Sunday, September 17, 2006

Who's Going to Watch Me Die?

My girlfriend and I have broken up . . .

The actual event seems weird and far off even though it happened only a little over a week ago. She showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly. I hadn't seen her in over two months as she was out of the state on an extended business trip. She had no overnight bag. Her parents were supposed to be getting off a plane 300 miles away and she was supposed to be picking them up. I was supposed to be driving to see her that weekend to have dinner in celebration of her birthday. This was supposed to be a happy time with hugs and gifts and kisses and laughter. Instead, we needed to talk.

What was said in her short visit is for the two of us and any recounting of it would turn what I want to say into reportage. There's no comfort but false comfort in reporting the facts and I have a feeling I'd be fishing for allies. My reaction has surprised me and I want to make sense of my thoughts now.

Which are what, exactly?

I don't feel like someone who has just lost the love of his life, although Emily has certainly been that. I've felt both shockingly cast aside and euphorically liberated. I'm stuck in a tiny Texas town replete with a Sonic, Dodge 3500s, and a palatable absence of young, intelligent females. But I don't have to wait for Emily anymore. I don't have to wonder anymore.

In feeling this way, I have to concede things weren't right; at least not as they should be for two people contemplating marriage. We have broken up before, and at that time I couldn't experience anything beyond my own loss. My meltdown was nuclear and the ensuing panic has left me with memories I would rather forget. I have been much more philosophical this time and much more willing to grieve a relationship that ended for the right reasons.

I was listening to a song today and one of the lyrics is, " Love is watching someone die." I thought about my mother and grandfather and the long months they spent with my grandmother as she slipped away. My grandfather, the cavernous and intimidating voice of my youth, stooped for hours over my grandmother in her last days and whispered to her in a tender and vulnerable voice as he gentley helped her drink from a sponge. My mother became my grandmother's mother and attended to her in the same selfless and loving way she attended to me when I was young and ill; stroking her forehead and adjusting her pillows.

I thought about the car accident I witnessed when I was in college and the urgency I felt to help. I thought about the girl's head I held in my hands and the pieces of her skull I tried to keep in place; about the blood around her and how thick and fake it looked. I thought about how I whispered to her, even though I knew she was dying, "You're going to be alright, Sweety" because that's what my mom would have said to me. I remember thinking, years later, I have never loved anyone as much as I loved that girl in those few minutes and I didn't realize why until I heard the song today.

I thought Emily would be that person for me and I would be that person for her. I suppose there's a difference between thinking it and wanting it. Did I want to be that person for her and did she want to be that person for me? I don't know. I'm not saying I didn't love her or that I don't love her, but you have to be sure. Love is watching someone die.

Which begs the question . . .


Rachel said...

Beautiful. I'm speechless.

rookie teacher said...

I cried when I read this.