This is from a time that, when I remember it, shakes me down to my very core. You might say I should never look. But healing doesn’t happen without discomfort. A lot of healing doesn’t happen without a lot of pain. This I was taught over the last few years, and it’s completely true. So, this is an image from a perfect moment, one of thousands of perfect moments for which I can only be grateful.
The above was a comment I attached to that picture, in an alternate single-use Facebook page. After a few minutes of thought, I removed it. Words like that aren’t needed in my little one-picture-a-day page.
I had an old alternate account and decided to revamp it for posting some of the zillion pictures I take. They’re all public. You don’t need to join Facebook to see them. I invite you to go look. facebook.com/sly.glance/
Aah, fuck. Never mind that. Public only means you don’t have to be friends. You still need a FB account. Goddammit.
Anyway, the picture itself has nothing to do with the words. The words came from looking at the photos that picture came from. After almost four years I still love the woman I was with, and am apparently still IN love with the woman as she was when I met her almost ten years ago. I don’t know what if any of that original woman still exists. We both grew a ton so probably not much. But the feelings, even about someone so very imperfect, someone who brought me a lot of pain in addition to the good love brings, remained enough to render me emotionally unavailable for anyone else. My last lady friend understood that, having a similar history, and was able to love me through that, but still … Still I have a tendency to look back on my mistakes and imagine a redesign. But you can’t do that, you can only learn.
But through reflection I discovered something. It’s been remarked upon that I live in the past a little too much. I’ve tried to redesign it all my life. Imagined, as if in some science fiction story, going back to some specific time to inhabit the body in time and place that I had back then, and make wiser or at least more fun decisions. Everyone has that fantasy. But between that and my interest in history it’s been suggested I overdo it. Being the analytical type, I wondered why that might be. And I remembered that when I was small, under ten, my father’s second wife observed me and later told me that she often saw amongst my doodlings phrases such as, If Jimmy hadn’t died everything would be all right. The death of my parents’ firstborn that took place when I was one year old had a profound effect on everything after, as did my parents’ divorce that it led to. Ripple effects, they can be huge. My father’s second wife opined that this doodling was a result of my family never discussing it, recognizing it, dealing with it. The universal belief was that it was best to not talk about it at all. The kids are young. They won’t remember him. They’ll be better off. Unsurprisingly, that attitude had an effect opposite to that intended.
My theory is that I taught myself to redesign the past, to live in it in some sense, at a very young age. Because I was surrounded by the consequences of Jimmy’s death without any discussion or attempt to move past them, that past remained in mind all the time. All the time I was internally aware of what made me different (everyone has something that made them different, this was mine), i.e. I had a brother that died, and my parents were divorced. More than anything else, I wished with fervor that Jimmy had never got cancer. If he hadn’t died, everything would be all right.
After sixty years, habits are hard to break. Seeing the pictures from the trip this one was from, I wound up in a pretty bad place for a little bit. But I had to be. Ignoring, shoving aside, not dealing does not work. Neither does going back and wishing I’d known to do this or not do that, but it’s a hard habit to break.
Side story. A few months ago I had a sudden urge to text a friend I hadn’t seen in a year or two. She was a Burning Man / circus act / DJ’s assistant sort (and a nurse) who was very beautiful and dressed in a sort of feathery post-apocalyptic boudoir style that was beyond fetching, and when in a safe space much preferred to go topless, which in turn inspired her guests, which made her parties kinda enjoyable — but all that is a digression to distract me from my point. I texted her out of the blue, and she replied that she guessed I’d heard what happened. I had not. What happened? Her son died. Just two days before, her high school aged son was killed in an off-roading accident.
Was it a coincidence that I reached out to her at that time, and not a month later or a month before? I don’t know, but this fucked me up. The boy had a little brother, and my thoughts kept turning to him. They had a big ad hoc memorial grow outside their house, and I went over after buying some special paper and pens and gave them notes I had written. I made sure to write one for the younger brother, because he will live with this his entire life and not everyone will recognize it. In fact, my note to her was possibly about him. And he knew his brother — I never knew mine. It’s going to be rough.
All these things are connected. Anyway, for vague reasons nothing to do with brothers, I about lost it when the band played St. James Infirmary. That’s always been a very affecting song for me, couldn’t say why.