attempt semi-permanent attachment of our pelvic areas. It is, as we have said aloud and to each other, our last chance. The last time we are certain to be within walking distance of each other. The last season we can be certain to watch unfold together. What’s passed is past.
Strewn between each endorphin-fueled bout of intense attachment we have had other loves, other meaningful affairs, and separations that have changed us. I have viewed him as heartless wretch, a stranger, my savior, a child and my friend. Superimposed upon all of those roles he has always been my lover.
We have grown separately and yet somehow always parallel. I know the width of his shoulders, the fragmented green of his iris, the wire of his beard.
The elasticity of our attraction has cultivated the type of relationship that is intimately, and perhaps irrevocably, what I call colloidal. We float around each other, occasionally making contact with others, inevitably thrown back together and ultimately, while remaining in this weightless space, inseparable.
When you fall in love with a person and then out of love, and then back into love, and then back out, ad nauseum, while the passing of years performs the requisite expansion in maturity and experience on the both of you, a sense of realism saturates the romance. You let go of the expectation (so often unmet) that this human being whom you love will always be the person you want them to be. The illusion of control is shattered.
Your perception of them changes accordingly with all that has happened between and apart, outside and in. The transience of the human condition is made increasingly apparent as you grow separately and together. Through it all there is still the draw, and the acknowledgment of its seeming perpetuity is met with buoyancy or grief.
Coming into and out of companionship: the ecstasy of reunion, the comfort and growth of cohesion, the misery of parting, the reflective joys and sorrows of solitude; each is a part of the stuff of life with which we all must grapple.
I no longer hesitate walking into and out of his days. The pain of our separation is as all endings are, unavoidable.
It is not the same ghost of suffering my mind can recreate in such vivid detail while my nerve-endings hum along unchanged. It is an accumulated growth on my heart, in my belly and along the lines of my palms, invisible and pulsing. It is the same bitter and sweet in all art and living things. So it continues until the current must change and I don’t fear the sadness that I know will come when we must go our separate ways.
And now I bring you back to the initial memory of pain. A bladder infection, as you might have guessed, brought about by the latest hurtle back into his arms.
The body learns a lesson
(pee after sex, ladies), and the self expands.
Editor: Jennifer Cusano
Sarah Nabulsi is a recent college graduate of UMass Amherst. She originally hails from the shores of Nantucket, MA, and is currently living in New York City, taking acting classes and attempting to live intentionally and avoid limbo. She is a dedicated runner, daughter, lover and bibliophile. She hopes to use her degree in English to further an understanding of and passion for theatre and film, and perhaps eventually define what it is about acting that touches so intimately.