In that Christmas letter.
I didn’t write about the rack of lamb I made with port wine glaze, risotto cakes, and roasted Brussels sprouts. I didn’t write about how the meal cooled while Caleb screamed at me in the kitchen. I didn’t write about how that Christmas Eve was the first night that Caleb hit me–fist connected with scalp–and as his fist punched into my head, I felt no pain. I felt only relief. I thought that he would finally stop.
But he didn’t stop. He never stopped.
I didn’t write about how we finally ate that rack of lamb. My face swollen, from tears and fist, but I ate that lamb. I said, “Isn’t this good?” I said, “Merry Christmas.” I said, “Thank you.”
On this past Friday, I saw scars on a friend’s arms. The summer sun had made them brighter. I hugged her, but I couldn’t take away her scars. I saw another woman write on Twitter late at night, “help me.” I thought of those scars, I thought of my own scars, I thought of this woman on Twitter begging for help from faceless people on the other end of the screen. I composed my own plea for help. In my own way, I said, “help me.” I posted it on Facebook.
A stranger writes to me that I am a “bad ass and unfuckwithable,” and all I can think is, “I am just asking for help.”
Living with Caleb’s cruelty brought out my own hardness in ways that have been difficult to lose.
I am either hard or soft.
I don’t want to be either.
Okay, I want to be hard. Given the choice, I want to be hard.
But I am more often soft.
My son says to me, “I know that Dad used to hit you. I could hear it.” My son says to me, “I was scared.” My son says to me, “Dad still yells at me, but not as much as he used to.” My son says to me, “I don’t think dad’s girlfriend would let him hit me.” My son says to me, “What if I don’t want to go to my dad’s anymore?”
My son says to me, But is it wrong that Dad hit you?
My son does not know that it is wrong that his dad hit me.
There is a rupture in the writing world, and people are in pain. I witness. All I can do is witness. To my own pain, and to others. I would like to rewrite these stories. I would like to rewrite the beginnings and the ends. I would like to rewrite my own story. Mostly, I would like to rewrite the middle. The middle is where the wound comes from. The middle still peels. The middle doesn’t heal. The end was okay. That part was fine. The beginning was okay too.
But that goddamn middle still stings.
A man I cared about, a river guide, said, “Relationships never last.” He said this while I was in his arms. I wanted it to last with him. It didn’t last. Three weeks later, we sat across from each other in a Mediterranean restaurant. He took the onions off of his salad. I scraped most of the lamb out of my moussaka. I told him he was a pessimist. He said, “I’m not a pessimist. I try really hard to be positive. Give me an example of my pessimism.”
I gave him the side eye instead.
I thought, “You are not positive. You are pain avoidant.”
I didn’t say that to him. I’m saying it here instead. He won’t read this because he is pain avoidant. Do you see how this works?
And I was sad to say goodbye to him, but I’m not very good at saying goodbye so I didn’t even really say goodbye. Hell, I heard from him this Friday.
I suck at saying goodbye.
I wanted to keep saying hello to him. I wanted to say hello all over the place with this guy.
And that end was sad, but it wasn’t traumatic. I am learning that there is a difference between sadness and trauma. I am learning to let myself feel my sadness. I am learning that feeling my sadness is part of what keeps it from turning into trauma.
I kissed another man this summer. (It was a wild summer for this single mom.) He was a man who reminded me of Caleb. Maybe that was why I was attracted to him, but I don’t want another Caleb. I don’t want another man with a red beard and a Hunter S. Thompson book on his coffee table.
That isn’t fair. He doesn’t even know Caleb. I said to him later, “I’m sorry that didn’t work out the way you wanted.” He was kind in return, so he’s probably nothing like Caleb. He’s only thirty; he’ll outgrow Hunter S. Thompson. But he looks like Caleb, and Caleb, who I used to find so attractive, is pure ugliness to me now. When I see Caleb, when he gets out of the car, I think to myself “You are so ugly.” I enjoy this feeling.
But sometimes I still dream of kissing him. Sometimes, those dreams are pleasant, and I don’t want to wake up from them.
I thought the river guide was the opposite of Caleb, but river guide has the exact same birthday as Caleb.
River guide said to me, “I don’t even believe in that stuff, but that is fucking creepy.”
River guide is a Gemini. Caleb is a Gemini.
Gemini is the twin, and I am trapped in between them.
After that final dinner with river guide, I got in my car and drove to New Mexico. On my drive, this song came on, and I wept. I wept to a cheesy pop song while the desert rushed by. When she sings, “You won’t see me fall apart.” Well, damn. I was falling apart.
I would like to rewrite my story. There was so much I didn’t write, but I’m writing it now. I would like to go back and write Caleb right out of my story. I would like to keep Reed (the love of my life) but write Caleb out of it. I would like to rewrite the part where the borders dissolve, the part where I say, “I no longer know where you end, and I begin.”
I would like to rewrite that as, “You end.”
I would like to rewrite that as, “I begin.”