I. The Sound of Suffering: While writing the last poem, “Solar Eclipse,” I recalled the powerful song “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” In the summer of 2009, I broke down during my drive to work when the song came on the radio. Something about its lyrics instantly captured my attention. The song, like “Somebody I Used to Know,” spoke to something truthful in my lived experience. It articulated sentiments I felt but could not sublimate quite so craftily and beautifully. My heart sank deeper from the enhanced awareness of my affections and suffering but it was not accompanied by the weight of emotional oppression. Instead, I felt elated. Liberated.
And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
. . . . .
Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
There’s nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there’s only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the hear
So three and a half years later, as I chose the relationship between sun, earth, and moon as the theme for a “love poem,” I came to wonder if “Total Eclipse of the Heart” had a similar message, whether I was picking up on something I heard before or a transcendent image. In the former experience, I was deeply hurt by my lover not returning my calls and emails, avoiding coming to an agree on an apartment and that my companion animal, Duke, was possibly on the verge of death, and I needed emotional support. I really loved her, but was truly “falling apart” and I “needed her more than ever.” There was no one I had ever felt more intimacy and connection with than her.
In my present situation, however, I had been deeply hurt by an ex-lover, -partner, and best friend. I no longer loved her. There were times I verged on hating her. Her cowardliness and unfairness disgusted me. I never felt so much rage and dislike directed at any one person before. So I asked myself:
II. Why am I still mourning? Why does she still occasionally haunt me five months after I was pressured into officially ending the relationship, (seven months after I had done the same to her) and two months after removing myself from the risk of encountering her at a community event, on the streets, or in a bar? Do I still love her, despite my bold assertions otherwise?
So here I catch myself romanticizing over a lost friend, a “dead” friend, for this person no longer exists in the world and never will. The person who fell in love with me and who I had fallen in love a year ago would never have been so callous and displayed such contempt for me. Or perhaps she would have. Perhaps I never really knew her. Or perhaps I did, and allowed myself to remain ignorant.
During the trauma, after the breakup leeched into my community of friends, corroding my final security, the last emotional support beams I had left, I begrudgingly relived a short but intense disagreement between us. She had said something out of desperate anger that I could never forgive, but had brushed under the rug because I loved her so much and could feel her pain. Essentially, she wished that one of my friends be date raped because she had cyber-bullied her one day on Facebook. Over the next two months, I started noticing and confronting her on racist things she would say. Each of these comments tempted me to end things, but I was afraid. It was difficult to reconcile my love for someone with the terrible, hateful things out of her inability to healthfully cope with psychological and emotional trauma. Eventually, I became the target of her venom, from her inability to healthfully cope with her indecisiveness about continuing the relationship. I can speculate as to why, but what I’ve realized during the whole process is that understanding another (and even oneself) is severely limited, if not entirely impossible. Eventually, I gave up appealing to reason, to talking things through in order to reach mutual understanding and respect. All I wanted was to rebuild trust and decent feelings between us, but she would have no such thing. All I know is that I had ignored the warning signs. The beautiful duck was now a rabid rabbit. The duck and the rabbit were there the entire time, but I cared only to see it one way.
III. The simulacrum of a specter. The person I grieve over now is not the actual subject of my historical love, but a projection refracted through selective memories. I grieve over an imaginary past. Why cry over a person who I never loved, who never existed outside my imagination? To make my suffering more concrete, to crystallize it into an external love object.
We like to hold on, to believe that there is something holding us together into a coherent whole, to tell ourselves lies–not in order to avoid suffering since we suffer all the more for believing them–, but to flee from the torment of despair and anxiety. For at least there is security in suffering.
The body of my existence was unraveling before my eyes into an incoherent pile of string, so I narrated a story to stitch my fragments back together. The more I repeated the story, the thicker and more secure the stitches became, reinforcing the story to hold together: this is who I am, this is who she is, this is how I feel, this is how she feels, this is why we act the way we do. Returning to memories, imagining alternative actions I could have taken and words I could have said… I was playing with dolls.
But could I do much else? Is it not necessary for one to make sense out of string? Can one exist as an incoherent pile? No. So we sew ourselves into a story, a narrative self. Playing with dolls was all I had left to make sense of the explosive trauma that had torn me to pieces. It was a painful process of healing. Each reinforced stitch, another non-anesthetized puncture, another pull, another tear. But I was naively sewing myself more securely into the trauma. I was reinforcing a self who could not escape. So dreadful was the annihilating unravelment, I kept stitching old patterns forgetting that annihilation opens oneself to a new form and future.