Tuesday, June 23, 2020


She's gone. Really, really gone from me.

I slept some, walked through the cemetery at 1:30 a.m., tried to go back to sleep around 5 a.m., but laid in bed staining my new pillowcase with mascara-infused tears until 7 a.m. I had therapy scheduled with W— for 9 a.m., but I called in a cancellation. I’m too raw to therapy today. I’m scheduled with L— tomorrow. Hopefully by then these dry-heaving, air-gasping spells will subside.

My folly is that I’m too trusting, too hopeful. Like the time I wanted so desperately to be included in the comradery of the neighborhood kids that I took my green ceramic piggybank across the street to where they played, popped the cork on the bottom, and offered up the contents so that Shelly, John, Greg, Rob, and Aaron would like me. I was probably five or six. They let me stand by them for the afternoon. Shelly held the dollars and change in her fist the whole time, but nothing more came of my investment.

Weird girls don’t get invited to join the club, and if they try to form one finding inductees is the first matter of business at the bored meeting of one.

There were the five girls who lived in the house just north of mine. I was invited inside a few times, but the air seemed perpetually musty and the furnishings smelled funny. The girls frequently said things like, “You’re not the boss of me!” “Get off of our property!” and “We get to go to gymnastics!” Their father worked at one of the three cheese plants in the valley. What with a 45-minute commute to and from he was rarely home. But he brought the girls plentiful supply of cheese curds or “squeaky cheese,” which I coveted. My relationship with them was ever tenuous. They all wanted to be school teachers or nurses when they grew up rather than an archeologist. We played “school” together, although I didn’t get the point. It seemed an exercise in establishing hierarchy—teacher, teacher’s pet, other pupils—rather than mimicking educational pursuits. They all played with baby dolls. I liked my dollhouse figures, but I found little entertainment in changing the clothes on a stiff, plastic person with irrationally fixed blue eyes. The point of feeding, changing, rocking, burping, repeat escaped me, and the idea of leaving their yard to explore anywhere else seemed entirely unappealing to them. So while I was in their proximal vicinity, I can’t say that I played with these girls. We had yelling matches over whose mother was better. We combined efforts to look for cool rocks for roadside sales. When their mother let them play in the irrigation ditch in their swimming suits, I snuck in alongside them in my underwear. There wasn’t ever a sure bond. They had each other. I had the audacity to come unequipped with a genetic gang of my own. But they taught me words I didn’t know, like “gossip” and “sassy.” These words had no place in my home lexicon. The first wasn’t done and the second wasn’t something I dared attempt.

Enough of the neighbor girls.

I hoped to be liked rather than being likeable. I’m like the Brussel sprouts of the homosapiens. Some love me, but I’m generally an acquired taste. I trusted everyone I met as a potential playmate. If I had a penny for every time I suggested “Let’s be friends!” I’d be able to replace the money in my green ceramic piggybank.

I hold on longer than I should, longer than would seem appropriate. If I’ve made a friend (at least on my end) I’m devoted to a fault. Do you know what it’s like, decades later, when you realize that you may have been no more than a tagalong to those nearest and dearest to you? There was rumor I didn’t want to believe. I’d send out feelers to find out now, but I’m not sure what I might learn from such an exercise. You love and then you let go. It doesn’t matter how much you’re loved back, except that you deserve to expect a return. Maslow would’ve been proud for how hard I worked to get from the second step on the pyramid to the third. My understanding is it’s difficult to get that far if the stability of step one is tentative.

I’ve lost people. I have lost many, many people. People with whom I believed I shared an unbreakable bond. And I don’t know what I could have done differently or better within the scope of my formative experiences. I’ve struggled, struggled valiantly. I’ve looked for better ways to fit in than handing over the innards of a green pig. And I’m proud to say I hold a few people near and dear to my heart, and that they let me.

Eventually these crying spells will end, but for now, in the heaviness of grief, I’ve taken stock. Yes, I still trust and hope too much. But loss such as this has put me in a hospital behavioral health unit in the past. Before, I’ve lost my desire to live over hurt and mental taxation. And even though this hurts the same, if maybe not just a pinch worse, I’m not given in to despair. I think, even though I’ve lost another human precious to me, I’m growing in strength. I think I’m healthier. I think I’m grasping the concept that I don’t have to do all the work to keep those I love bonded close, knit tight. I think I can trust that I was worth holding on to, that I adhered as best I could to the rules of friendship, and that hope and love aren’t something you should have to pay for in order to keep.

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