Every time I think I know the feeling, I don’t.
The first time my life tore open — really open — was the day my grandfather died. It was in 1996. I’m not sure what happened, except I saw how I cried in the mirror before I even felt it.
The second time it happened it was when I saw the bloody lump of a girl named Christina, strewn outside a rusty Indian gate, bitten half to death by stray dogs.
The third time it happened was on the 22nd of February, 2006. Someday I’ll talk about what happened then, but I can’t now.
And this is just the fourth time.
Each time I feel the same pressure to my gut. The feeling is unshakable. I can’t swallow past it. It’s a crippling sensation and each time I try to release some steam, it gets worse.
But there’s no release for what I’m feeling now.
Tomorrow, W will be on his way to Ithaca. Today, I ended a ten day stay at his apartment. The last I saw of his place was a blur. A pile of garbage, undifferentiated because of my blindness. (I cannot see anything without my glasses.) I packed with the skill of a silverback gorilla and with the agility of an angry crab. After that, we were out. Grilled croissants in hand.
Instead of spending the day in the city, we decided to go to my old college town, which is a forty five minute train ride away. At first we thought we could work in the library, or work out of the only campus restaurant that was open on Sundays.
The journey back to the campus felt like an acid trip. When I got there, I had to screw my eyes shut against the onslaught of happy memories, made sad only by time and by the fact that those remain my happiest memories.
Today just felt like waiting. We could not work. We went from the restaurant to the library and then walked around campus in the drizzle. Eventually we made our way back to a coffee shop where we sat and watched the Main Street. Time became immaterial. Far away from the city, everything was slow here. Fewer people walked past our windows. There were empty chairs here. We filled the room our restlessness. We gave up on making conversation.
He kept asking me to come with him and I kept saying no.
Leaving to go with him would tear my own family apart. For them, it would be a Divorceable Issue. I can’t leave W — and I plan on marrying him — but I can’t do it yet. I have to be financially solvent first, and I’m not. I’m not there. I have to be my own person first.
So that’s how it ended.
When the time came to go I felt the shadow punch to my stomach. The moment before I crossed the threshold with my heavy suitcase I turned back to watch him. It was heartbreakingly familiar. When we were in college, he used to accompany me to the station and watch as my train went homeward. I wish were three years ago. Because that would mean that I would be back.
Now he will go on with his own life. He will take his sister with him. She will see his new apartment before I do. I might never see it at all. He will go and carve out his own life now, and I’m left behind. Just thinking. And thinking. And thinking.
I’m told it will get better, but I’m not sure. I can never talk about it. I can never show it. I am thanking a God I’ve renounced that my parents haven’t come home yet. My neighbors, with whom I’m staying tonight, won’t notice me too much if I keep on a brave face.
Today, I go to my empty house.