From Adelaide - Sarah Jaffe
Yesterday I made several attempts to rewrite the original post but I was at work and could only write in small moments between meetings and at lunch and then before I left to come home. It wasn't working. The office is not a good space for trying to go deep. The back porch is for diving deep. Yesterday I needed to sleep until 7 which left me only 45 minutes and I wasn't quite ready to process. Also, 45 minutes is not enough.
I have a scheduled vacation day. We were meant to go south for mud but finances said, maybe next time which made a three day dance weekend a better bet up north but I'm less likely to show up to the Friday dance than I am to drive 5 hours to another Glen Echo dance. Sitting quietly for three days is a significantly better option.
I have a bubble which lets in air and water and other things and occasionally bursts leaving me drenched in soapy water and exposed. It bears some resemblance to the cocoon I needed once for a very long time, but the resemblance is minimal. I also have a bear skin. I've always had that. I wear it over exposed muscle and bone when I don't have enough or sometimes any skin required to step into the world. I've had my bear skin for almost as long as I can remember. I also have a cage. I don't get into that very often. I also don't wear that skin very often. Sometimes I can't even find it.
Cielo said, you are driving North. Yes, I am. With impunity. With audacity, she said. She must have seen the status change on the dance from maybe to going. It shows up on Facebook. Alecto is going to the Wednesday Night Dance in the North with the Caller from Virginia by way of Toronto. Are you going to get your bike? God, I hope not. I'm not ready to deal with that right now. I don't want to do that. I just want to make it through the door.
Initially I hadn't intended to change that status because I just didn't want to but when it comes right down to it, people have feelings. All people have feelings and they have a right to them. Everyone is human and deserving of compassion. To understand and accept that is to find a way to step out of yourself a bit and into the greater whole. Refer back to Einstein's vision on the human connectedness. There is a personal cost to this sort of thing because we don't just jump into it and live it; we come in and out with scrapes and bruises but I truly believe it's a far better way to live.
When I realized I'd hit the garmin detour section of traffic, I sent NM a text for two reasons. First, to be absolutely certain I wasn't going to blind-side him and second to let him know I'd be good and late. This falls under the heading of compassion. If you're going to crash somebody's dance, it's not just difficult for you, it's hard for them as well and if there's any possibility they might be wondering when and if you could walk in that door at any moment, taking the possibility of the first 30 minutes off the table is a reasonable kindness.
One of the things I do to protect myself is delete things. I delete text message strings, garmin entries, emails - those I might file in separate folders - but basically I get things out of view as quickly as possible. The garmin address had to go immediately because it was sitting at the top of my screen. The only way to get it off the top of the screen was to literally delete it from favorites. An entry marked as a favorite on this particular model puts a heart on the map. I'd never really noticed until the last drive up with Elizabeth because the current setting was to the Wednesday night dance so the heart just showed up to the left as his apartment. It was sweet. This time as I approached the end of those very hard ten miles I saw that the little green heart was gone. Of course it was. My eyes burned. I wanted to get off the exit, back on 91 and head south again. I did not. There were approximately six miles with lights remaining.
I parked in the first available municipal lot. I'd thought of driving right to the building and looking for a spot on the street because I've been lucky before but I just didn't want to get that close yet. I got lucky, in that very full lot because someone was pulling out. My head was full of white noise. A large truck got a space immediately to my left. I waited to open my door while they backed in. The man driving the truck apologized for being so close and pulled him mirror in. He wasn't close at all, really, at least not by Connecticut standards. I said it was perfectly fine. He hadn't expected that at all. He smiled and said, everybody gets a spot. I actually found quarters in for the two hour limit space and wandered over to the pay station. I am very good at pay stations but with all the white noise I just couldn't make it work. They stood next to me. She was getting ready to help me when they read the sign and said, it's after six, we don't have to. Deep, deep sigh of relief. I was about to let them do it for me.
I walked on a diagonal across the park with my head down. I already had my shoes and my money out. I didn't think I'd be able to cope with the fumbling once I got in the building. I slowed as I crossed the street and hit the sidewalk. I slowed again as I passed the last restaurant. I stopped and put my glasses in my bag. I don't dance with them. If I walked in and had to stow them I'd lose them for sure.
The guardian at the gate was sitting on the wide balustrade almost as if she was waiting for me. I wondered why she wasn't dancing. It was too early in the evening for her hips to hurt so maybe she was just sitting out. When we talked she was doing her best. I could see that. This, Alecto, is where you accept what you get and you give back the best you have. I was starting to reach in to hug her because that is what we would have done, she would have gotten up but she did not. As I leaned in I noticed her leaning away. I stopped, smiled and walked into the building. She told me my egg carton was in the alcove.
I'd wondered who would be at the door taking money. Who I found was the last person I'd expected and I wonder sometimes what the universe tosses down at us and why. The best I can say about the boy is he hurts. A lot, an awful lot. He hurts and he's one of her boys. If she feels something, he feels it too. I can't say he snarled but when I held out my twenty he didn't take it right away. He didn't look at me, he looked at my hand. I stood there waiting. I can wait for you. You're going to look a little ridiculous in a moment if you don't take it though. I don't think this really went on for more than five or six seconds but sometimes five or six seconds can last a small lifetime. He gave me change, I dropped it into my bag and entered the room. White noise and blind from the inside out. I know where the chairs are and headed toward the right, stepping through a pair of dancers out at the end.
I didn't see the tie dye woman until I was halfway down the row of chairs. My eyes burned again. There is no crying, Alecto. If you cry, you have to leave. If you cry, people will ask questions and we do not discuss our personal life in this environment under any circumstances. It is not up for discussion. This is a community with very little filter in some places and in others, very little self-control. It will be fed, but I'm not going to help it by opening my mouth. I'll feed it enough by my actions; either by my presence, my lack of presence, my choice of partners, my body language, my face, in all number of ways, but not by what comes out of my mouth.
In retrospect, she was remarkably gentle with me. My experience with her up until Wednesday night has been generally acerbic, not in an unkind way, just sort of the way she can be if she doesn't know you particularly well I think. I haven't found it particularly off putting, just a barrier of sorts: I don't really want to get to know you. OK, fair enough. What I got sitting next to her was empathy. I wasn't fully aware of my face and body language until the next day. Her friend, my friend, showed up a few minutes later and sat on the other side. There is the possibility of closeness between us. I could talk to him but I won't because he is a mutual friend and that's a boundary I won't cross. We sat there waiting for the music to stop and I felt safe.
When K swooped by I don't recall if there were three or two of us just there at the time. The thing about K is he's a man carrying a world of hurt with a surface of rage like a hard ganache gone to hell and back, but everything leaks out, the pain, the empathy, the need, desire, the coveting of what someone else has or had, the loneliness, and the fear. His focus on me went from pure desire to all of the above until it was flat out dangerous. In February it was one thing, today it is has escalated.
There was a moment when K came to get me for the second dance which for me was absolutely surreal. I'd already seen NM. I'd been standing in the center line with my first partner when he left the line nearest the stage and walked toward me. White noise. He looked at me but I couldn't see him. I could see him looking at me but for me it was like looking at David afterward, like being looked at in a benign sort of detached way. I can't say if this was me or him; I'll never have any way of knowing. The look I've known since that first moment of Flurry was gone. That was possibly the most painful moment of the night. He asked if he could hug me. I said yes and he did. None of this is on him. This is really important. Every person is exactly where they are. He had asked when I'd let him know I was coming what I wanted to happen, or something like that and I'd said I had no idea. I wanted to be able to walk through the door. Fair enough. I am a good huger. I hug hard. Real and true. If I hug you, you will know I'm there. On the other hand, if you are not a good huger, if you need personal space, I'm not going to invade it, I'm going to meet you where you are. I don't know which of us stopped where; I only know the bubble was bursting around me and I was tremendously aware of loss. He went back to his partner and the walk through began.
Back on that surreal moment when K came for me. I saw him coming from the top of the set. I was looking for him, he was circling, looking to see where I'd stopped in the line. We made eye contact and he moved quickly with his hand out. Out of the corner of my eye, coming from the right I saw NM with his hand out coming toward me. As K made contact, maybe a foot in front of him, he turned quickly and walked away. I don't believe K every saw him. White noise so hard I nearly dropped. K grabbed my hand and headed to the top of the center set. He said, I want to be up here, OK? Yes, OK.
And then the inquisition started, and that's really what it was. I had to keep reminding myself that the man's anger is deeply rooted. Listening to the words I started to wonder what was actually said. I almost said, listen. I did this. This was my choice. I don't know what the hell you heard but I'm not a victim. He was talking as if I was a victim. He was talking as if the asshole had done something extremely hurtful. Oh holy hell, what have you heard? Or have you made and assumption based on February? I wanted to ask that but I didn't want to feed it. I snarled about the rumor mill. He said, there is no rumor mill. I know nothing. Dammit! I made an automatic assumption about who'd told him but it turns out they aren't friends anymore and the more I think about it, I believe she belongs to that younger generation that seems to have discovered the value of discretion. He said something about Facebook but he'd blocked him so he couldn't see what was said. It's not on his wall. I'm going to send you a friend request. OK. But if I talk to him I'm going to tear him apart. I just looked at him. I don't believe that. I didn't say that. I never say things like that. But I don't believe that. He gave me the usual offer to call and talk. That's a can of worms the size of China.
Afterward I wondered what he thought. I wondered if he'd back off.
Dancing with NM was an exercise in the bubble coming up and the bubble breaking to pieces. There is something called a give and take. This can be an incredibly intimate part of the dance, it can be playful, it can be passionate, it can be nothing at all. There is generally a great deal of eye contact. He made a great deal of eye contact. I couldn't find him in there, or what I found was a man so protected I almost didn't recognize him. Again, we are human beings in a great mass of feelings. We reach out and touch each other to the best of our ability. I can't tell you who's barrier is thicker, but I realized I was looking.
There was one more dance before the break. I headed toward the seats. I was done. Not a chance I was going to head out there again. Too much humanity. Too much exposure. Too much, just enough. I grabbed my water and sat. Now is the time to leave, to disappear unnoticed and drive home quietly. You saw the caller, he may not have seen you but you did what you came here to do. You walked through those doors with impunity, audacity and you did not stop breathing and fall on the floor. None of the horrible things you imagined but really didn't believed actually happened. You are alright.
I sat in my seat anyway. NM came over and sat beside me. We didn't look at each other. We sat looking out at the dance. Eventually I reached my hand out and put my finger tips into his almost open hand. I waited a moment and then started to pull them away. He closed his fingers over mine just a little. What are we holding onto? We sat like that, not looking at each other. I don't know if we sat like that until the end of the dance or not. I watched for K watching us and I was frightened. I can't really say of what, just frightened. Escalation is never a pretty thing but I decided he doesn't really have a history of escalating publicly.
When the music ended and it was time for the waltz, white noise again. I turned and found NM looking at me. Do you want to dance? Pause. Sure. Do you want to dance? He's looking for an affirmative, not an acquiescence. I don't blame him. I would expect the same. This is a very brave thing to do, to ask a woman you've left, because he really did do that also, to do something which meant far more to her than it ever meant to you. To him, a waltz was just a waltz, to me a waltz was everything. This was the last dance. I didn't expect to have any more dances much less a last dance. It's a heartbreaking thing to have a last dance become boiled down to something nearly meaningless. I did not cry. I laughed during the pivots because I was having trouble keeping up with them and I generally laugh when I struggle. The connection was severed. I did not cry.
I had one last chance to hug him properly at the car and so I did. The funny thing is we held hands on the walk to the car. I'm thinking, why are we doing this? What are we not acknowledging? How do you move on when you're still holding hands? At the very beginning of the relationship we'd had a conversation about intimacy and we hadn't quite agreed on where the line was in terms of platonic versus relationship intimacy. Instead of insisting that he stop doing what he was doing with other women I simply insisted on sexual fidelity and decided to let the rest fall out where it would. My take on this is that if you want significant intimacy to develop, it's not going to happen if you're continuing polygamous quasi-relationships on the side. This was showing every sign of a quasi-intimate relationship. Everything but the sex and the more intimate connections. In other words, it would stop the disconnect process and inhibit my ability at least to move forward, clear out my heart and make myself available for another relationship. I know this. I have been here.
And so I pushed at the car to see what was really there. I hugged hard and fierce and then I kissed him. What I found wasn't exactly passive resistance, just an acceptance of what was. I am not going to meet you there. Now I understand, at least to some extent where you are. I told him he had to go now. He turned and walked away without looking back. I called him. He stopped and turned around. I ran after him, threw my arms around him and told him I loved him. He paused, told me he loved me too. I said I knew that. He said good.
I walked back to my car. What I know perfectly well is that none of that makes any difference in the world. There is nothing to do with love but hurt yourself with it if it's just sitting out there. When I came home I sat on the porch and wrote. The first thing that came up was, that was conceivably tragic. But tragic how? In what way? I didn't really have it in me to process.
This morning I was finally able to call and talk to him about what is really just holding on to something that is no longer real. David and I did this for way too long, not wanting to let go of loving and being loved, not able to move forward and hurting ourselves terribly in the process. NM and I have different ideas about the ends of relationships. Maybe we were always in different places in this one. I don't know. What I need to ask, finally, was what do you want? Do you want to put this back together in the future? No. It's too hard. OK then, you have to say good-bye and here are the reasons.
And then all hell broke loose, for me, all hell broke loose. That bubble broke like it hasn't managed to break yet. I laid back on the couch and held the phone up the way I've done for two and a half years of Facetime through stories read, songs sung to me, conversations easy and difficult and sometimes just being. I hadn't used Facetime before him and I'm not likely to use it again; I don't much use it with anyone else. I said something he taught me to say maybe two years ago, just to be able to say it in general, to be able to feel that sort of hurt: please don't go. I watched him pull away as I said it. Didn't matter. I just needed to feel that sort of grief.
I said I'd stay on the phone as long as he needed, until he was ready to let go. I made a conscious decision not to close that bubble back up and shut him out. He had every right to see it. Holding that tight to the chest is a terrible form of withholding. It says, I don't love you and I won't let you see that you matter. It is often a form of punishment when it's not a form of defense. I've been brave this far, I can go just a little bit further.
K has not been awful to him, as it turns out, K has simply rejected his friendship and suggested he leave me alone. There is merit in that suggestion.
He will bring the bike down for me sometime when I am sure the house is empty. He has deleted the shared calendars at my request. I have archived (because Facebook won't let me delete?) the two and a half years of Facebook messenger conversations starting all the way back to December 30th, 2012. That was so very, very hard.
And now I have walked out of the room. It took 24 days and a direct question. This is about as emotionally honest as I can be, I think.
It is right and good to be this sad.
I picked this up last night, posted by K. I think it pretty much sums up his experience of himself on a fairly regular basis. It blasted me last night and shook me halfway to hell this morning. Sarah Jaffe's has a way of getting right to the point.