To write, I look at my body: Scars like bookmarks,
An archive of fingerprints on my skin.
The lingering odour of a love
That would not let me leave.
In retrospect, I suppose it was never meant to happen. But it did. We happened. We more than happened. We collided with the force of stars. We front-ended one another like meteors that were headed to earth from the blackest corners of space. I always said with a certain wistfulness that the moment I saw you I felt love hit me with lightning square in the chest. Maybe it was not love but something else; pheromones perhaps. But my God, it felt like love. Then again, so many things feel like love and we are fooled when it is and we are fooled when it isn’t.
Our lives were too separate, we were too different, and on opposites sides of pretty much everything. Still, as a friend keeps reminding me, there is no accounting for chemistry. Or as the Sufis say, “fihi ma fihi” – it is what it is. We crashed boomed banged and one of us got up, dusted off and walked away with silence for armour, silence masquerading as dignity.
Like with an addiction, I did not believe I was an addict.
“I can stop anytime I like,” I thought, as if you were a habit.
In retrospect, I wish it were that simple. Habits can be broken. But so can hearts. And so can people. I know I broke. Once and then twice and then so often and with such terrifying regularity that I no longer remember how many times it has been. But I do remember you telling me that to break you did not need a hundred pieces; two was enough.
You were right.
I think we all know the exact moment someone falls out of love with us. We are all built with it. For me, there were so many moments that called it to attention; so many instances that it felt as though twenty-two cuckoo clocks were going off inside my head. I heard it all. I noticed it all and I hated myself for it. I hated the fact that I wasn’t less caring, less observant, more casual, more of an ostrich. I hated the fact that I was once everything and now I was slowly moving towards being a nobody. That slow decline is like a public shaming. You are certain that everyone can see what a sad, sorry fuck you are for continuing to stay with someone who wants you less and less. Each day I put out what little self-esteem, dignity, pride, and self-worth I possessed. Each day something came along and took it. Unreturned phone calls. Endless call waiting beeps. Messages unanswered. Hours passing in radio silence. Letters tossed at the bottom of the closet where she stashed the towels. And my own self relegated lower and lower on her sudden, growing list of priorities. I saw it all. I noticed every single act of dismissal. And I stayed.
I continued to live with that her-shaped hole inside me, keenly aware of the something that was simply no longer there. Some days I missed her so much I didn’t know what to do with my hands. There were fights and there were words. I loved her. I hated her. I wanted her to leave me. I wanted to leave her. I couldn’t. She said she couldn’t. I blamed her for my pain. Then I blamed me. I got sick. I blamed her again. Then I blamed me for blaming her. Then I forgave. Then I gave. Time. Effort. Understanding. Patience. Energy. Compassion. Empathy. I waited. I gave more. Opportunities. Benefits of doubt. A longer rope. Chances.
I waited. I waited. I waited. The only thing that changed was me.
After a point the futility gnawed at my existence. “Something inside me had dropped away, and nothing came in to fill the cavern.” I needed help and so I went and got help. They tested me. They questioned me. They admitted me. They medicated me. They discharged me. They counseled me. Took me home. Put me to bed. Fed and held me. They reminded me: nobody needs you more than you. My friend tells me in heartbreakingly simple words, “if someone doesn’t want you, let them go. Why are you holding on to a dead body?”
Because my heart is a whore.
Because like you, lover, I have not ever learned how to love myself enough to be enough. Too many times we are drawn in and mesmerised by the intoxication of a love that damns and ruins you. A passion so remarkable that it burns, breaks, and shatters you. “Anything other than mad, passionate, extraordinary love is a waste of time,” they tell you and we buy it. I bought it. I lived it. It is a myth. But a myth so believable that we will readily sell our soul for a taste of it, no matter how fleeting.
If someone were to ask me today, I would tell them to find a love that drives them sane.
At any point in time, the bravest thing you can ever do is go on. I read somewhere that if someone treats you like an option in their life, you can make it easier for them by removing yourself from the equation. Of course, I miss her. I miss her and it is like breathing with one lung. There is nothing the world can take away from you that isn’t truly yours. But she is gone and has been gone a long time. The me-with-her is also gone. There is nothing to do here anymore, so I am leaving this empty house. But I will write until she stops being alive inside me.
(title quote: Warsan Shire)