In the first moment of meeting, we open our soul.
Oblivious to that first fissure, they infiltrate us like a boat takes on water, slowly until the flood gates suddenly give way and they take over completely. No matter what armor we believe we possess, it can happen. It could be their smile, the twinkle in their eye, the timbre of their voice, somewhere in our subconscious, a bell tolls, resonating through layers to plant that first seed.
He had a way of looking at her that was raw truth. Like the worst sort of saccharine romance novel, in that moment, he knew it too. Not to say she was a pushover, far from it. The reality was they had been propelled by circumstance, fate, whatever word suits, to meet that night. The planets aligned and there they were. To say that she was powerless to his charms sounds weak. It was more like a melding.
So now, 10 years later, how does one undo it? A surgical dissolution. A transfusion. A revolution. All of these things must happen.
The end is infinitely harder than the beginning.
For a while, we just carry it with us, tucked away for safekeeping. Every now and then we look at it, poke it a bit, see if it’s still breathing. The love persists. Whether it’s a fleeting look, a reminder of our favorite place, a photograph, or a memory, we carry these with us forever. It’s not easy to believe in another person, to share ourselves, and then to simply abandon it all.
The reasons don’t really matter. Whether it’s another person, drugs, abuse, or simply growing apart. None of it makes it any easier to swallow. Sure, you can hang your hat on those reasons but they don’t help you at 3 a.m. when you dream he’s there with you again, holding you tight. Or worse, you dream he’s yelling at you in the height of your despair, that desperate anger that sours your every breath.
Our friends tell us to move on; to take up a hobby, find a lover, get a therapist, get drunk. All of these things help in different measures. Eventually, you will be left to fend for yourself. As the years pass, people lose interest. They’ve heard the stories a million times. And yet, we hold on to the stories because that was our reality. The stories could be twisted and hurtful but they are our history with that person. It’s all we have left and that can’t be undone.
The same rules apply to friendships as they do to love affairs. Sometimes you just lose the magic. The person is no longer funny, or they are having a hard time in their life, and the time spent together feels like a chore. When this happens, we make a conscious decision to leave.
One thousand tiny cuts will eventually cause dissolution.
People rarely address it head on for fear of hurting the other person, but that’s when the affairs happen. In either scenario, we’ve lost our best friend.
Ending relationships can often have a trickle-down effect. Our true friends stay with us. They wipe our tears. They get angry when we cannot. They rage and roar, protecting their friend at all costs from the evil-no-good-boyfriend or husband or partner. Other friends can’t bear the sadness or they fear their own relationships will catch our disease. Politics play a role and there may be many nights you’re not invited to the party. Other women may see you as a threat. And other men, attached or not, may see you as fair game. Once you’re stronger this will be easier to deal with. In the first few months, it can be crushing to the ego and the heart.
So protect yourself. Spend time with people that truly care for your well-being.
They will wrap you in a virtual blanket until you are ready to face the world. As for the others, they will dissolve from your world—mere germs to be sanitized and vilified for all time. Life will become very black and white in the boundaries you set for yourself. This is protection mode.
Occasionally you will venture out. The time will come when you put on your party dress and you will lose yourself in the moment. For a brief time, alcohol, drugs, or simple adrenalin, may fuel your desire to live life. Everything will seem beautiful again. You are beautiful again and you may seek affirmation. Hopefully you will choose someone to share these moments with who will do you no harm. Maybe it’s a younger man who is dazzled by your worldly beauty and infinite charms. Maybe it’s an old lover that you reconnect with to relive those moments of pure desire before the apocalypse split you. These moments must happen in order to make the final cut. They will often leave you empty, starting over, and picking yourself up again. But little by little it will create the distance that makes you strong again.
Some people have a mantra. When they are feeling low, immersed in the memories and the sadness, the mantra will carry them through.
Friends of mine, during that first Christmas, bought me a gift that continues to delight me to this day. They bought a mug with a picture of me in a strong warrior pose on it with the label, “Team Kim”. Now as I reach for my morning coffee, I’m reminded of them and their concern, and the knowledge of how far I’ve come. In my low times, this gives me some hope. We all need something to hold on to.
Today, I’m still holding on to him. I’ve done everything to shake it. I’ve sliced it, burned it, crushed it, fucked it. Like a never-ending game of rock, paper, scissors. The love is there. I’m beginning to believe it will always be.
His gift to me was the purest one, love that I carry with me, never able to give or receive again. My gift to myself on the rest of the journey is the love I found for me.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Cami Krueger / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Aldo Cavini Benedetti via Flickr