Goodbye, Cobblestone Road

This is a very painful post for me to write; one that crept up over the years on occasion but willingly returned to its suppression box when I pushed it in.

My husband and I have been married for over 13 years. Before our marriage, we spent intense, life-altering years with a revolving group of friends who experienced traumatic moments with us, sharing our blood, sweat, and tears profoundly. Our life is full now; family, friends and evenings spent unwinding with content happiness fill the nooks and crannies of our once broken hearts. We worked hard for it, and we are proud of it. But then a tug – always suddenly – makes us yearn to dig up a long-buried life.

The week of my husband’s 35th birthday the door swung open and blew his oldest friend in with fragments almost forgotten. The initial joy of reconnecting overshadowed the caution we knew we should be holding out in front of us like a shield. We let our guard down. It burned.

As his birthday drew to a close, we sat together, just the two of us, and sewed up the hole ripped through our carefully reconstructed souls, reaffirming our place in time and letting the past settle in the dust behind us.

Still, it is grief that follows us into the present.

This is a eulogy.

To all the friends we’ve loved and lost, we remember you fondly while we walk on without you.

* * * * * * * * * *

The past blew into town, whirling around in a drunken stupor and a cloud of cannabis.

Drawn from a place of need, we reached towards it desperately.

But the past is dead.

Still, we tried.

We thought it would feel comfortable, like slipping into a pair of well-worn shoes.

It was familiar.

The chaos and uncertainty shot through our veins and almost had us hooked.

Almost.

The noose hung slack against our necks, and we were transported to that moment when the floor fell out beneath our feet, and we plummeted to our living graves.

Breathlessly, desperately, we reached out for each other and unwound our throats from ropes as soft as cotton.

We had lost our footing for a moment. We had been deceived by the sounds and smells of what we thought was our worth. We had been drawn in the colors and spaces we no longer belonged.

We stepped away and held each other in arms more secure because they shook. We stepped away and breathed the air we chose to fill around us. We stepped away and came back to a place where we are always loved and sometimes lost and never tormented. We stepped away and left the past whirling around in chaotic memory where it belongs.

Burials are painful, but we cannot leave the rotting flesh exposed for all to see.

Somewhere behind us where we won’t look back, we buried familiar faces and loyal friends. We will always mourn them. We can never get them back.

Geoffrey with a G

We are sitting together on the couch and we are not paying attention to one another. We are both tired and need some time to unwind and let the stress of the day dissipate. I am reading a fluff piece and you are scrolling down our feed as we actively turn our brains off.

You suddenly gasp and I feel your body tense up as you raise your head and turn to face me. I feel a constriction in my throat because I know you are about tell me something horrible.

He’s dead, you say. Geoff is dead.

I turn to you and my eyes well up and I shake my head because I don’t think it can be true. Your eyes have filled with a pain too big to handle. My hand trembles as I reach for yours and we hold each other at a distance.

Our pain is too hard to face. We turn back into ourselves and we try to live another day.

It takes us until morning to hurtle back into each other’s arms. We interlock our fingers and we gaze at each other’s pain.

You speak first.

He took the Brooklyn out of me, you say, as the tears break through and pour down your face. He let me be me.

I squeeze your hand and I am transported back in time and I remember the boy from Brooklyn I met on the streets of Jerusalem. I remember how you walked inside your cage and surrounded yourself with the kinds of people who helped you blend in.

And then you met Geoff. Geoffrey with a G.

Geoff was a rock n’ rolling artist who didn’t care what the world thought of him. Geoff wore little ties and suspenders and had swagger long before people thought that was cool. Geoff sat for hours in his room with that boy from Brooklyn and talked about Star Wars and superheroes and punk rock. Geoff painted and the music blared and the layers of New York street slowly shed as the boy who loved music and thought deeply about the world with a sensitive, kind view was revealed.

I saw how you changed and I fell in love with the person you had been hiding away. Without understanding what he had done, Geoff became our stabilizing third wheel. He sat with us in our corner and called it an office. He laughed and he danced the rock n’ roll dance and we followed his example and let the weight of our past go.

We fought for him when others wanted to give up. We wanted him to be in our lives forever. We wanted his joy and light and art and music to be part of the foundation we were building.

We still loved him when we said goodbye. We still wanted him to show up one day, in his little tie, his hair slicked to the side and a goofy smile on his face.

We watched from far away, too far away, as Geoffrey with a G wandered around looking for something he so easily brought out in others. But Geoffrey with a G didn’t have a Geoff to lean on and he got lost.

Our kids do his rock n’ roll dance and don’t know where it came from.

You and I sit here now, in grief and regret, and wonder if Geoffrey with a G can see us rocking and if he is happy as he paints, dot by dot, line by line.

You look at me and your face is red and your eyes are swollen and you swallow hard as we hold each other and remember the broken boy who fixed another broken boy but could not fix himself.

Geoffrey, you will never know how much we loved you. You will never know how much you will be missed.

IMG_20180513_124817323.jpg

My Jerusalem

Your Jerusalem is so similar to my Jerusalem. Your Jerusalem glows. Your Jerusalem torments and teases. Your Jerusalem sings. Your Jerusalem loves and hates and lives in a constant state of disorder and indecision.

You write about your Jerusalem and I feel connected to your experiences. I see how you touch her stones. I understand how she breaks your heart. I nod my head as you describe her beauty and profess your love to her.

Your Jerusalem is so similar to my Jerusalem.

Is my Jerusalem similar to yours?

I met my Jerusalem when I was 17 years old. I was bitter. I was angry. I was bleeding out of all my invisible wounds. I was desperate to find safety. I was desperate to find a home.

Jerusalem was foreign at first. She looked white and angelic. She was covered in stone that absorbed the light and reflected a brilliant yellow onto the cobblestone streets. She twisted and turned through hills and valleys. Her sky was everything the word blue evokes, and more. Her air was warm and her wind was cool. She was magnificent and towered over me and I wanted to run as far away as possible.

Then the sun went down.

The darkness brought the walking dead, creeping out from behind still-warm walls. They filled the streets and paraded down to Jerusalem’s wretched core. Their eyes were blank. Their bodies were shriveled and their throats were parched. I looked at them and saw myself and yearned for their freedom. They were already dead. I was still dying. I jumped into the crowd. I was swept out into the swarm. My pounding heart began to still.

And I met my Jerusalem.

My Jerusalem burns as it pours down my throat. My Jerusalem inhales deeply as a wisp of smoke escapes. My Jerusalem wanders through alleys, down boulevards, and into crowded squares. My Jerusalem leans against walls, crouches on stoops and passes out on benches. My Jerusalem screams out into the night and hears the echo returning back with barely enough time to register as it slams me against the wall and stares me in the eyes.

My Jerusalem exposes me. She rips my veins out from beneath my skin and spills my black, blinding rage over her chipped and battered floor. My Jerusalem wraps me tight and won’t let go, even as I struggle against her grip.

My Jerusalem is ravaged by explosive hatred. My Jerusalem washes up the blood-soaked streets and waits for the sun to go down. My Jerusalem punishes fear and rips the world apart as she holds her ground.

My Jerusalem brought me back to life and then stabbed me in the heart and watched me fade away.

I left my Jerusalem, kicking and screaming, as my nails scraped against her womb. I left my Jerusalem and watched her embrace the next set of broken people. I left my Jerusalem and I wandered out into the world. I learned to love. I learned to live. I found myself hidden deep inside my broken shell. I left my Jerusalem, but I never forgot her.

I visit her again. I have changed. I am older and less hurt and also, more hurt.

I turn her corners, gagging as I pass her urine-soaked alleys turned into luxury hotels. The wind fights my exposed face, slapping my cheeks and whipping my hair; punishing me for daring to come back here. I inhale deeply, filling my nostrils with a minty cloud, and exhale my anxiety in one long stream of fire.

When I get to the end of the damp street, I stop and wait.

The noise is deafening. I cannot differentiate between cries of joy and cries of pain. It doesn’t matter. It is all the same to me.

The air is thick and suffocating. It smells like alcohol mixed with sickeningly sweet roses brewed in a broth of coffee and manure.

The sky is blue and the walls are white and I can see how much she has changed.

I close my eyes and breathe deep as a calm washes over my tortured soul.

My Jerusalem reaches out and strokes my cheek.

I am home.

Your Jerusalem sings and dances and plays, yet she torments you and strings you along.

My Jerusalem kicks me out and pulls me back and twists me up inside.

Your Jerusalem is so similar to my Jerusalem.

Is my Jerusalem similar to yours?

Source: My Jerusalem

Emergence

“So”, he says, leaning back into his chair. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

I inhale and slowly drift up to the ceiling.

I see my body sitting across from him. My fingers play with the magnetic toys he keeps on his desk.

My lips part and a story spews from them.

A story about a man…a stranger…and a gun…and a rape…and how the hero came…how the hero stood up for me…fought for me…made me believe in myself again…because I do now…and I am definitely not a victim…but I’m not sure what I’m feeling…so maybe it’s time to start talking…to start telling stories…to figure me out.

He frowns and I can see, from up here, that he knows that I’m lying.

I try to float down against myself and connect with my body before it betrays me again…but I don’t understand gravity anymore than I can understand how I am hovering on the ceiling, watching myself perform.

He says something I don’t really hear…because my ears are directly connected to my heart…and had he said any of the words my heart longed for, I know I’d come crashing down and smash my broken body into a million pieces more.

But I’m still up here…and I remain here as I trudge out of his office and through a few more days of foggy consciousness, until I remember that I told him about the monster.

Only…I called him a hero and I made him into a small detail of an elaborate tale I knew shouldn’t have been taken at face value.

So now I’m falling…down through my body and even further into a pit of slime and mold and I lose myself somewhere in the filth, until I see something I recognize and resurface, gasping as the burn pours down my throat and the bottle empties into my lungs where I am finally able to exhale.

There is nowhere left to fall.

I sit again.

I don’t think there is a point.

If I can’t tell my story I will die.

But I can’t tell the story because I’m on the ceiling again and this time it feels like my body is pinned to the fluorescent bulbs and the light is pouring through me as I slowly turn invisible.

But my heart can still hear.

My heart hears the tale spun again…the lies and deceptions…the words that mean nothing and everything…and I am disappointed in the girl sitting with those nice people and wonder if she knows that we will die very soon…that she will have to find a way to bury me.

But then my heart skips a beat because the story is over and there is no sound.

I need to know what is happening.

I need to rip myself from the cold concrete so I push and I push and I push until I am falling again, but this time, I am caught by the feeling of a hand…gently squeezing another hand that should be mine but has not yet connected with my displaced heart and soul…and my heart skips another beat and lands at the feet of a woman who knew not to hear the words my mouth was forming and instead…somehow saw me floating in the air and made me visible.

20160306_085015.jpg
Photo by Naftali Goldstein, March 2016

Daniel my Brother

His name jumps out of the screen at me the moment my husband walks into the room.

He sees what I see…

“I know,” he says.  “I was just coming to tell you.”

My head falls into my hand for a moment as the familiar pain of loss washes over me.

Another one bites the dust, I think, as the names of all the others parade through my head to the beat.

I read the comments…the shock and the sincerely felt words tossed at a screen that condenses those feelings into meaningless letters spelling RIP and MISS YOU and BROTHER even though most of the people writing it feel as I do…

almost guilty for being alive…

almost sorry to have made it through hell…

almost regretting that my life choices made it impossible for me to be there for the ones I left behind even as my heart wished it could have convinced each and every one of the people I met on my journey through torment that it would get better, knowing full well that my brain disagreed.

He wasn’t my brother…not since I left the streets we roamed together…

But when I see his name…I feel a shooting pain…

And another door I’ve been holding hope for…

is lowered to the ground.

Resentment Is

a thread

weaving in and out of lives

pulling back

into childhood

where it waits

to be addressed.

You run forward

as fast as you can

trying desperately

to rip away

from that poor

pathetic

child

who only wanted

what he deserved.

So now you sit

in resentment

and resist

the urge to cry

as that poor

pathetic

child

once again

is ignored.

Cry darling

cry

because I am here

and I am listening

to everything

you cannot say.

Dying To Forget

Sometimes, late at night when I should be asleep, I remember.

I remember how I used to be…when things were bad…when I was a bad little girl…

And I wonder…if I could talk to her…what would I say?

I should say…the things I was taught to say to her…

I’m so sorry you’re hurting.

It’s not your fault.

You are not bad.

This is going to be over soon.

You will get better.

It will get better…

But I feel…like saying…

Kill yourself…now.

Because it won’t get better.

Because in twenty years from now you will sit with this memory, because everything in your life reminds you about some part of it, and you will think about how it can never go away and you will want to die.

So die now.

Avoid one thousand future deaths…

One thousand future hurts…

One thousand future lies…

And never remember this.