What does loving someone feel like?

What does loving someone feel like?

I asked myself this. Again and again. I was younger, not much younger, and I hadn’t yet felt what my heart was capable of. I have learned something since then. It was accidental learning; it was unlessoned learning, it seems like it is a knowledge which landed on me suddenly and from somewhere else.

I’m glad it did. I’m better for it. I never wanted to spend the rest of my life wrapped in the skills I had acquired hiding from pain and abuse. They came in handy as I sat cross-legged in the backyard with my brother listening to police sirens blare by our front door. I became skilled at receding, at ignoring, at crying without caring I was crying, at feeling merciless, a merciless daughter refusing to blame a father, refusing to hate a mother, refusing to feel for fear of feeling the wrong things. I was skilled at saving my pain up until the right moment, so I was never crippled, so I could always succeed, or appear to succeed. I was skilled at surviving. Watching my brother just barely survive. I could turn my love for my father off as if it were tied to a switch because doing so helped me turn off the self-doubt and the self-hatred which he insisted I keep. And I am skilled today, at rerouting my own emotions, as if my neural pathways are railway tracks. It is so simple for me to pull a lever and welcome anger instead of sadness. Apathy instead of heartbreak. I am still skilled at that. There is a process for it. I wonder if the process is unique to me, or how many others can understand it. It is like a wave; it starts in the back of my head, and then moves forward to where my forehead is. This stops the crying. The wave moves down my neck, easing the tightness, and into my chest, easing my lungs. This stops the feeling. The process only takes two to three seconds. And then I talk and my voice is normal and clear; and then I walk and my hands are not shaking; and then I can choose exactly when to reverse the process and pay the price for doing it.

I believe that during the worst of it all I went months at a time washed out like this. I thought it was funny how easy it was to exist in this state, and I congratulated myself on it. I thought my face looked funny in the mirror, a hard line at my lips and even, unblinking eyes.

I had a recurring desire to scream my lungs out. But I could never find the right place. If I screamed in the streets the lights in the houses would turn on and someone would call the police. If I screamed in a field a jogger would try to save me and stop me. If I screamed in my house, in my school, in a restaurant, I would never get away with it. Sometimes I tried- they were silent screams filled with air. My fists would ball and my mouth would widen until my jaw popped and wouldn’t un-pop, and the veins in my neck would bulge over the sound of a whisper. Other times I indulged in half-formed, nervous screams which could be muffled by my pillow. I didn’t want to be found out. I only allowed myself one or two good shrieks, grinded out between my teeth; toes curling. And there was the one time I guess I left my body. The screams left my mouth without my permission, without my command. My aunt was in the car with me. She must have been afraid. But I only felt regret, afterwards, that my consciousness had returned and stopped me from continuing.

But I’ll tell you something. I found victory, years after that. I used my body to carry me across a spit of land onto the point of an island; step after step along the caldera, until I reached a small white church on the top of a hill. And in front of this church was a ledge and I climbed that ledge. And there was no one around; no one around for a mile, and more perfectly there was a strong wind which battered my body and made me fear for my life on the ledge above the water. And I stood there- I stood my ground against that wind while the sun was setting and turning my vision orange, wind, hair covering my eyes, turning my vision black, and I finally did scream my lungs out.

I screamed and whooped and shrieked and was not afraid that someone would hear me. I heard me. And it was a sound I had been wanting to release for almost my whole life. No one could take it away from me. Only the wind; which did, it swept the sound far out over the sea seconds after it passed through my ears. And I thank the wind for letting me hear every decibel, and for being wise enough to know they shouldn’t be allowed to linger. Below me I could see a town called Oia, and I screamed and screamed and wanted them to be afraid, wanted them to believe there was a banshee in their hills by their church far above their houses, wanted someone to turn from their work to listen for a still second, wondering if they had heard something in the air. I wanted the cars winding by the coast on the other side of the point to hear me and know they could do nothing to reach me.

And I’ll tell you something else. I found victory, a year before that, over my heartlessness. I fell in love for the first time. And that love was a physical feeling too, but unlike a wave. Like a dust, a light, a shimmering cloud of spores or particles. It is a different process. It starts somewhere near my ribcage and proceeds to fill my whole chest like a vessel. And then it collects, until it forms its own vortex, as in a wind tunnel, which grips my heart and pulls it towards my lover. And that’s what loving someone feels like, physically feels like, which I regard when I look in the mirror, and see my rounded lips and kind eyes smiling back at me.

My old skills are vestiges of a life before love; and I use them without meaning to in the same way that people check their doorsteps for dead people. And I hate the wave and how easy it is to feel everything being washed away. It is so much easier to live with resentment than disappointment. But now every time I turn my feelings off I am more and more afraid I will get stuck that way, or perhaps, the worst fear of all, that this is my natural state and that love is the learned behavior. But I know which one I pored over and cultivated. I know which one I practiced over and over it again. It makes it harder to get rid of. But now I know what the alternative is- now I’ve finally felt it. Unlearning this will be difficult. But I’m in luck. Unfeeling my love can only ever be impossible. /

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The power has gone out in my Spanish apartment

The power has gone out in my Spanish apartment. The lights are off, the cords are not charging anything, the elevator has stalled, and inside the fridge, the strawberries are molding faster by small increments, waiting for small wisps of room-temperature air to seep in.

In the hallways I hear the echoing clangs of dissatisfied Spaniards, opening their doors, stepping into the hallway and finding that there is no one there, who would, perhaps, attend to the problem, and, satisfied in their dissatisfaction, going back inside. I hear them clang again every few minutes. But perhaps they are only looking for neighbors to lament with, as it is our common experience. I admit that I myself voyaged out, barefooted, to stubbornly press the elevator button again and again and see that it did not light up.

Outside it has started raining.

I wonder how many of my neighbors are also awake at almost-midnight, how many besides the dissatisfied Clangers. How many are shocked at the timing of the weather.

When the lights come on, maybe 40 minutes later, it scares me more than the first time.

I tuck myself out of bed and go to check on the ice cream.

free form

I certainly do enjoy

Walking into a classroom with

Sex hair, and

A red nose, and red-rimmed

Eyes, because

I’ve been crying, I’ve been

Crazy, it’s been

Quite the day and you

Wouldn’t believe and,

Don’t need to know:

I am

Working through shit

And I’m

Waltzing past

your wandering eyes

Because

Power

Is sexy, and freedom

In crying

Is sexy, is healthy,

More important,

I can have both

I can cope

However

I want.

It took almost a year to realize-

Experience dictates that love is:

something that you must save.

/over/

Something you have in abundance,

ready to be given away.

A gift

/over/

Admission, an

Acceptance

/over/

Explosion.

Temptation, over

A tide, a

beginning

/A/

beginning;

Love

reveals how beautiful a love is:

which can make different people

be loved

in the same way that they are in love.

Shudder

When he died, it was on a corner near a dozing shopping mall, half-shelled and hulled of its meat, its people, filled only with caged storefronts and empty vats for melting cheese. The lights on the street-side had been dim for years but in morning they were nearly transparent. That morning he stood, and waited, with the lights to his back. He wanted someone to get there.

The whole thing had happened so early that it seemed it was the earliest it ever would be. I mean, it seemed like that hour had been specifically set aside for his death. Nothing else breathed or moved in the world at that time. There was only Andrew, and the car.

I don’t waste spare moments contemplating the mode, the method, operandi, operatory. It is easy enough to assume. Yes, there was alcohol. Yes, there was sidewalk. Yes there was blood on sidewalk yes there was.

That’s not what’s important here.

Okay?

I know what important things are.

For instance, I loved him- you could call that “important.” I loved him in a way that made my life different; and changed the shape of my body. I could feel the cavernous hole in my chest getting bigger to take in more love for him. I could feel it getting bigger and bigger, sucking my blood vessels into a whirlpool with a big wet smacking POP.

My love wasn’t a bad thing, though. It just took a lot,

and was very large.

Alright?

 

Andrew was known for his stories.

He was a writer in a way I never could be, always twisting and yarning and crafting his words. He loved to say we were different people, like the two scientists who were responsible for learning how to grow lima beans in space. Don’t ask me how he came up with this stuff.

One moment, it would just occur to him.

“Casp!” he’d say, “We’re inventors. We invented the first bendable stovepipe and now we’re millionaires!”

I’d laugh, and kiss his forehead, and speak with a fancy rich accent for the rest of the day. Our imaginations were the best part of us; they took us through a lot. I liked that he could always be in love with me, no matter what we did or where we lived or which millionaires we were that day. There was something comforting about pretending to be someone else. Maybe it was like falling in love with him all over again, each time.

Our sex became stories, too. The dueling warlords who fought with their cocks, the professor and the schoolboy. There were times when I missed the two of us, but it was almost easier that way. Our stories were exciting. Our lives could sometimes be plain.

What struck me through all this, though, was the time Andrew talked about his grave.

“I’m not shuddering, Casper, I’m shivering. I just get that sometimes.”

“You don’t have to have a seizure every time. You freak me out when you do that.”

“You know how they say when you shiver, it’s someone walking on your grave?”

“I guess.”

Andrew’s eyes started to sparkle, his writerly hands on my shoulders, he said “I think I’m going to have a very popular grave.”

He meant that he was going to be famous, of course. He saw hordes of pilgrims winding up a mountain road, bringing well-loved copies of his books and leaving tokens by his headstone. He saw generations of readers and literature-lovers kneeling in the soft dirt of his burial mound until it was reduced to sand and then dust. He thought maybe his place of death would be a point of interest, someday. I loved the way he could think.

It didn’t turn out that way, obviously. He was cremated, so I guess you could say his grave was where he died: where the wooden roadside cross sat spiked into the grass for exactly 27 days before it broke apart or disappeared. It was that corner, where he waited for a friend, where a friend just up and killed him. It got built over.

The drowsy mall became a vacant lot and the vacant lot became condos, and when the condos went decrepit they put trees and a park there instead. The park was slowly invaded by biking paths that became road crossings and a new mall was built around them, this time with elevators like drive-through bank tubes and shiny stainless counters over which passed melted cheese. It’s a busy place, a popular place, that brings new money into the neighborhood. There is no grass to spike in American flags, wreaths, or photos.

I miss him all the time so I go there, anyway. I buy the soft pretzel with a lemonade and cross the street to sit on a bench. The people passing are reading trashy novels and probably only smoke out of rigid pipes; they traipse back and forth all day and into the early morning. They stream into the mall and out again, and in, and out.

I wish it didn’t turn out this way. I am reminded that it’s really hard to love someone.

Andrew’s grave, it turns out, is a crosswalk.