October 16, 1995
While in college I managed to fall over my feet while running down a shallow grade from my college apartment toward the parking lot. I managed to tear up my knee a bit, shredding a perfectly good pair of jeans in the process. It's indication of how bad my knee was that I was more annoyed at the loss of a pair of pants then the throbbing scrape that looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to the joint -- shallow, and more gruesome to look at than more serious wounds. I had more important things going on at the time, so I finished what I needed to do that night (a whole other story in itself) and went home and thoroughly cleaned and bandaged the wound.
When your young, you're stupid. I'm sorry, it's not a maturity thing, or even experience: It's just the nature of your head, the inability to sort out sexual obsession from reality. I loved her with a passion that propelled me forward like my back to a hurricane, Gloria sailing me forward down the Long Island expressway, the water warm and powerful, yet strangely nurturing to my soul in ways only that wild freedom could bring. It was a freedom from fear, a certainty that it was all going to be right and good. When she tripped me with her reality, one far different from mine, I refused to believe the wind was blowing me where I wanted to go any longer. Fighting it got me slapped across the face by flying objects, slammed into buildings, lost in a maelstrom where nothing would ever be the same.
It seemed to heal a lot more slowly than I was used to. I decided it was probably because it was such and irregular scrap, and in a place that tended to rub even while bandaged. After a month I had some new pink skin, but the knee still throbbed occasionally.
It wasn't like I hadn't been heart broken before. I've certainly been heartbroken since, as life will do that to you on occasion. A lot of people forget that the largest portion of all grieving is the sound of your heart breaking, and that many things other than romantic love can do it. I've lost friends to cancer, earth quakes, auto accidents, a suicide and AIDS -- and the pain of their loss is still with me, and always would be. After a time, even the strong sense of the hole she left in my life subsided, though I wondered why it took so damn long. All those other heartbreaks came and went, left their mark, and I moved on. And so I thought I had with her.
Six weeks (and a lifetime) later I woke up and went to get dressed to work. I remember swinging my legs over the side of the bed. I don't think I did more than bend that knee before the white flash of the most incredible pain bolted it's way up my thigh and into my eyes, obscuring my vision. I remember hearing a noise that sounded like me swearing shrilly with that detached feeling of someone who was blacking out.
I walked into a Cafe in San Francisco, 10 years and 2,700 miles from that piercing that left me so unsteady and confused for so long. In a strange sort of way the close quarters, the dim lights, and the candles made the whole thing even more surreal as she stood there and read the poem she had written for the Magazine who's benefit I was attending. I refused to believe it, thinking I had lapsed into a waking nightmare of some sort, rather than confront the insanity of her being there. It was a coincidence that Dickens would have been ashamed of, to have her standing there not ten feet away. I decided I was mistaken - After all, this person had a different name, a different haircut, wore glasses, had tattoos, whereas she didn't. It took a mutual acquaintance revealing that connection to convince me, and I felt the world slip from me. I lost consciousness for the first time my knee almost burst from infection that cold January morning in New Jersey. Now the pain was far deeper than that. As I came to blinking, the words on my lips were "Not here. She can't be here." repeated over and over, first loudly, then under my breath as my friend told me of how she had broken her heart as she had mine.
I was with my soon to be ex-wife (we were due to be married that September), who promptly realized something was wrong as my eyes rolled back into my head and I collapsed. When I came too, I looked down to see that my knee had, in less than 8 hours, swelled to twice it's normal size, and an angry red streak was already well up the thigh.
You may not believe it, but you don't know yourself as well as you think. There are a handful of individuals so self introspective that they have a complete picture of their minds on tap, some to the point that they can re-wire their reality if they choose to. The rest of us mortals have some dusty corners, even whole roomfuls of debris and garbage layered over years of neglect. Therapy and counseling go a long way in "taking the garbage out", as Frank, one of the first counselors I ever dealt with of my own free will, would say. It's a never ending job, just like real housework. If you keep at it, you achieve a balance you can live with. Here was a room, however, where a pipe had burst, and nothing so annoying as a water pipe. I had lost a sewer main in a sub basement, and the lower levels were filling to the brim with an onslaught of psychic shit.
I'm not your usual sheltered intellectual type. I've been seriously injured more times than I care to remember, but I had never been in so much pain as to black out before, even when I managed to break my arm and dislocated my shoulder while skateboarding at the age of 14. Then there was that botched spinal tap, and even THAT didn't hurt this much. The red streak was a definite sign of blood poisoning, and it had something to do with that fall over 2 and a half months earlier.
Damage control was instituted immediately. The support network went into action, and I had to confront the rush of feelings I didn't think I still had. It didn't help that this was the same time I was being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperkinetic Disorder and was already trying to reorder my present life while examining my past in a new context. But I had to heed the warning signs, and try to deal with the situation, which began to deteriorate as we kept encountering each other in odd ways. We were walking similar paths, writing and contributing in the same circles, circling each other like two asteroids sucked into the same orbit. I wondered how this could work, how I could keep exploring the worlds that I had found in the last five years if there was always this "threat" of encountering her again, either in print, online, or in person.
After a very delicately arranged transport to the emergency room, I was even more nervous at the fact that I was seen immediately. This meant it was as bad as I thought it was.
Finally, I tried to deal with her directly. I guess I was hoping for detente, or even the chance to just be friendly towards each other. She was cool, of course, in that politely chilly way that people get when they want to avoid dealing with you. I thought that, after I hung up the phone, that would be that.
It turned out that, through a freak of angle and direction, a small piece of unsoluable gravel had lodged itself under the skin of the wound like a splinter. Even though I had been very thorough in my care of the knee, wincing as I cleaned and disinfected it, I never knew that rock was there. The original wound healed, but the body eventually lost it's fight against the rock, barely the size of two or three grains of sand. The red streak up my leg acted like a road map whose source was damn near ready to kill me.
I almost managed to close that wound over again. I pumped that basement room out completely, then neglected to replace the pipe, or even cap it. I can imagine where I would be if I had managed to succeed. But I've always noticed that the universe will whap you, hard, if you try to buck that wind, if only in hindsight. In this case I was deluged by her presence about three, four weeks after that last call. I finally felt the dam burst at about 3 am on the saturday when she was published, referring to me as her "best friend's boyfriend" in an article that insinuated that her first girl/girl experience had me as a minor player. Never one to cover up my past I felt like it was the last straw, being blue lined out of her past that way. The woman had interacted with my other girlfriend, her best friend, minimally -- her focus was me, and repeatedly so. I was incredibly angry that she could be so cheesy as to buy into that gender war tactic of denying that she ever had a serious relationship with a man, or that it never mattered. It mattered to her, differences in the end not withstanding, and it sure as hell mattered to me.
A shot of serious antibiotics directly into the knee, some serious pain killers, and the whole thing cleared up in a weeks time.
Imagine doing the wrong thing. I'm imagining it now. I'm imagining the stupid things, fear driven idiocy induced by my own sense of failure. Failure at what? What do I care if she doesn't? Why should I care about it anymore?
I've spent a great deal of my life fighting a disorder I didn't know I had, a disorder that many have succumbed to in ways that frighten me. They frighten me because I can understand how nice it must be to be so solipsistic and isolated that you are capable of horrid acts, acts that turn my stomach at the very idea that anyone else could ever make them something real.
Think about the fascination of horror, and how so often the root of evil is given a supernatural source. I believe with all my heart that's because we can't confront that evil is something created wholly of human beings, that no demon, no devil, no mysterious dark force was behind all of it.
The night after I read that article (in fact had it pointed out to me), I tried to ignore it and sleep. Actually managed to, for an hour or so. The I awoke, a lot like Bowie does in "The Hunger" -- suddenly wide awake, and the horrid realization that you are simply not going back to sleep. It almost feels like you're NEVER going back to sleep.
I stared at the ceiling, and realized I was plotting. It was thinking of all the ways I could "get" to her somehow. I was stunned at my own capability for damaging someone. Oh, not physically, as I couldn't deliberately hurt someone directly. I'm talking about the nasty stuff, things I could write, showing off my power. Yeah, just like some dickless macho testosterone poisoned type driving his jacked up 4x4 with the shotguns in the back window. The kind that rides on your butt on an otherwise empty 6 lane freeway while you're doing 70 because he get's a kick out of intimidating you to pull aside and let him by.
I got up and thought about that, feeling ashamed of myself for even considering being that infantile, sitting on the back porch feeling the warm breeze. It helped to clear my head, but I still felt like I was going to burst.
It was three AM when I started the computer up to write the letter.
I had realized that I had to say something. Something I hadn't said during that phone call, the one arranged so she could be the one in control. I wasn't sure what I needed to say at first, so I told her of all the things that had happened that week that thrust her into my life. I talked about how we had met, and how that had set the tone for our entire relationship. I made it clear that I wasn't trying to annoy her, just make sense of it all.
And I realized two things. First, that she never said that she had no more feelings for me. Chances were that even if she did, she wouldn't admit them, even to herself.
The second was that it didn't matter.
I had feelings for her still, after all these years, and I didn't need to do a thing about it. It seems like a simple truth, a small one, but one that I hadn't quite grasped. All I had to do was admit to myself that I loved her, and if she wouldn't love me back or couldn't I would just let it be. This is the fact that countless stalkers and obsessive types never get, after all, so I feel somewhat relieved that I'm not afflicted with THAT disease on top of everything else! I wasn't interested in revenge, only one last affirmation of those feelings, and letting go.
I finished the letter, telling her this, and added a brief paragraph wishing her well in whatever she did or her life brought her. After about five minutes of thought where I struggled with what to do with the letter, whether I should just drag it to the trash or save it and call it even, I decided that it didn't matter, so I just sent it. I figured I would hear nothing or she would send me a nastygram back.
I got the nastygram about an hour ago. I think she missed that point, as she made a curt comment about how I should just find closure and not ever try to contact her again. Considering it was only the third time in 10 years, I thought she went a bit overboard. I guess she wanted to have the last word. And I'm sure she'll keep having it: Never, ever piss off a writer (especially one you've had sex with), because you'll be seeing yourself immortalized in print in ways that will make you cringe.
Me, I'm not pissed. In fact, the second the message went on it's way I realized that a major weight was gone, and I felt free. Even this story is not so much about her, as it is about me, and how I can think about the situation without feeling this fluttering in my heart. I'm sure the scar will be there, but it'll be like the others, and one that will just make me cherish the love in my heart more than ever, past, future, and especially the present.
The knee still gives me trouble from time to time. I have that classic thing happen where I get a good 24 hours notice of any major pressure change and storm.
When the storm passes it feels fine. Just fine
Last Modified: 9-Jan-03