Thursday, June 26, 2008

RS: Good Night and Thank You

"What's good about good-bye? What's fair about farewell?" Nancy Lamott waxed musical those very questions shortly before she died. Lucky for us, the recording, and therefore the memory, lives on.

Good-byes hurt. I should know, I just did it. Clinging to each other for one last second as the cab driver tapped the steering wheel impatiently, I nearly passed out. Most likely because when he moved in for the final embrace, he kicked the shit out of my big toe. The same toe I've been nursing for two days, wrapped up in swaddling clothes like a throbbing Christ child, so much gauze you could see it from space, hobbling with a certainty that I could lose this valued limb at any moment—all sympathies welcomed. Okay, truth is I jammed it into the end of my shoe, repeatedly, during some paramilitary training at tennis camp over the weekend; and only the nail is at risk of being lost. It didn't happen in a Herculian charge for the ball that left me breathless at my superior fitness—no high-fiving, back-slapping, walk it off on your way to the well-deserved Gatorade, wipe sweat from brow as opponents shake their heads and think, "Damn, he's good" kind of feat. No, it was more that I have face-cringing, homicide-inducing, move with the grace of an elephant on roller skates as my opponents shake their heads and think, "Damn, he's retarded" kind of feet. And I was not breathless so much as out of breath.

The nail turned purple before I'd shaken all the red clay out of my underwear—don't ask, I don't know how it got in there either—and had it's own pulse by the time we passed Woodbury Commons, where I had crippled my bank account a mere two days earlier. So, I'd kept the toe wrapped in a vain attempt to save the nail. On most pain indices my toe wouldn't even register, but I have a threshold so low you could trip over it if you aren't looking—which is likely how I fucked up my toe to begin with.

After a nice long soak in some Epsom salt last night, I woke up this morning feeling better. I walked on it easily, painlessly, effortlessly, almost like a normally-gaited person. It was the only part of me that didn't hurt as I helped drag his bags to the curb. It was a metaphor that made me wince—literally and figuratively: it hurts when your feet can't follow where your heart wants to lead.

We pulled apart quickly. He had to go (travel companion waiting at the car rental place) and I had already gone (peed on impact). I didn't intend to watch him drive away, but I needed some more Epsom salt and turned too soon. On my way to the drug store, a light rain started to fall on my face, sky water and my water dripping off my chin.

We didn't have a big last date, no rabbit-like rush of intimacies, no International Coffees and late-night promises as the moon glistened in our eyes. He was healing from surgery and I was moving like a man dragging a club foot through quicksand. We was not so sexy. And the only light glistening in my eyes was the reflection off my computer screen as I frantically tried to finish a report that was due this morning. Not sure what he saw when he looked into my squinting, blood shot eyes at the end of the night—the windows to my soul blanketed by some butt-ugly curtains. But I saw in his, in addition to phantom pixilation, a vision of possible. Two old men sitting on the couch together, nothing stroked but injuries, nothing stiff but backs, sex reduced to a furtive glance followed by a heartfelt, "Fuck you." It was, in a word, comforting. Exactly what I'd always dreamed of, though not exactly as I dreamed it.

We spent the last three days, grasping as much time together as possible, playing house, knowing it was coming to an end. Much like skydiving in paradise and hearing the parachute rip, we knew we had two choices. Rather than hunker down and brace for impact, we chose to look around and enjoy the view. Much like paradise, we were living in a fantasy. Like most fantasies, it was wonderful, which made the bye all the less good.

But what does it all mean, really? He and I have spent a lot of energy not talking about it. Maybe because I said it wasn't debatable. I meant it. Every time I said it, I meant it. But just because you know you can't follow someone, doesn't mean you can just slap on your shoes and skip away. You know you have to, know it makes sense, know the universe has a plan—two roads diverging on a yellow-brick road and here I am unable to squeeze my big swollen toe into these damned ruby slippers. Shoe horns notwithstanding, nothing seems a perfect fit. Or more accurately, nothing is a painless fit.

And no path is without a few twists and turns. I've found myself before looking up from the underbrush to realize I was blazing a trail alone when I thought I had been clearing a path toward a shared future. This time I was prepared. I had traded my machete for a telescope. No surprises. Saw it all coming. And besides, he is honest, he is honorable. But, for an actor, his timing sucks.

Maybe that's the point, the lesson. When the time together is perfect, perhaps the timing doesn't have to be. And complete doesn't mean finished and over doesn't mean done. But having resolve doesn't mean a damn thing is resolved.

As a matter of fact, the whole thing has left me fairly conflicted. I've found myself for the first time in a long time feeling things, real things, for someone—self-preservation prevents me from assigning value descriptors to those feelings. But in addition to making me want to be near him, those feelings make me want the best for him, for him to live his dreams. For the very first time ever though, I'm not willing to put my dreams on hold for someone else, won't postpone a moment of what I want. And what I want, one of the things I want most, is to share my life with someone. Maybe just cooking a meal together, loading up the dishwasher afterward, watching television together—soaking my foot in a bucket of salt water. But not just over a three-day fantasy. Thanks to those three days, I know it is more than just a fantasy. But I do need it to be real.

So, instead of going looking for something, instead of taking a step in the right direction, I'll just take a step in a different direction, go it alone for a step or two, and look for what's right for me along the way. And perhaps, sometime when the timing is right. . .

While I'm at it, I've decided to take yet another step, another different direction. This marks my final entry on this beloved blog. It has been a dream come true. No fantasy this—just pure, perfect virtual reality. A safe space to speak my mind week after week has left me scratching my head on more than one occasion, wondering if, when my mind first learned to speak, English was its second language. Regardless, it has been a joy telling a couple of stories, tossing off a couple of jokes, and hanging some tear-soaked hopes and hurts out to dry. But standing here at the corner of Walk/Don't Walk, I'm ready to cross with the light. Not sure what's on the other side of the street; but whatever is there, I want to focus on it. So, rather than let my commitment to this blog languish, I've decided to say good-bye, knowing full well that I don't know what that means.

Life coming full circle as it does, I find myself about to hit the Post button as the hyper-Epsomed water turns cold; and the only next step that's certain is ripping off this fucking toenail, then unloading the dishwasher and closing the cabinet door on a fantasy.

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