Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reflecting Pool

The road is blurry. My legs are pumping hard, trying to get the bike home as quickly as possible. Breathe, I tell myself, breathe through it. Legs pumping hard. Get home, get home, get home.

I can barely see the staircase, my hands on the keys, the knob. I manage to get inside before the tears fall, barely. I pull my sweaty clothes off. I’m naked, sobbing on my twin daybed, wishing I was curled on the floor because the daybed feels too high and I should be curled in the corner but that would involve getting off the daybed and right now my body feels like lead and I’m crying too hard to move anyway so it will have to do.

I’ve been biking to work for two years. Both years, summer snuck up on me. The first year, I was biking home in July completely dehydrated, black flowers blooming in front of my vision under a brutal sun. Instead of taking it easy, my solution was to pump harder, to rush home before I passed out. I stripped and collapsed on the same daybed when it was just one of our two sofas, when we had three bedrooms and two and half baths, when there was still a we and an our.

How did that man become this man, in such short order? He was wiser than the first dehydrated biker I was last summer. Obviously not wise enough to replenish his fluids before biking home in ninety-eight degree weather under peak sun, but he’d been experiencing the slow release of love from his marriage for months. I won’t say he was learning what it felt like for love to leave his marriage, because that would imply a larger perspective. A fish in a tank doesn’t know his stagnant water is running out of oxygen, he just feels the effects. He doesn’t even know he’s wet. It’s all clear in hindsight. Blood dripping from a slashed wrist, air hissing from a slow leak in a deflating tire.

These two men, him and me, we share a similar physicality. But I’m thinner. I have more grey in my hair. My eyes are slightly rougher, because he slept sweetly night after night, content, accompanied, well-spooned, while I . . . don’t.

There are environmental differences, too. Compare the aforementioned condo with the many rooms and baths of the first man with the studio in which I live. Oh, the decorative palettes all that wall space offered him! I’m surrounded by wood. Wood is my power element. I looked at a lot of places but kept imaging myself in what I’ve come to call the Treehouse. That man had his LEBO paintings, I have my uncle’s artwork, my friends' photography. That man kicked his feet up to watch TV on a sofa which has become this man’s bed. That man’s furniture was Asian eclectic, dragged from New York to Virginia to Miami and picking up new pieces along the road. Most everything I have is new, white, and Swedish modern. Ikea is a hell of a drug.

He’s been living the DINK life – that’s Double-Income-No-Kids – since he was a teenager, while I’m living MAW; Me Against the World. He had a retirement fund and disability insurance. I have prayers I never get sick. Letting go of TV, internet, satellite radio, and a car leaves room for the things I need to be happy. Buying decent food. Going out to eat. Books. I couldn’t tell you what he spent his money on all those years, with so little to show for it in the end.

Sex . . . well, he wins. By a lot.

Besides sex, I envy him one thing. He read and wrote fiction almost exclusively, while I seem hopelessly mired in reality.

When my wife and I separated, I thought of my heart as layers of something brittle, a dried cigar or a dusty rose. I worried I would never love again.
As I biked home, blinking tears away, my heart felt like glass. Not a glass onion, and not a piece of delicate blown artwork. A solid, hefty chuck of glass dealt a heavy blow. Cracked through, separated into several large chunks, parts ground to powder at the point of impact. I will love again; I have too much not to give. My concern is how to put my heart back together. Will it be melted and remolded into a heart, looking brand new but slightly smaller because of the missing pieces? Will it be an ugly, damaged thing, the cracks plainly visible to anyone who gets close? If I can’t mend it, what happens to the pieces? They’d only be good for cutting myself and others.

I’ve begun to realize how people die of broken hearts.

It’s too soon to know what shape my bachelorhood will take. I could hide my emotional turmoil beneath unrequited crushes or too many drinks or a strained smile. I could end up married to the first person who tosses me a pity-fuck, or in jail for beating a certain ex-high school boyfriend Facebook predator into a coma. I could also follow my original plan and go monastic, keep exercising, surround myself with books, push the cursor hard, tell the stories which are my real life work and the only way I know to serve God.

Wish me luck. Sometimes the road is blurry.


  1. Hullo AJC,

    Stick with it. Whats damaged and injured to you may be fresh, new and exciting to someone else. But it may be some time down the road. Meantime use your skill and your qualities for what you are good at. Write. Take comfort in your friends. Smile broadly and laugh when you can. Hurt only when you have to. Look around. There are a million people nearby who deserve you. Some of them you might even like.

    And take some water on the bike, maybe even a tissue. Think how its going to look on some poor guys insurance form, "he came out of nowhere at a hundred miles an hour. He was crying even before I hit him"

    You dont work sixteen years out of your heart in a few months, in fact you won't ever work it out of your hear but it will hurt less eventually.


  2. Thanks, Al. That's a lot of good stuff.

    "He was crying before I even hit him." Nice.

    Stacy, thanks for your email.