Sometimes I wonder if editing our thoughts in writing (be it online, in blogs, in books, wherever) is doing the same thing that photoshop is doing to the self-image of young girls. We pick and choose the correct words to make us, to create us, and we show these words to the world as if to say, Look at me! I’m awesome, I’m a good person. People read these words and think, “Oh he’s awesome, he’s a good person, but he doesn’t think like I think. He doesn’t have the darkness that I have. Don’t look at me, I’m alone, I’m disgusting. Don’t look at me.” I often wonder if writers are dangerous. If they do more harm than good. We’re not just lying to everyone else, we’re lying to ourselves.
I want to be honest. I do. I don’t want to sugarcoat who/what I am. But somewhere deeper, beyond my reach, there’s the gremlin editor and it hides my true nature from me. It scrubs my thoughts, rationalizes my actions, and keeps me in the dark. If I were to ever see the truth, the gremlin fears what I might do. Because if I go, the gremlin goes too.
I’m trying to be honest.
I want you to see what I am.
I don’t want to feel this alone.
Because the gremlin is terrible company.
There is the sickness you are conscious of, then there is the sickness that you’re not—you think you’re sane. Slowly, steadily, I devolve into the latter. Which means I feel better. I am better.
I ride this better feeling into the mania that it is.
Times like this, with the revving of these first-class feels and inertia that won’t stop skidding with thoughts way too optimistic, it’s easy to focus only on the good times, the good things between Jane and me—like when I told her I loved her and she told me the same and the time we made love in the woods under the sunlight that fell on us like rain and the time we burrowed deep under the covers and ate kettle corn there and I can remember how happy we are and how we’re supposed to be soulmates for forever—but I think it’s healthier to focus on the bad times because there are plenty of those too.
Like the time we fought over the meaning of being on time. When she finally relented to my being right and she said she was sorry, I took her in my arms and whispered, “It’s okay.” And she asked me if I was sure. “Well, you could make it up to me?” I said with a sly smile. She gave me a look, and I diverted that look to the growing bulge in my jeans. Then she shoved me away and started to cry. And I became the sorry one.
Like the time I talked her into a jealousy-charged game where we’d both go on Tinder, side by side, and compare the Matches we’d get to make each other horny. She didn’t want to do it. She told me it wasn’t a good idea, I’ll give her that. Lying together in bed, she got flooded with Matches, while I got none. I begged her to stop but she didn’t stop. “This is what you wanted, wasn’t it?” she asked me. I told her no, it wasn’t. This is not what I wanted at all. I was pretty sorry about that too.
Like the time I was emotionally unavailable.
Like all the other times I was emotionally unavailable.
Like the times when we’re having sex, and I have to picture Brian under me, as opposed to Jane, and in my head I’m calling him Brianna, as opposed to Brian, and I must do this in order to get off.
The point I’m trying to make is that this is not a romantic comedy, and it’s important for me to remind myself of this too. I refuse to let the gremlin turn this into something it’s not. Real life may be sprinkled with romantic moments, but the rest is really shitty. Most of romance is pain. I have to tell myself this in order to justify what I must do, what I’m about to do.
I’m not sure she knows it’s coming. I very much doubt she believes I had the flu. She had seen it in my eyes on the dead-cow-night, and I’m sure she still sees it now, that something behind my eyes grows stagnant.
“Are you okay?” she asks me.
“Yes. Everything is okay.”
“Okay.” She wraps her arms around me and I feel her tears wet my chest. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I just worry sometimes.”
I hold her tight and tell her not to worry. I’m fine.
Meanwhile, I’ve been removing my things from her place: my clothes, my toothbrush, my books, anything I’ve left there over the past months. In the far corner of the room she has a bookcase that’s backed with a mirror, only I didn’t realize it was backed with a mirror because it was filled with stuff. Once I remove from the shelves everything that’s mine, I’m startled because there’s nothing left. Well, not nothing. In the mirror, there I am, staring back, and I’m forced to wonder: what happened to my eyes?
I won’t tell you what I write on the note that I leave on her bedside table because it doesn’t matter. Also, I don’t want to talk about it because it’s none of your business. I sweep the room one last time, careful not to look at the bookcase, and I confirm there’s nothing left of me here. I leave her house as quietly as I can. I don’t even hear myself leave over her breathing.
Across the street is the blue Honda and the man sleeping inside. The silver cross and chain dangles from the rearview mirror, glinting in the streetlight. Under the windshield wiper I slip him a note too. It says that I give up, you win, man-in-blue-Honda, I’m going to find Annie. But in finding Annie, I say in the note, Jane is off limits. You can’t touch her.
As I walk to my own car parked just up the street, I’m surprised to feel the first drop of rain spot my forearm. When I look up all I see are stars—constellations that remind me of freckles—but no clouds. My cheeks grow wet, my chin drips. I didn’t realize Jane would have this effect on me. It’s hard to say if it’s my love for her, or her love for me that’s causing this. It could just be the image of her waking up with no trace of me or anything that was mine. She’ll search for proof I existed, still exist, but she’ll find nothing. Her eyes will land on the bookcase, and in its emptiness she’ll have to face herself too. She’ll know I’m gone long before she finds the cliche of a note on her bedside table.
It’s not a cliche because it’s heart wrenching and us writers like to wrench hearts, it’s a cliche because in the end we’re all cowards. We just want to slip away, detach ourselves from what we leave behind.
join man next week for journal #29 (in which Brian leaves Tommy, finally)