I have been spending far too much time looking backward. In doing so, I am struck and stuck with this imagery; that long-past life I built, then, there, back in time, a gorgeous facade, a mansion like Grey Gardens, which, now, has fallen to decay and decrepitude, dilapidated and despairing, haunted by feral, nearly rabid beasts, piled high with the stinking, rotting garbage of regret and recrimination. I am there, but only, now, a ghost.
Memory is a bitch.
Contrary to popular belief, however, memory is nothing like a camera. What we recall is not truth captured on the screens of our minds, but, rather, narratives we create from details and moments we noticed, which we then illuminate and shape according to our own agendas and desires. In essence, we are all novelists.
So, what to do when one finds in this backward glance only sorrow? There must, surely, have been something of joy? Once, there must have been light? When did I start believing their stories of me instead of my own?
There must, once, have been Love. They must, once, have seen in me a Light.
So, one must look back and find that, and, somehow, edit away the sorrow? Or, acknowledge the delusional aspects of it and embrace what was truth? Even if the truth has changed? Even if the truth was a temporary touch or bandage for souls now eaten away and poisoned by the malaise of assertive victim-hood, poor sad things who once heralded you “hero” and now despise that you were there to save them?
There must, once, have been Love.
Perhaps. Yes. But when people disappear, fade away, dissolve as soon as you don’t fit the outline of the character they have written for you in their memory play – how long do you wait? When they stop calling, texting, showing up in your life, and you’re erased, discarded, distorted and disparaged into an ethereal specter of the past; should you re-write?
I have been chastised for having allowed this slinking, sinking into darkness, for acquiescing to play the vampire they have written me into. And in so doing, I have come to expect people to disappear and have stopped believing that I could love (or be loved) again, and like vampires of fiction, ancient, have died inside until I am all over numb, without feeling.
So, it came as some surprise to me when, after months of not shedding a tear, I recently found myself at a most inappropriate time and circumstance, weeping. The details are beside the point – a story not ready to be told – but this was a duo-logue, me and a someone whose reaching-out to me had surprised – nay, stunned me. I was extremely hesitant, resisted the invitations for a few days, this was someone too young, far too undefined, too struggling to try to understand who what where why he was in this world; someone about whom and for whom it would be entirely too easy to fall into ridiculously Gothic story-lines about the power of love to transcend and save and change when, more likely, there would be a Wuthering Heights-ian wandering of the moors of desperate sorrows, haunted by the recriminations of remorseful apparitions. No doubt he was muddled by his struggle with self, with what story he ultimately wishes to tell, and probably – knowing his history – altered by some or another chemical or combination of same, and so when he reached out to me I said, “Stop it. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
People don’t reach out to touch me. Haven’t. Ever. Not really. And when they did. It hurt. A lot.
And he said, “What are you so afraid of? What do you think’s gonna happen if you let someone touch you?”
I burst into tears. Good question. I guess I need the answer.