We have an idea of goodbyes

I am watching the coffee stain my fingers as you lay dying on the gravel.

It is a morning of bright blue promise. The breakfast show host is laughing at his own joke and I smile at the television without hearing the punch line.  Next up a story on how most women do not wear the right size bra. I feel my left breast, it seems perfectly at home within its wire cup as my elbow knocks the coffee jar to the floor.

The crack of glass against tile – is this the moment the knife plunges through skin and muscle? When I bend down are you sinking to your knees as 6-inch metal severs vessel from vein? How is it that I do not feel a thing as I sweep the granules of coffee from the floor? How do I not struggle for breath as blood pools around the blade and the sky floods with red? As your body makes its last struggles at life and I watch water turn to rust on my fingers – how is it that I do not feel anything at all?

You went for an early run along the river. I did not even know you were here. I have stopped wondering where you are; as we each greet the day I am unaware of your proximity. It has taken me three months to stop looking for you everywhere. I would normally be by your side on a morning like this.

The moon must still be out when you start off, determined to hold back the day. They say you came across them arguing, that as you approached you saw him grab her by the hair. You have never forgotten the woman next door, the one you didn’t save, and I know you would have seen in this an offer at redemption.

Did you yell at him to stop, did you barrel forward and push her out of the way? I can see you running, see you in those last solid moments. Striding along the gravel track, side-stepping ducks and over-hang. And then the bridge, where they are. But here it stops.

I know he followed her. I know he had been watching and waiting for weeks, building his anger on her absence. She was running too, the other way, when he found her. And you got between them. You put your body between the trembling woman and this raging man. A shove, a punch – he will say you provoked him. You struggle, the yelling attracts runners above on the bridge, but it is too late when he reaches down, when he plunges in. Self-defence he will say, but you never left a mark as the thrust destroys the delicate machinery of your heart. She is screaming at him to stop. She will need stitches to the slicing of her hands as she tries to save you. But the force of his anger has found a target, and a lifetime of loss and misery reduces yours to a final minute.

And then he is the one to run, as you breathe out blood and she tries to stop you up. You lay in this woman’s arms, a stranger covered in your blood as she screams over your silence. By the time the sirens can be heard you are dead on the ground. I do not feel a thing.

We have an idea of goodbyes. We will run alongside a train until the platform gives out. We will stay in each other’s arms until they tear us apart. We make linoleum cathedrals of hospital rooms – we hold hands through tubes and machines, we stay next to the bed all through the night. We fix our eyes on that plane as it taxis away – we wave at the hand in the small window because it just might be you and it doesn’t even matter because until you leave the ground you are still here, you haven’t really gone away. Even when the plane takes flight and our insides fall, we keep looking up. We swear we can still see your hand pressed against the window, right until we can no longer make out metal from sky.

We have an idea of goodbyes. We are supposed to be present in the final moments. We are supposed to know what is happening to us, and how. As we part we are meant to feel the potent chemicals of loss take hold, to feel the ache of separation flood through our veins. We are meant to realise the tragedy of our ending.

How is it possible that I did not feel a thing?

Joanne Piechota image at body, remember

The above is an extract from body, remember that I am taking a deep breath and sharing for the first time today. Thank you for reading!

Image by Joanne Piechota at Little Expeditions.

I want …

… 
  1. to never be a damsel, even in my deepest distress
  2. to forgive my past and forget yours
  3. to honour my instinct for the fight, not flight
  4. to never know my place
  5. to be good without god
  6. to never add guilt to my pleasures
  7. to be the one who says why not?
  8. to collect more words every day
  9. to always feel small when I look at the moon
  10. to play this game with wine and dice
  11. to never, ever settle down
  12. to see the glass full, and in my hand
  13. to be the last to fall asleep
  14. to love you because, and not despite
  15. to tell the truth – or a better version
  16. to reserve the right to change my mind
  17. to never consider my reputation
  18. to make mistakes, and make them well
  19. to dance whether or not you watch
  20. to be brave enough to let it go
  21. to lose my head over my heart
  22. to challenge what you call reason
  23. to never hold back ready tears
  24. to sink my teeth right in, and bite
  25. to show you just what women I can do …

Rock Bublitz at body, remember

“I hope that you choose not to be a lady”

Nora Ephron


Respite

You say – your body is so beautiful.  And I think living under the sea must do strange things to a man – but I look to see, just the same.

Sheets lifted, a coy appraisal of flesh marinated in the salt and oil of a borrowed summer, this skin I will shed in the grey back home. The chipped red of holiday nails, grains of sand in the curve of my foot, nerves that still pulse in flexing toes. Pliant muscles and the startling white of hidden parts. The ways the ocean has left its mark.

You can’t keep your hands off my fault lines – they start their journey over as I kick off the sheets. You taste of rum and cherries as the tremors build, and you say my body is beautiful when it breaks apart again.

You are not the only one who has emerged from the deep (we are both made beautiful in the early morning light).

Hawaii at body, remember

Definitions (Part 2)

Consent at body, remember blog

You lay beneath me and tell me you do not consent.

You do not consent.

To my love, to my offer, to my body. To be clear – you do not permit, and you do not approve. It is in the open now. The discord of our engagement. How every consummation brings its own kind of war, a battle against the impassive slaughter of your retreat. I have advanced a thousand times – but now, in an instant, I surrender.

You do not consent.

Sentir - to feel

You cannot consent. 

To consent you would have to feel. And you never felt a thing.

Even when your ship was sinking, even as you crashed against the rocks, you were silent and stoic in your disintegration. I watched you drown and barely gasp for air. You never warmed against my mouth, you never cried out in your return. I brought you back to life and you did not make a sound. You merely scratched at my surface, and hardened your own.

We did not feel a single thing together.

(Not even when I walked away).

Only connect

You are not the first to say it. I have encountered a variation on this theme my whole life. Never at the beginning – rather, it seems to come as something of a surprise, arriving with the first disagreement, the first negation. When I lose that dreamy quality to reveal I have in fact been listening all along. It somehow feels like a trick – my personality sleight of hand.

Challenging. You say I am challenging. Not a challenge – no that has a different connotation altogether. That suggests some sort of game to be played, a battle to be fought and won. You can prepare for a challenge –  it belongs squarely  in your understanding of the world – you always could stay the course. But a challenging woman – that presents another risk entirely.

You find me confronting. My honesty in particular – which I thought was merely conversation. It gets us into trouble time and again after those first blinkered weeks. I am barely at the beginning of us, the unraveling is why I am here but you want to press pause, to keep your impression of my best parts. Like a painting best viewed at a distance, I will distort if you get too close. This is how you like your art.

Perhaps I should have left you sooner – left you with your pretty picture. I certainly would have come off better – the girl that could have been, the one that got away. You would have never known my contradictions, my lightening temper, the knife-edge of my discontent. I would have been the curious, compassionate lover, not the difficult, demanding shrew. But you placed the pedestals opposite each other, and I climbed right down from both.

You have an idea of women, I know. All the things we are meant to be. We are allowed to feel passion when the one who reaps the reward is you. But if we provoke, if we poke holes in your sanctimony, if we catechise – it’s challenging. It isn’t nice. And nice is what you go home to. I am reminded of this every day.

But here’s what I know better than you. We each contain multitudes – the glimmers and sparks of disparate parts. Every effort to confine our contradictions is a disconnect. Not just from each other, but from our own essential nature – a far worse schism when the lights go out. You have to look up close, you have to examine the inconsonance in any character.  That is where the honest individual resides. Every cell connected. The sum greater than even its nicest parts.

(They have told you lies about the human experience. It is always, always worth challenging).

Rock Bublitz by Joanne Piechota

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.

Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,

and human love will be seen at its highest.

Live in fragments no longer. Only connect …

EM Forster, Howard’s End

Image by Joanne Piechota.

Vows

In acting class we would say I love you as an exercise. Playing with these three words- each short, sharp syllable – to explore just what the combination could express. Not for us the softness of affirmation, the sweetness of an offer. When you say I love you its meaning can completely change dependent on the stress. With the right inflection it becomes – a declaration. A question. A refutation. Include a quiver, a crack, a pause – and the delivery transforms the message. As a turning point in any relationship we learnt that I love you could take you anywhere.

So perhaps it is not who says I love you first, but how it is said that determines where it will direct your relationship. Take our moment. I don’t say I love you – I shout it. We are in the thick of a party and yet quietly apart – we have become masters of this illusion throughout our first year. All around us the soundtrack of celebration, glasses clinking, laughter and music competing. I swear that right as the words reach you a bravo echoes from the corner. A waiter passes – I take one wine then another, a glass grasped in each hand to face your mute response.

I have surprised us both. Uttered a truth neither of us knew, and now we have no idea what to do with it. You are stony silent and I am afraid, but you only stumble with such words once, and so I try again. No shouting this time. No frustration or sense of attack. In a room of 300 people too busy to notice, I quietly make my vow. You do not say it back. You do not refute my offer, but you do not affirm it either. You merely take one of the wines, touch my cheek and turn away. I have altered our balance and nothing will ever be the same.

That night you push me into the arms of another where I quickly discover I do not have the heart for this kind of revenge. I leave this man in his undressing, with a sorry and a story – I’m in love with someone, you see – as if I have known it all along. To his credit he helps me button my coat. You leave with someone too – nothing happened you will tell me later, but I’m not sure that I believe you, even now.

(The word love evolved from the Neolithic leubh. A core meaning of leubh was to ‘approve of’, itself a variation on ‘to believe’. Belief – beleubh – is therefore in close relation to love. They are linked in our evolution and we are destined to stumble over both from this night on.)

I will repeat my vow many times in the coming years. I am not sure you ever understand any better than that first night. So let me explain something. This love was never patient or kind. It is not the love of your good book. (Eros never even gets a mention there in fact – no wonder you had no idea what to do with it, or how at all to believe). But my love is sacred all the same. To say it was to make a solemn promise – as real as any wedding vow – that I would love you always.

And when you saw me in every storm, when you found me in your sunrise and your rooftop nights, when you read me in each poem, each lyric shared … when you wrapped me round every nerve, when you sought out beauty and arrived at my name – though you never, ever said it, I sometimes believe you loved me too.

I Love You Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton

“I am forever punished by the gods for being given a fire and trying to put it out.

The fire of course is you.” Richard Burton      

The memory of stars

It has been suggested that memories exist only to enable an understanding of the future. That by its very design the act of remembering keeps us facing forward. The same regions of our brain that light up in a moment of reflection also fizz and spark when we foretell. Suspended between these two states – by what has been and what just might be – our souvenirs become our guideposts. It is memory that ensures we look both ways.

If I cannot imagine a future with you there, what does this mean for my past? What happens to who we were, and how we were together? To the woman I was in your arms? Can she survive the loss of her best parts? And do I erase just a little more each time I dream of what comes next? I hold a most reluctant desire for tomorrow when I think of all that I must leave behind.

And you. I so often asked you to tell me – what do you remember? Even in the earliest glow – tell me what you remember. Was I trying to ensure my place in your future? Was I lighting the path for you to follow? Perhaps I had an instinct for how this works, for how re-telling the past ensures its survival.

And you said once – I remember every day. You told me that you remembered every day. This was the single safest place you ever took me, the lighthouse of that sentence. It sheltered me for years. Even when we stopped emitting our glow.

Did you know that the light we see from certain stars is really just the past finally reaching us? That for the stars furtherest away, the light reaches out through time to show us what was – even when that star no longer exists? So many times when we look up it is simply the memory of stars we see written across the night sky. A memorial to the past can be seen in every constellation. Sometimes the entire sky is lit up by all the stars that used to be.

Which is why I look up when I want to find you.

Rock Bublitz at body, remember blog

– an elegy for our stars.