In the nights before it fell apart for good, we’d lay parallel next to each other in the bed before falling asleep. He’d keep his arms tucked tightly under his chin, suctioned to his chest and oceans away from me. In the dark, I’d imagine him reaching for me across the sheets, maybe resting his hand on my hip or thigh, anchoring me to any bit of love or affection or kindness left in him. I’d pray into the silence for the weight of his hand to find me, to break the hex of loneliness and emptiness that had filled the house since he’d decided he couldn’t love me anymore. But it never did. And each night that passed left me feeling less and less corporeal. His apathy and resentment making me a spectre of myself.
My mind is racing too far forward, slingshotting over the right now, this crisp autumn pain, and straight into Thanksgiving and Christmas. Superimposing their inevitable nostalgia onto Halloween’s present, too early.
With their glistening lights and bell-timbre promises, the holidays never live up to my expectations of them. Halloween always does.
But I’ve never felt so let down.
The holidays feel heavy, like sleep. Halloween screams.
But there’s nothing in me right now that feels like howling.
It shouldn’t feel like this. I shouldn’t be burrowed and cold in my childhood bed, both hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate, a salve for being left. Georgia snow falling in October. My mom popping in offering cookies, despite my 30 years.
I should be bobbing. Digging up graves. I should be dancing, haunting.
Instead, I’m haunted.
Even here, his ghost is everywhere. Our former sweetness still rotting my teeth. Even here, the witch in me can’t stop chanting his name.
Because after watching over 2 million men and women collectively march for the safety and equality of women and other marginalized groups, and in defiance of fear-mongering, racist, misogynistic, reckless, fact-less rhetoric, I also saw women post long and bitter diatribes telling us we should’ve voted* if we were so upset.
It’s a new day, and while we’re all still living under a ceiling of grief and mourning and fear and disappointment, there’s also a sense of planning and resolve, of quiet organization. We’re like shaken up coke bottles with the lids still on.
Donald Trump was democratically selected as President-elect of the United States at around 3am this morning.
I woke up around 5 and now feel anchored to nowhere. I no longer belong to any place, certainly not this place. I have come un-moored from my national identity, because I do not identify with this. I do not recognize us. I am horrified. And terrified. And ashamed. And nearly mute with rage.
Despite all my best intentions to refill my dad’s brief life with air by writing about it, I think all I may have done is reduce it, instead.
As Zadie Smith once said, writing about someone you love can be a reductive thing. Violent even, subtracting all the things you can’t seem to remember, leaving only a small sum of what you can. A simplified equation. A two-dimensional rendering of something you desperately want to be whole again.
Forty-nine years crammed into a tiny memory of making root beer floats in the kitchen.
Today I tried “put his picture in a frame on your desk at work” on for size. Tried on for size this token of a normal relationship.
So far it feels hollow, cave-like.
I can look at the two of us in the picture and notice the tense arch in my back. I’m slightly pulled away, pushed back, safe distance, while he tries to wrap his arm around my waist and pull in. I resist the control of it like a flood. I’m a child, he’s a grandparent clawing at my cheeks for kisses.
There’s happiness too, though.
“See?” I’m saying. “I’m here with you and we’ve documented this day of shopping and snapping silly pictures in mall dressing rooms. And isn’t this a kind of love?”
He’s wearing a skull cap with the tag still on it and a flannel shirt I’ve picked out. I’ve hand-crafted this version of him. The resulting picture, kid’s macaroni art on a refrigerator, a wall.
“See?” he’s saying. “I can be exactly who you want. I can be anything. That’s love, too.”
Maybe it doesn’t seem like love on the surface. The arch and the art of a black and white dressing room photo. But it kind of is. There’s love in the trying, in the hoping.
Still. My cheeks are tight. My teeth are clenched in my mouth.
And I guess I’m still trying to figure out what kind of love that is. Even now.
Everywhere we go, we’re assessed, documented, judged, and noticed. Even in the most mundane things — taking a trip to the grocery store, leafing through a book at a book store, waiting to cross the street, going through security at the airport, sitting in the doctor’s office, ordering a coffee — we’re rarely granted the luxury of anonymity. We are relentlessly seen — not just by men, by everyone.
And being aware of, and then responding to that visibility is absolutely exhausting.