You’re so beautiful, my darling,
so beautiful, and your dove eyes are veiled
By your hair as it flows and shimmers,
like a flock of goats in the distance
streaming down a hillside in the sunshine.
Your smile is generous and full--
expressive and strong and clean.
Your lips are jewel red,
your mouth elegant and inviting,
your veiled cheeks soft and radiant.
The smooth, lithe lines of your neck
command notice—all heads turn in awe and admiration!
Your breasts are like fawns,
twins of a gazelle, grazing among the first spring flowers.
The sweet, fragrant curves of your body,
the soft, spiced contours of your flesh
Invite me, and I come. I stay
until dawn breathes its light and night slips away.
You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love,
beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless.
Song of Solomon 4:1-7
Standing your ground isn't always such a good thing.
When you are intentional about this - refusing to budge no matter the circumstance or issue - you risk standing alone. As usual, I could start a debate with myself about the potential virtues of standing alone but this isn't that type of "alone".
I met a girl. She wasn't just any girl. She was absolutely unlike any girl I had ever encountered. She made me pause. She made me stare. She made my jaw drop. Her presence made me unable to articulate. She was indescribable - even Solomon in all his wisdom would not have been able to illustrate who she was. I often referenced sculpted marble depicting greek goddesses when describing her. Not only was her beauty unparalleled, but her wit and vision were beyond the scope of anyone I'd ever encountered. I didn't know such a girl could exist.
So, why does someone screw something like this up? Why was I so hard and stubborn? Why did I make life tough?
That is the unanswerable question.
I only know what I'd do now if I were able to go back. But I can't do that. I can dig and dig through my garbage all day - and, I do just that. I stand in the middle of that mess fully aware that I threw it all away.
“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
-Beryl Markham, West with the Night
“You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could've, would've happened... or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.”
Telling someone like me to ‘move on’ is one of those easier-said-than-done statements. I have had so many individuals who have experienced this kind of pain tell me their story and ensure me that it would get better with time. I didn’t believe them. Many of these friends, family, and acquaintances were visibly irritated with my sorrow. I was equally irritated by their inability to comprehend my anguish. Here I am, three years away from heartbreak, still nursing wounds. However, I do have a confession to deliver to my heartbroken reader that may or may not be promising to you.
Much of what I write about my emotions is not current. Don’t get me wrong…I will never get over the beloved completely - never, ever. But, it has gotten better. Three years ago, I couldn’t see the end to being curled up in a ball on the floor, unable to breathe from crying so hard. I don’t cry every day now. I had one person describe it like being in a shipwreck in a horrible storm; being stranded on some debris from the mess in the aftermath - riding swells and being sloshed around violently for an immeasurable amount of time; then sitting in the middle of the ocean lost for who-knows-how-long; finally, seeing the shore but not knowing how (or if you would ever) get there. I think I see the shore, and the tales I’m telling you now are, for the most part, recounting trauma.
Even though I see it, I’m unwilling to leave what has become my security for so long. I’m sure the best thing for me would certainly have been to drop it, forget it, and immediately move on. But I thought that there was so much worth salvaging from that whole mess. And honestly, with all that’s happened and with everything I now know - with the full knowledge of how difficult it would be to pull that ship out from the bottom of the ocean…I just want to be back home. I want to be home with her arms around me. I know that she isn’t on that shore, but my world just isn’t round without her.
So, for now, I’m floating. Still seasick.
I do not love thee! - no! I do not love thee!
And yet when thou art absent I am sad;
And envy even the bright blue sky above thee,
Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad.
I do not love thee! - yet, I know not why,
Whate'er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!
I do not love thee! - yet when thou art gone,
I hate the sound (though those who speak be dear)
Which breaks the lingering echo of the tone
Thy voice of music leaves upon my ear.
I do not love thee! - yet thy speaking eyes,
With their deep, bright, and most expressive blue,
Between me and the midnight heaven arise,
Oftener than any eyes I ever knew.
I do not love thee! yet, alas!
Others will scarcely trust my candid heart;
And oft I catch them smiling as they pass,
Because they see me gazing where thou art.
Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
“Nothing stays the same it all gets crushed. It all gets broken. It all passes with time.
Only the moment you're in has any meaning."
"There are things that stand the test of time, there are things that last. Like love."
"Love theres nothing more fragile or ephereal.
Love is like fire on a rainy day: you've got to spend all your time protecting it,
feeding it, tending it because if you don't it goes out."
"There are some loves that last."
"No, what lasts is the pain that comes after love.”
-Guillaume Musso, Que serais-je sans toi?
“Why is it that good times aren't permitted to last? Especially when we have put in so much time and effort, as these two had? It is as if enjoying the fruits of our labours is one of life's luxuries that we are not permitted to indulge for too long - one day we have summer sun and the next winter storms !”
-Leslie W.P. garland, The Golden Tup
“In every friendship hearts grow and entwine themselves together, so that the two hearts seem to make only one heart with only a common thought. That is why separation is so painful; it is not so much two hearts separating, but one being torn asunder.”
-Fulton J. Sheen
“Behind many broken friendships there is a marriage.”
When prone to an existence of perpetual sadness, there isn’t an easy time to live with it. There are periods when the burden feels lighter and moments when it weighs so heavy that it’s hard to breathe. Closing in on the change of seasons is always suffocating for me.
There was a day in 1992 - same type of weather I am experiencing today - when the frost covered ground was producing an ample fog - informing me that warmer weather was just around the bend - and my plan included picking up my beloved to explore roads we’d never been down. We had been hanging out for about 3 months and, like the coming spring, everything was new - the grey was going away soon and my life would directly be occupied with warming sun. My life’s bland lawn would be filled with lush green, blooming flowers, and blossoming trees.
This day went as they had been going for the past 90 days. We headed to some off-the-grid diner for coffee, a bit of food, and heavenly conversation. We’d talk about everything and laugh until it hurt. We already knew each other better than we’d ever known anyone. Then it was out to explore and we landed in some strange half-occupied industrial part of town, discovering a complex we fantasized could become a home/workshop/studio where creativity and happiness would rule. (I still have ridiculous photographs we took of each other that day. Silly kids - all smiles.) After peeking through dust covered windows and prowling around the grounds we eventually hopped back in the car.
I knew that I cared for her more than anything already, but this was the day that I knew she was my best friend. On returning to the car, we immediately went forehead to forehead. It was some involuntary animal ritual of affection. We must have stayed that way for 20 minutes, not even speaking. Eventually came the first kiss - my spring, my change of season, my blossom.
Spring had arrived and summer would come. I would experience all the colors of fall and then settle in to a long, cold winter. A beginning to the end.
“Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to the World, He never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly forgotten by it. Disgusted at the guilt or absurdity of Mankind, the Misanthrope flies from it: He resolves to become an Hermit, and buries himself in the Cavern of some gloomy Rock. While Hate inflames his bosom, possibly He may feel contented with his situation: But when his passions begin to cool; when Time has mellowed his sorrows, and healed those wounds which He bore with him to his solitude, think you that Content becomes his Companion? Ah! no, Rosario. No longer sustained by the violence of his passions, He feels all the monotony of his way of living, and his heart becomes the prey of Ennui and weariness. He looks round, and finds himself alone in the Universe: The love of society revives in his bosom, and He pants to return to that world which He has abandoned. Nature loses all her charms in his eyes: No one is near him to point out her beauties, or share in his admiration of her excellence and variety. Propped upon the fragment of some Rock, He gazes upon the tumbling waterfall with a vacant eye, He views without emotion the glory of the setting Sun. Slowly He returns to his Cell at Evening, for no one there is anxious for his arrival; He has no comfort in his solitary unsavoury meal: He throws himself upon his couch of Moss despondent and dissatisfied, and wakes only to pass a day as joyless, as monotonous as the former.”
-Matthew Gregory Lewis, The Monk
When I was 14 I was struggling with identity. It is possible that I still continue to struggle with that. I was desperately trying to find direction concerning who I was and what I wanted to be. Maybe it was closer to trying to understand how being me would conflict with what was expected of me…and still not knowing who "me" was.
My first day in high school, I immediately knew it wasn’t going to work out well. I had his loopy style picked up from who knows where. It was a horrible mix of Miami Vice meets Thrashin’ with a touch of Krush Groove…I was immediately targeted as a “faggot”. Alas.
About a week into this adventure, a mysterious girl from a mysterious pocket of about six other kids approached me and said something like, “You almost get it, but you aren't there yet! Let me help you out! We need to get you to a thrift store this weekend.” The next day, she passed a cassette tape to me and said, “Also, listen to this when you get home. It’ll change your life!” It was a typical tape from that era - a black Maxell with the gold, black, and white sticker on it. Scrawled on the line, reserved for the tapes owner to identify the content, was written: “The Smiths”.
I must admit, there was no satori. I did not melt but rather pulled back like the RCA dog with my neck tilted and ears perked wondering, "What th...?!" But it was so different from anything I had ever heard that I listened to it in my walkman over and over again. I felt that music start to inform what I was to become. Perhaps it had too much an influence on me considering 33 years later I am still sulking my way through life. Needless to say, I became an extension of that very small group of punks and misfits and had fallen madly in love with The Smiths.
With that perplexing obsession, that was carefully mapped out by Morrissey, came an equally strong enthusiasm to explore things that interested the "Moz": James Dean, Oscar Wilde, Candy Darling, Keats and Yeats, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Joe Dallesandro, Alain Delon, and on and on. A ridiculous and wonderful trail of pop culture and history that added to forming what I loved in literature, cinema, politics, theory, and art.
One obscure notable in Morrissey's list was Johnny Ray. The teen idol who would break down in tears on stage and roll around in agony over love lost - eliciting screams from teenage girls who had no idea that Mr. Ray's sexual preferences did not include their gender. (Ray was almost completely deaf and wore hearing aids. This is why Morrissey wore them from time to time - tasteless homage?) But, the man could make you believe in heartbreak like no other. By mid-school year, I was listening to my mix cassette of Johnny Ray on my Walkman as much as I was listening to The Smiths and Ramones.
Ray's songs created that strange phenomenon in my soul of great confusion and comfort. I completely appreciated the intense passion in the arrangements and the projected pain in the lyrics. I could feel the tug at my heart but was absolutely certain that it would be impossible for me to ever feel that type of heartache in my own life. At that time, it was because I had no interest at all in pursuing a relationship on any level. I had a couple of holding-hands-in-the-hall scenarios, but they ended quickly. Most likely, the other sensed my total lack of interest. That lack of interest was a blessing really and it followed me for the next four years (that now seemed like an eternity) until I met the girl who would become my wife.
She was as big a Smiths fan as I was. Singing those songs together was always a joyous occasion. I'd also pop Johnny Ray into the car stereo once and awhile and sing along with great exaggeration. As far as I was concerned, the content of those songs would never have any impact on my life beyond the joy of belting them out in the car, cleaning the house, or working on some other project. At 18 I had no clue that the one person that ended up giving me direction and informed exactly who I was and where my place was in the world would end up being the one person who would completely destroy my heart.
I must have played this song a hundred times or more in my lifetime,. For the first time, his act is no longer entertainment and I freely participate by hanging my head down to cry.
“For the first time she had dimly realized that only the hopeless are starkly sincere and that only the unhappy can either give or take sympathy--even some of the bitter and dangerous voluptuousness of misery.”
I've been cleaning up my email and running across messages I sent around this time last year to the beloved. January 2019 was a hopeful transition for me. Her divorce had gone through about 5 months prior to this date and she was seemingly very happy. She had filled her life with people she previously disliked or had no use for and I couldn't wrap my head around it. Although I should have been out of her life completely, I could not help but constantly bombard her with questions of why these folks got a pass but I was unforgivable. I never got a real answer to that question - even though I know that the answer is that she simply did not like me at all. (It's also not easy to disengage when you have children with someone.)
Things had been rough for her financially through all of this. I constantly used that knowledge to try to win her back. I would tell her that I wanted to take care of her and to provide for her. I'd still do things from time to time (against the advice of many) to help her along. Those actions had no results and only reluctant gratitude. But work really dried up for her in January. It hurt me to see her struggle and I offered to step in to help her drum up business. I tried to coach her in confidence. I helped her build a website. I sent her opportunities related to her craft. I tried to think of people who could move her along. She was seemingly appreciative of these moves. We spent a great deal of time together in January and February. It was a real turn around from what it had been - me constantly upset, angry, begging.
In February, I gave her a pretty special gift for Valentine's Day. She was quite thrilled with it. Soon after, I asked her if she would consider some mediation or counseling that might put us on a path to restoration. She pulled back quickly and refused to give any clear answer. I told her that I could not just be her pal. I did not want to be just another "friend" on the totem pole. Especially considering the friends she had acquired since her divorce. It wasn't that I despised these people but that she had despised them. It baffled me. I had to back off and avoided her through the month of March.
Raising the dead is a dangerous thing. It puts the vehicle in reverse. I sit here alone in my dark living room on an overcast January morning remembering a time, just one year ago, that was sending me into a season of hope. I see her smile again. I see her bright eyes. I see the way she moved across the floor. I see the way she'd tuck her hair behind her ears and my heart weighs heavy.
I have plenty to do today. But, I don't have love to share and I don't have one who cares.
"Sex without love is as hollow and ridiculous as love without sex."
-Hunter S. Thompon
“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk — real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road
“But when a woman decides to sleep with a man, there is no wall she will not scale, no fortress she will not destroy, no moral consideration she will not ignore at its very root: there is no God worth worrying about.”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
Sharon Olds . Sex Without Love
How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other’s bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health–just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.
“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agised as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.”
- Charlotte Bronte, Jane
I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and and too full.”
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
The beloved and I loved Paul Anka. His crooning and exaggerated emotion was always so fun to listen to. It was fun because she and I were best friends. I’d see her blue eyes light up and her freckled cheeks lift to part her lips and reveal her perfect teeth. It was an example of pure joy. (Joy is a subject I am perplexed by. I think one can have joy without happiness. It’s something I’ll explore.)
I often wondered if the kids of this era thought his music as kitschy as I did or if that projected fervor was sincere - cutting through their hearts and sending their spirits into otherworldliness. Now that I’ve been through heartbreak, I no longer think of his music as kitschy. The first time I listened to Mr. Anka in my solitude, I was victim to said sensationalism. Every word he spoke, every note he forced from his empathetic vocal chords sent me into a 1950s-film-reel-of-a-girl-loosing-it-over-a-teen-idol-like frenzy. I’m not really exaggerating. I realize how pathetic this must seem. Maybe my heartbreak was an exception to the modern rule that snubs its nose at puritanical monogamist ideology, or the suggestion (that has been offered to me) that the emptiness caused by heartbreak can be remedied by “getting laid”.
If sticking to my priggish outlook on sexuality means nursing a broken heart, so be it. I believe it to be a deception and I hope you don’t think you can mend wounds by making more. But is it okay to scream and wail and curl up on the floor and beat your chest and pull your hair to get the sadness out? It certainly doesn’t involve another fragile soul and nobody else has to play a role in your ostentatious act, so go ahead. It’s Time to Cry.
Marina Abramovic . The Lovers, 1988 . Sean Kelly gallery
We had more in common than I thought we did. You were my priority. You were your priority.
One of the many recycled words in my posts is “dramatic”. My former beloved used this word on me to the point of it causing me to have heart palpitations. I know I can be this way. It is part of who I am. I often use it as a strength but I can see how it can also become a weakness. Drama is part of what makes my life beautiful but was also a part of what tore my life apart.
Another example of absolutely heartbreaking drama in art is a piece from Marina Abramovic & Ulay. The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk (1988) was a haunting performance that involved the two artists who had planned the performance to end in a marriage. They followed through with the piece after ending their relationship - walking past each other at the end rather than meeting to exchange vows. Follow this link for a thorough analysis.
I know that my personal art often suffers from holding drama back. I’m often too timid with portraying my subject matter. As a result, it falls short. Facing trauma and analyzing the devil out of it is really the only way I get real resolve (hence the blog).