"My love for you is different but not diminished. I'm sorry it had to end this way. - LJ" The letter fluttered into the trash bin, but the words remained. She walked as if in a dream and stares in the mirror, noticing the beginnings of lines on her face and grey hairs peeking out of her long thin hair.
She hadn't minded them so much before, in fact, she thought they'd earned her some level of respect in the world, but she had never felt so betrayed or disrespected before in her life.
Now, she looked at herself only to see a tired and uninteresting woman...Though if she looked more closely there was something about her eyes that spoke of strength and wisdom she did not feel, like the embers of a dying flame waiting to reignite.
Too Bourgeoisie for my Blood!
On the eve of her 6 year anniversary, my sister let me tag along with her and her husband to a reservation at a restaurant with three Michelin stars, which usually means "exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey." You can imagine that the restaurants location in the heart of Paris France likely meant it had earned those stars ten times over.
I had been nervous about having room in my stomach for an eight course meal that I had no say over, but the first thing they did was hand me a glass of red wine the size of my head. It really took the edge off. The first course to come out had only a mouthful of something squishy with some fancy sauce and garnish. Apparently, it was some kind of giant squid egg. The smell was mouthwatering. I scarfed it down trying not to cringe at the texture. The flavors evolved from sweet to tart and savory as I chewed.
It was delicious, but it was only enough to make me more hungry. They didn't bring out anything (except more wine because: France) for 15 minutes after we finished the morsels. The next two courses consisted warm truffle wraps and some kind of salty mousse. Yummy and unique, but again not nearly enough.
My French brother in law signaled for some more wine. I didn't want to embarrass him even though I was getting lightheaded, so I let the waiter fill my glass all the way up. After one (or was two?) more unsatisfying tease of a meal, they brought out the main course-- a delicacy the likes of which I had never tasted -- banana foie gras. It sounds utterly disgusting, but it tastes like heavenly butter babies soaked in silky wonderful.
For real, I'm a horrible person for eating it. In the months that followed, I learned things and actually became a vegetarian out of guilt because it's actually pretty messed up what they do to ducks to make it. Jamming fat down their throats till their livers can't take anymore. So don't go trying it if you want to keep your conscience clear. That little culinary ecstasy isn't worth it... But I have yet to find anything of comparable delectability.
To be fair though, I was almost certainly the drunkest I'd ever been in my life trying to keep up with a natural born Frenchman drinking fine wine. The last few courses were a blur of strawberry sweetness and frothy chocolate with coffee. (And more wine; do they not have water in France?)
My sister laughed as she half carried me back to their tiny apartment in a state of giddy intoxication that was as close as I've ever been to blackout drunk.
Unfortunately, I coughed up the exotic assortment of hyper-rich foods later that night making that meal hands down the best, worst, and least fulfilling of my life. But also the best travel story.
A Self-Aware Sucker
I reached back and caught a small hand just as it was about to make off with my wallet. I whipped around to see a small girl staring back at me with eyes as calm and dark as night under a garishly bright little pink hoodie. Unconcerned, as though I hadn't just caught her stealing. I took the wallet back, and looked around.
"Hey, whose kid is this?" No guardians made themselves apparent. I cursed. This was going to make me late for an important interview, but I couldn't leave the little urchin on the streets... Gritting my teeth, I took my last twenty out, handed it over, and said, "stealing is wrong," before jogged on down the street.
Hours later after bombing my first interview in weeks, I thought back on the encounter, hating myself for not taking the kid to the police or social services or something. Just to avoid some hassle, I left a poor child to fend for herself. I stuffed my hands in my pockets wondering how I became such an asshole. Then I froze.
Where did my wallet go?
I gave myself the customary frantic pat down, before I really started to flip out. I retraced my steps, searching the ground. I didn't see my wallet, but I did catch a flash of pink slip into a taxi. I sprinted after the vehicle, waving and hollering at the driver to stop, but he didn't see me. A pair of dark eyes stared back at me once more before disappearing into traffic.
I stood panting in the street, before breaking out in laughter. I wasn't the asshole, I was just a sucker. Somehow that didn't bother me so much. I wandered toward home with the mad levity of someone who had absolutely nothing to lose.
They kicked me out around 2 am after I stole the bartenders funnel thing and invented what was probably the stupidest drinking game ever. Too be fair, that day had been a flood of bad news, and I was convinced I needed every drop of alcohol I could get my hands on to drown my sorrows. By the closing time, I was beyond cloud nine. I then decided it would be a good idea to make the bouncer chase me round the bar to the tune of Yankee-doodle-dandee as I "made it rain" with the spare change in my pockets.
I was exiled in disgrace with a shower of insults following me out onto the doorstep where I was unceremoniously planted on my ass without warning. I went out into the night swinging, ready to take the whole city by storm.
I woke some time later after (apparently) falling asleep at the metro station. The noise of the train hit me like thunder and reverberated inside my skull which was just beginning to feel the unfortunate side affects of drinking so heavily. I might have stayed there waiting to throw up, but I had a train to catch. I hopped on to the last car just as the doors were closing.
There was only one other person there; a young woman of Asian descent. I saw her hesitate trying to determine if I was a threat or not, clearly about to bolt. I gave a tight smile, nodded, and then determinedly avoided eye contact. Might have been drunk as a skunk, but I wasn't a weirdo. We scattered to either end of the car, and did our best to politely ignore each other.
At home, no job, no food, but one warm bed and running water. I've had worse nights.
Excerpt from “The Gale Winds” Ch. 2
First light found Mira groggy and sore and stubbornly resisting the call of the morning. Sleep seemed to want to smother her in its embrace, but a chill in the air spurred her to consciousness. This was beginning to feel like the start of a very unpleasant day, she thought. Shivering, she curled up into herself. The next thing she felt was a warm and gentle touch on her bare shoulder that sent another shiver through her, but this time the sensation was a great deal more pleasurable.
"Cold?" a soft voice inquired behind her. Without opening her eyes, Mira smiled and turned towards that voice which happened to be the source of that gentle warmth on her shoulder. As she snuggled into a pair of strong arms, her numb nose brushed something especially toasty, and the voice gasped, "You're freezing!"
"Whose fault is that?" Mira yawned. The arms wrapped around her and squeezed her in closer. Now it was her turn to gasp as her bare skin met with heat along the length of her body.
The voice sighed, "Sorry, I don't mean to take all the blankets for myself. Why don't you ever say anything?"
Mira was almost too busy lavishing in the fire of the warm body beside her to respond, but she managed to whisper, "Why should I be the one to wake to fix your mistakes?"
She heard a scoff. "Well, after last night's," they paused, "activity, I think any man would be a bit done in, right?" Mira gave a soft moan and another shudder of happiness as she pressed herself against the owner of the voice.
A light touch lifted her chin, and she finally opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was the outline of a familiar face framed with ringlets of ginger hair and set with a pair of dark eyes. Those eyes were fixed on hers with a soft intensity even as an easy smile graced his lips.
He leaned in, brushed his lips to her ear, and whispered, "Speaking of activity..."
Mira forgot the cold all she could feel was his breath against her skin. She smiled and likewise whispered, "Don't you have work to do?"
"Not for hours yet. And you?"
"None, my lady is away."
"Well," he placed a kiss on her neck, "my lady is right here, where she belongs, and I'd like to take advantage of that."
Mira reached up to touch his face, "What did you have in--"
His lips had claimed hers before the words were all out, and she responded with her whole body.
First, give it time. Be patient with yourself. Believe that one day, the thought of them won't make you feel hurt, angry, or alone.
Give it time.
Loss is a natural part of gain. Knowing this doesn't always help when you lose someone. Whether its death or just the end of your relationship with them, you've lost someone, and you are permitted to grieve in whatever way you need.
Be patient with yourself.
The best way I've found to take the next step into a life without them, is to find a part of yourself that didn't belong to that relationship. A part that was just you. A part that you like. Hold on to it and cherish it, or find something new that doesn't remind you of them. You don't have to be good at it, but it should be good for you. Don't start drinking heavily or smoking or sleeping around... Unless you already were.
It helps to have a friend or two around, but talking about it becomes counter productive rather quickly. Don't overdo it.
Believe that one day, the thought of them won't make you feel hurt, angry, or alone.
I would advise against acting on volatile emotions until then. Unless you are the kind of person who enjoys hurting people, you would probably regret it. And acting against your nature is not the way to reclaim your independence or your identity. Put those feelings into a creative outlet -- write, draw, or just sweat them out.
This is my recipe for recovery:
- Give it time.
- Be patient with yourself.
- And believe that you will recover.
Whatever that means for you, I wish you luck.
The Wild Sun and The Angry Earth
Many ages ago before the time of man, two great kingdoms ruled in separate domains -- the regal Sky Dynasty and the mighty Empire of Earth. The Earth had four children whom she took great pains to educate and impart a quality of discipline. And so the Ocean, Forest, Wind and Fire lived rigidly and uncomfortably under Earth's strict supervision. The Kingdom of the Sky was a very different story.
They had more children than they could count and did their upmost to spoil the lot. Of these ancient youths, the Sun was the oldest and by far the wildest and most doted on by her parents. She was prone to dancing about her father Day's court in brilliant colorful gowns all day long until she collapsed of exhaustion into the arms of her loving Mother Night.
Then with the Sun curled up on her lap, Night would gently whisper stories and melodies to her other children, instructing them in various arts and virtues as they twinkled with wonder. Inevitably, the Sun would wake when her father took the court, and her revelry would begin again outshining all her siblings.
Most of them didn't mind, clapping and giggling along because they loved to watch her twirl and whirl, but her twin sister the Moon considered it a rude interruption. She much preferred to sing slower sadder songs and tell stories like their mother. One day, the Moon decided to sneak away from the relentless gaiety and practice her songs and stories in solitude. Little did she know, someone was listening.
At the time, the two kingdoms had very little to do with one another, and neither knew very much about the other. So when the Ocean heard the Moon's song somewhere off in the distance, it's beauty immediately captured his attention and moved him so deeply that he began to sway to the rhythm of her voice and even hum along. Eventually, the Ocean could not suppress his curiosity, so he followed the voice to its source.
Upon seeing her glowing visage, the admiration he felt intensified, filling his heart. It took a while for him to find the courage and the words to speak to her, but when he did, he confessed to her all the feelings that her song inspired in him that he had never felt before or even dreamed of. He praised her beauty and artistry equally, and asked that they meet again.
This stream of accolades shocked the Moon who was generally accustomed to being overshadowed by the Sun. She could hardly believe this stranger! And yet when she looked at him, she saw a reflection of all the emotions she sought to express in her music. She agreed to meet again the next day. And the next. And everyday after that. Love blossomed between them steadily growing stronger.
The Earth noticed a change in her favorite child. The Ocean had always been wise and dependable in a way the Earth very much approved of, but there was something off about him lately. He seemed happier if a bit distracted, humming and swaying continuously. The Earth eventually confronted him about it, and so the Ocean finally introduced his mother to the Moon.
Upon meeting the demur and elegant Moon, the Earth was relieved and gratified by her son's connection to someone so graceful and sensible. Her other children could learn a thing or two from this one. If the rest of the Sky Dynasty was anything like the Moon they would make ideal allies.
Hoping to make arrangements for the two kingdoms to be united, the Earth decided to invite the rest of Moon's family to a great feast. The Night Sky arrived with several of her younger children in tow, begging pardon for the Day's absence, but he could not leave the Sky court unattended. They all ate and spoke amiably, and the Night sang a duet with the Moon which was received with applause by the Earth and her family.
The evening seemed to be going very well. The Moon was nervous though, for she was certain that her twin would arrive and ruin everything at any moment. But the Sun never came. So the Night and the Earth began to make plans for the Ocean and the Moon to be wed. And then the day of the ceremony arrived.
This time the entire Sky court came to take part in the festivities. The Night proudly introduced the Day and the Sun to the Earth court, and the Moon was mortified. The Earth frowned at the Sun, cringing at the gaudy dress she wore, but fortunately the Sun wore a veil to hide her luminous face and sparkling jewels. Still, the Earth was not impressed by her outlandish style.
The Ocean was likewise annoyed at his new sister in law since her presence clearly upset his bride, but his siblings were intrigued by the iridescent Sun. But the Sun remained strangely docile and subdued during the ceremony, having been warned by her parents not to steal her sister's glow. She loved her twin and longed for her to be happy at last, so she kept her head down, and tried not to shine.
After the vows were exchanged, a celebration commenced and gifts were given to the couple. The Day gave the Ocean a giant pearl that he may always be reminded of the strength and beauty of their love, and the Earth gave her daughter in law a magnificent ebony harp to commemorate the music that brought them together. The Moon was so happy that she sat down to play a merry tune for the first time in her life.
The music was so joyous and the tempo was so upbeat, it got every foot tapping. Then her younger siblings started clapping. With a sinking feeling the Moon looked to her twin. The Sun was shaking with the temptation to dance. Moon hurried to finish the song, but before she could the Sun's energy burst into motion, and she twirled wildly around the room. She shimmied and shined brighter by the second as her multicolored gown flared around her. Meanwhile, her sister hid further and further behind her harp.
Her veil flew away and the room filled with fluctuating kaleidoscopic light so intense it made everyone dizzy. The Earth court was completely taken aback, and the Shy court stopped clapping. The song ended, and then the room was silent. The Sun soon recovered from the fervor that had taken hold of her. Her sister had all but disappeared behind her harp. The Sun began desperately searching the chaos of the room for her discarded veil, but it was far too late.
Outraged, the Earth screamed at the audacity of the Sun and the supposed pretension of the Sky Court. How dare they display such undignified behavior in front of her family! What a terrible example for her children! Her anger provoked a response from the Night and Day who could not bear to stand there and be insulted any longer. "So go and take ALL your daughters with you," the Earth spat before her sons could calm her. Nothing the Ocean said would change her mind, and the damage was done.
The Day and Night left full of fury, taking the Sun, the Moon, and all their Stars back to the Sky. The twins both hung their heads in shame and went quietly. In the weeks that ensued, the Ocean became, in his mother's words, "completely unmanageable." In his grief, he raged and crashed about most of the time, and the rest he spend in utter motionless depression. During one of his fits, he crushed the giant pearl Day had gifted him into millions of pieces that scattered themselves throughout his house like the endless tears he shed.
In the Kingdom of the Sky, the Moon was no better, though she did not rave or wail. Instead she sat behind her ebony harp neither singing nor playing only silently weeping as she grew small and pale. She spoke to no one and none could console her, least of all her twin sister. No matter how many times she apologized balling at her sister's feet, or brought her special treats, or sat with her braiding her hair, she could not reach her. It seemed their bond may be irrevocably broken.
Unwilling to give up and desperate to redeem herself, the Sun began going to the gates of the Earth Kingdom each day, pleading that she be allowed an audience with the Earth or Ocean. When her pleas met no answer, she would beat against the gate until her fists were bloody, and the blood stained her vibrant gown dark red, and her light dimmed to a hostile smoulder that saturated the whole Sky. She resolved to wait outside the gate for as long as it took to get in.
Despite everything, the Sun was not without friends in the Earth Kingdom. Wind, Fire, and Forest had been enchanted by her sparkling gaiety and the brazenness with which she expressed it. They had never known such freedom under the stern watch of the Earth, and they dearly wished to see her dance again. The condition of their eldest brother concerned them greatly, but the dimming of the Sun dismayed them. Their brother wouldn't even see them, but maybe they could cheer up the Sun.
Forest created special plants called flowers, tossed the seeds over the gate to grow at her feet, and shouted, "Please, don't be grim, your wonderful dress inspired me to bring color to the land, don't despair!" But most of the flowers withered before her gloom, and she shouted back, "Let me in! Let me in! Or I'll never see your flowers and you will never see my dress!" At a loss the Forest walked away. The Earth had the only key to the gate, so the Forest went to try to convince her to open it, but to no avail.
The Wind tried his hand next, creating an arc of colors he called a rainbow, and sending it shooting over the Sun's head, he hoped to dazzle her. "Please, don't be glum! Your light inspired me to make beauty out of thin air!" She Shouted back, "Let me in! Let me in! Or I swear I'll never shine again!" The Wind knew it was pointless, but he tried to get the Earth to open the gate, and he also failed.
Having seen how his brothers fared and not being one capable of creation, Fire decided to try a different strategy. So he went to his mother and bid that she come hide by the gate. Not to open, only to listen. He shouted to the Sun, "I know how you feel, the anger and shame, and I can burn this gate down. But what if I asked that you give up your gown, dim your light down, and cease dancing around?" At first the Sun did not answer, then she burst into tears, "My dress is in tatters, my light's all but out, and I'm too numb to dance. I know I've done wrong, but my sister is suffering, so please, give me a chance!"
The Earth was touched then by the Sun's steadfast heart and her determination. Perhaps she wasn't just a silly reckless girl after all. Earth opened the gate and stepped out to meet her. That was when she saw the work of her other sons, the flowers and rainbows. She realized that her children needed more than strictness and structure to grow and create something new. The Sun and the Moon had that something, and they needed something too.
The Earth cut a deal with the Sun; the gates would be opened and the Kingdoms united, if she trained each day to learn discipline and taught the Earth what freedom was. The Sun agreed and convinced Day and Night to go along. The Ocean and Moon were reunited, and they were so grateful for what the Sun had done and sacrificed for them that they made a gift of their own. A gorgeous blue gown that caught her light perfectly and twirled like a dream.
And the Sun wore this gown all Day while she played by Earth's rules, but on the cusp of Night, she'd grow wild once more, and dance along the horizon atop a rainbow that never ends, over flowers that grow to admire her, and in love that burns deep inside her.
That is why the Sky is blue, except for the rising and setting of the sun.
I am barely here. I barely have the presence to speak these words. I am not without my strengths, but now, I find myself enveloped in an emptiness too great to overcome with strength alone. I am still here. But only barely.
Though I strive to be brave, decisive, and kind, it makes no difference to the emptiness. It knows me so much better than I know it. Haunted by the feeling that I am being watched and judged without my knowledge or consent, my every move incites questions that have no answers.
I make no claim on depression; there is far too much of love and life and joy in the simple things left in me. Actually, I am happy where I am. My grief, my vicious reprieve, grows with the knowledge that change is creeping up on me. I can count the days left of the life I have. So precious and so few, it hurts just to think of it.
I would run away if I could, but what I really want is to stay -- for time to stand still and the changes to stop in their tracks. What cowardly things I think. I've broken my own heart a hundred times just contemplating a future where I'm not here doing what I do with the people I know and love. But it is impossible to stay.
Shall I wait for desperation to force my hand? Must I wait for this familiar life to end before envisioning a new one? Many years ago, I would have jumped at the chance for change. I know now that I was only running away. She was lucky then to find a safe haven -- that younger version of myself. Or perhaps she just knew who she was and where she needed to go.
Perhaps the most frightening change of all is the one inside.
The simple poetry of Frost comes to mind,
"I will be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
If only life were more like a walk in the woods. Then at least, there would be paths to follow. For now, I can only follow these thoughts in circles.
Until change finds me trembling and unprepared, and we dance awkwardly under a strange sky.
A vicious reprisal of the love I once had for life.
Were it not for the ever-present beat of my circadian rhythm and the reliable commotion of traffic filtering through the flimsy walls of my one-bedroom apartment, I don't think I would have gotten out of bed today. Don't worry, I'm not depressed. I'm just a loser with no direction in life who got himself dumped last night. Still, gotta be a human right? So after a few minutes of staring at the ceiling and praying that the last 24 hours had all been a dream, I got out of bed and put on some pants on a Saturday morning at 10:00 am.
I know, I'm an American hero.
I checked my phone, and sure enough, there was the dreaded text message. "I don't c this going any where, Ted, so it's time we both moved on.. sorry" Frowny face. Brocken heart emoji.
It would have stung less if she hadn't also stood me up on our anniversary. The bad grammar added insult to injury... And the emojis. And the fact that she decided to end a year-long relationship with a text message shorter than most of her tweets. I'm pretty sure that she was drunk when she sent it, but considering she hasn't responded to any of my messages since, I'm also pretty sure she meant it.
Sighing, I tossed the phone onto the bed and trudged into the kitchen only to discover that I had run out of coffee. Blinking stupidly at the empty bag, I was about to go back to bed because there was the point in living in a world without coffee. Then there was a knock at the door. A feeling of dread washed over me wondering who the hell it could be. Any hope that they would just go away disappeared when I heard another more insistent knock a few seconds later. I answered the door.
I was greeted by the face of a friend my girlfr- my ex had always hated. She gave me a sad little smile and said, "Hey, you're up!" Like it was an accomplishment.
I grunted, unenthusiastically rubbing my eyes. She held up two coffee cups and a box of donuts and offered, "Want to talk about it? Or play some Halo?"
At that moment, I felt like I had been trapped underground, and she had just dug me out. I could have kissed her. Instead, I took the coffee and said, "Halo."