Dear Ex Lover – for DraftSpace April
I’m writing this to tell you that I am okay. I wonder where you are and what you’re like, but I realize my idea of you is three years old. I remember you in blips: when you were kind or when you were mean. At one time, one won over the other and this would inform me if I should be loving or cold towards you. But at the end of our run, it was chaos in my head. I had a tornado in my heart, I had to ruin everything. I’ve done some housekeeping since then, have you?
In the first year of being alone, there was the space in my bed. I went to a children’s store and bought a teddy bear, and it slept next to me. It was harder to fill the other spaces: There were things we laughed at and things we loved. I would look at anything at all, and my idea of that thing would be what we would have formed together.
I started writing because they say writing is therapy. I was willing to do anything to get better, because it was assumed that I was broken. Did you have to do anything to feel better?
I wrote a few short stories and some had no men in them. Because I could not write the character of a man without parts of you leaking in. I read one at a monthly reading my friend Raina hosts. It was called “Dinner”: a mom and daughter travel far into the jungles of Borneo to find a restaurant that serves human meat for you to eat. Everyone in the story was a woman, so someone came up after I read to ask if it was a feminist tale. I walked away because I did not know how to explain myself. I did not want to surrender to this stranger a door to my head. I am afraid they will spend some time rummaging and find you in there, and then they will want to dismantle you and rebuild you into something new.
Another day, I was walking home and passed by a busy road. A car had stopped right in the middle and it was about to be pulled away by a towing truck. This car belonged to four adolescent boys. I looked at their faces. They did not look worried or sorry, but they looked like they were having fun. Smiling and laughing. Then I recalled you as a boy and the sad woman you had as a mother. You had three younger siblings to take care of, when your mother chose to stay inside herself. You made up games to occupy the kids, so they could be noisy and reckless as kids should be. I knew about this much later in our relationship. But the first time we met, you said your brothers were “artists” and you were ashamed by it, do I recall this correctly? I guess artists – writers, painters, whatever – you’ve always thought that they see the world in the way they want to see the world, and not how the world really is.I know some part of you thinks you’re responsible for your brothers, you think you should have not distracted them with games. I think of the boys with the broken car, stuck in the middle of traffic, and how they had their laughter to fall back on. I wish I could laugh about losing you, say if I were to find myself stranded in the middle of a dessert and knowing I would die the next day, I wish I could spend those last hours just laughing to myself.
For a whole year after you left, I had lost a sense of home. I came across a Sylvia Plath poem and made a temporary nest of it. There’s a line that goes “I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed, and sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.” I see now that it was okay for me to live in madness for a while. I always wanted to find you or banish you, because without you, I felt like someone who had been dropped out of her story.
A while ago I adopted a kitten and I had it for six hours. I took it home and cleaned it. It shivered for minutes after, so I bundled it in a towel and hugged it like a child. Then it went around my apartment, meowing and meowing. At 3am when the rest of the world was quiet, the meowing was all that was left. I was afraid someone would bang on my door because of the noise. What would I do then? Strangle the kitten? Flush it down the toilet? I could not sleep. Finally I put the cat in a box and went to my car. I went to a park nearby, the one we used to go in the evenings for jogging, do you remember? At this time, t was dark and noone was there. I opened the box, expecting the cat to leap out and scurry away, but it huddled quietly in a corner. I took it out and tried to put it down, it clawed to my fingers and did not let go. I shook my arm violently and it hit the ground. It looked at me, still with that panicked face. I crouched to look at it, and spent some time trying to understand what it meant, what this cat wanted from me. And then I got up, turned around and drove away.