ghosts and empty shells

i walked by a restaurant, now boarded up. i remember getting drinks with a friend there about two years ago and i remember eating dinner there with my dad in the fall of 2016. it is where i implored him to "vote for my uterus". i am pretty sure an ex and i ate there once too, but honestly i can't tell if i am making the memory up or not. anyway, now it is boarded up and i pass it with a hint of sadness as i walk to another restaurant.

another place that holds memories...gone.

this is not new. those of us city dwellers experience this on the daily. in the last month, two convenient coffee shops have been closed. i learned this as i ran to them before meetings and realized i would have to go matcha latte-less (i know, i know). i hadn't realized that these places had become routine, but they had and now they are gone. the starbucks i frequented when i did a summer program in union square at age 15 was also the starbucks i cried in in sept 2015 and it is now a make-up store. but the tapas place that tried to kill me by failing to alert me to the hazelnuts in one dish, even though i asked if there were nuts, is still there. the waitress who felt so bad about it though...i think she has left. 

i've been thinking a lot about loss and losing. about ghosts and empty shells. i've been thinking about how places and people leave unexpectedly or they slowly disappear. the grocery store on my block, the chase bank that moved across the street...the place across the street that was a deli when my cousin lived here, but is now a mexican restaurant that may have actually been closed because i haven't seen it open in a while...gone, but not gone. ghosts on street corners. shells that will never be what they were.

like friendships and relationships.

i've been looking at friends and wondering if they will be in my life forever. wondering if the closeness i feel with them will be sustained. i think of friends who were once my soulmates and are now people i care for, but never talk to. a like. a FB bday message. a run thru their instagram. i know their kids' names or know they just moved, but not much else. and its okay, of course, because life moves on and we pick up folks along the way. folks who get us and folks who hurt us and folks that become family. 

last night i chatted with an old friend that i am visiting next month. we talked about the closeness we still feel despite the time and space between us. i think to myself, yes, she will be here and then think of others i can't say that confidently about.

there is family i don't really speak to. i wonder if that will ever change. i worry that it won't but haven't done anything to fix it.

i think it is weird that there are people out there that know so much about me, or me at a certain moment, and i know so much about them, or them at a certain moment, and yet we are essentially ghosts to one another.

i think of the men i've loved or thought i could love. i think of the ones i may never speak to or see again. i think of the one who likes an instagram photo once a year. i think of the one i still consider a close friend though we never talk and may never actually be actual friends again. i think of the ones that used to mean so much to me, but i never think about now. i think of my yearning for love, for partnership and the fear that the eyes that are looking for this love, seeking this love out are actually just looking for someone who will one day be on this list of people and places that used to be ours and that used to know us so well and that used to be our soulmates but will one day just be a person you hope you don't run into on the subway.

i guess what i am saying is that it is amazing to me how we keep going. how we find new hangout spots and brunch places. how we find new neighborhoods and new baristas to have crushes on. how we find and make new friends and new lovers and new connections. sometimes i am so scared of eventually losing a place or a person that i don't even want to enjoy them while they're here. i am amazed every time i work past that fear or that fear disappears. i am amazed how we go into it, eyes and hearts open. or we try to. we try to forget what could happen and try to just enjoy what's in front of us. and thank the heavens that we do. thank the heavens that we feel the losses, but yearn for the new connections. thank goodness for the present moment, for the moments when these places and people are just...there.

on friday i walked with a new friend. we passed by a place i used to love to go to when i was a teen and in my early twenties. many a friend and a love and a family member went there with me. and now it is something else. something new. people went in and out of it. my friend and i just walked on by. we got gelato at a place i've never been to before. and we sat at a familiar place, but in a new location for me. and i didn't worry about closings or losses or ghosts. 

a month of gratitude - seven

i'm grateful for lunches with my boyfriend.

right before my boyfriend started law school this summer, he suggested that we plan on having weekly lunches together. he is working full-time and then attending law school at night. his schedule is now beyond crazy. add my non-traditional schedule that sometimes has me running around all weekend and you get two people who sometimes only say two words to each other in a two day period (okay maybe 20 words, but you get my point...). so he suggested lunches.

because i was away a lot, the weekly lunches didn't get started until last week. so far we've only had two, but i can already say i think it makes a difference. 

today it allowed us to talk about thanksgiving and what we were going to do, while also discussing my yearning to escape social media. it wasn't even a full 45min, but we actually spoke to each other. we weren't just sitting on the couch in our own worlds, doing work. being present with the one you love is so important. i'm sure this is obvious, but these times together act as a reminder...one i'm grateful to receive.

some people have date night. we have lunch. 

just a day in february

74 years tomorrow, we say. valentine's day 1943. 

my grandparents met at an USO dance. my grandma, feisty then too, told him he was too short for her. my grandfather cut in anyway. 

-

my grandfather lies in a hospital bed. when i first walk in, he follows me with his eyes. i don't know if he knows its me. when my mother walks in though, he perks up. he knows its her. 

-

i've always known that when my mother's parents, maud & joe, got sick or passed away, i'd have to step up. that has been clear since one afternoon about 15 years ago, when my mom mentioned their eventual deaths and her face turned the color of a tomato. ohh, i remember thinking. oooh, she is going to lose it.

in the car, on the way to the hospital yesterday, i point out that she is telling me something i literally just heard because i was next to her in the car.

"you are gonna have to keep an eye on me. i am losing it," she says.

"i know. i've always known what my job would be in this situation."

she smiles. "yeah...you have."

-

i get the call that we need to see my grandfather while standing in line for flowers. i decided to get my boyfriend flowers the day before valentine's day and to leave them so when he got home from work (and when i was at a meeting), he'd see them waiting for him. it is windy and cold and i am sweaty from spin class and my mom calls and says we have to go see grandpa.

he is not doing well.

ok. i run through everything i need to do and change before she gets me. i stand for a second in line, wondering if i should abandon the flowers.

i get them anyway because i realize that now, more than ever, i want to leave a little thing to let my boyfriend know i love him.

when i get home, i email some friends i had written about a possible galentine's day meet-up to cancel. i get emails of love back. when i text my boyfriend about what's going on, he offers to meet me at the hospital. i tell him not to do that. but knowing he would hits me deeply.

-

i look between my grandmother and my grandfather. my grandmother sits in a chair in her coat. it is cold to her. she will ask me if i am cold another 100 times before the day is over. i will say "no" every time. even when i am a little chilly. i look at her and i look at my grandfather and i think about love and time. i wonder what it is like to have known and been with someone for 74 years. i wonder what it is like to sit next to them in a hospital bed. 

maybe she doesn't understand what's really happening, we muse.

later, my grandmother turns to me and says, "soon there won't be anything they can do".

maybe love and time and age prepare you in their own way.

maybe not.

i hold her hand and she holds it back. she strokes my hand. i know one day my hands will look like hers.

-

after a particularly frustrating class, i pull out my phone and see i have a text.

grandpa broke his hip. he needs surgery.

that was last week.

in september, it was facebook and a voicemail that alerted me to my granddaddy's, my dad's dad, death.

i've never liked the phone.

-

i knew this lesson already, but i relearned these last two weeks that sometimes great things happen at the same time as not so great things happen. highs and lows, peaks and valleys, come together.

-

my mother is sitting and staring at my grandfather, her father. she looks at him the way a little girl looks at her daddy. i am watching the past and the present and i see the future on her face as she wipes a tear from her eye.

my grandfather says things that are hard to hear. he says them to my mother. i find myself getting mad at my grandfather for saying things that clearly hurt her. i don't say anything obviously, but i rub my mom's back when we step out the room.

my mom will sit here for hours. she will hold a vigil longer than all of us. she will listen to it all.

i remind her that she needs rest too.

she nods and looks back to my grandfather. 

i look down at my phone. a text. the boyfriend checking in, making sure i am okay. i text him the words i cannot say out loud.

-

my parents met on valentine's day too. 

for years i thought i was destined to meet the one i loved on valentine's day too.

i think i realized that wasn't necessarily going to happen when my dad got engaged to his now ex-wife on valentine's day too.

who needs all that weight on a day in february?

-

we leave after hours in the hospital. my mom admits she only left because i was there. otherwise she would still be there. 

it is only later, as we drive back toward the city, that i wonder if i have seen my grandfather for the last time.

but he was talking. and he knew i was there. and so...

i don't know. 

i don't like not knowing.

-

i forget to tell my mom happy valentine's day when i step out the car and when i call her in the morning. but i say i love you both times.

-

i get home from the hospital around midnight. i call my mother to make sure she gets home okay and when she does, around 12:30am, i tiptoe into the bedroom. it is cold in the bedroom because he is always too hot. i am always too cold. and so i think of closing the window, but i don't. i sneak under the covers and then he shifts and puts his arms around me. i don't know if he is really awake or if it is a reflex. i don't say anything and he doesn't say anything, but i am under the covers and warm because he is there. 

in the morning, he gets out of bed to begin his morning routine. i open my eyes and smile. when he tells me happy valentine's day, i realize i had forgotten, just for a moment, what day it was.

today is valentine's day. 

my grandparents met 74 years ago today. 

my parents met 35 years ago today. 

this is just a day in february that makes me think about love, loved ones, and loved things.

dear first love (day ten)

now, of course, we can discuss what 'first love' means. 

if we are talking about first, first love, then that would probably have to be my mom, right? or do we mean that playful first love, like the love i found in kindergarten (shout out to him for holding my hand on the bus and sending me a love poem!)? or do we mean the first loves that were not housed in a person?

we can mean all of those things, and this letter could be to all of those things, but i would just be avoiding what and who i've been writing this letter to in my head all week, ever since i knew this prompt was coming. i'd be avoiding writing to my first love, the romantic first love, the one who taught me about love as a (young) adult. 

and, if you've been around the blog at all these last few months, you know that this is further complicated by the fact that the person who is my first love, also happens to be my last love (last meaning most recent, though i did think he would be my last love as in we were going to ride off into the sunset together), because a few years back my first love showed up at my doorstep and asked us to try again and we did.

so this letter is weird and hard to write. even though they are the same person, is writing a letter to my first love the same as writing it to the one who left 7 months ago today? i don't know. 

also, first love made a habit of reading my blog. i don't know if he still does. so, presumably, he is reading this.

so.

what i do know is writing all of this is yet another avoidance tactic. so...i should just start the damn letter and see what happens.

first love and me. guatemala. august 2007.

first love and me. guatemala. august 2007.

dear first love,

when i plug my phone into the computer, and new photos upload, sometimes your face pops up, first love. it is you, holding a napkin up to the camera with a message for my mom. we'd only been dating a few days, a few weeks at that point. we were twenty years old and it was december and everything felt new and wonderful.

that was 9.5 years ago and sometimes it feels like just yesterday. but i look at that photo and i realize just how much you don't look the same anymore...i mean, of course, it is you, but your face has become more man and less boy since then and it is shocking to me every time it pops up on my computer. just how much your face, my face, has changed and yet stayed the same,

i think about deleting that photo every time it pops up. i haven't yet--mostly because i believe there will be a time when that photo doesn't cause pain, because there was a time, maybe four years ago and up until last september, when it didn't. and i believe that i may want to look at it then and remember those first few weeks and smile and thank the heavens i had them and also thank the heavens time has moved on. 

that is what i hope.

first love, you taught me so much. you taught me what love really was. you see, i didn't really know. i had had a boyfriend or two, but no one who really loved me. not really. and no one i had really loved. and you came in and changed all of that. i sometimes try to figure out how you did it. was it the fact that you held my hand or brought me tea or send me long emails when you were traveling in kenya with your family? was it that your hair smelled like wildfires to me? or the music we shared or the salsa dancing? or just the warmth i felt when i looked up at you?  i fell for you in a little over a month and in the early hours of new years day, i whispered that i was falling for you. i remember that moment as though it were yesterday. i can feel the nerves.

you taught me about wanting to declare my love no matter the consequence.

and i didn't even know then how that, the fact that i was falling for you, was to become true. i had no idea where the next two years would take us.

you taught me that a man in a black t-shirt and jeans is nearly equivalent in attractiveness to a man in a suit. not a small feat, first love.

first love, you taught me that i could fall in love and that when i do, i really, really fall in love, i fall deeply. first love, i learned with you that that is a good thing...and a bad thing. either way, it is a thing, a truth about me. 

it is also a truth that i don't let a lot of people in. i don't fall in love with just anyone.

first love, you taught me about how i could fall in love with another's family. you taught me about the stupid fights you have with the one you love. you taught me about hugs and kisses and monthiversary competitions and how mad someone can be when you ask them not to eat in bed anymore because they spilled chocolate in it. 

but it is funny, and sad, first love, that i can't get a lot of the happy pictures in my head. i see flashes, but sometimes i think my brain is trying to protect me. the happy memories surprise me. the sad ones stay present. i can get the pictures of our last few months together, which were hard and tough for a number of reasons. i have those in my head. i have our (first) last kiss, in penn station, before you went back to school and i went back to england (i also know when our last, last kiss was. fuck you, memory). i have the fight two days before when you wanted to end it with me, but i begged you not to.

first love, you taught me that i beg for people to stay with me...the ones i love...which have been you...so you taught me that i beg you to stay with me until i see that your mind is made up. i beg because i hope, because i see a future, because i see how it can work until i look in front of me and see you and realize you don't see the same picture.

first love, you taught me that just because two people know each other well doesn't mean that they see and feel the same things. you also taught me that we make assumptions about each other that are not true. we both do. we both did. first love, you've taught me that assuming gets us nowhere.

first love, you taught me about heartbreak. i didn't understand it until that february, lying on my blue carpet, crying my heart out and i thought to myself "oh, this is what people mean. i get it. this is heartbreak." and there was part of me that was grateful to have had the experience, grateful that you had taught me it, because i thought it would prepare me for what and who came next. i thought it made me that much stronger. 

i don't know about that now, first love. i don't know.

i learn that i blame myself, first love. i blame myself for "making you leave". i learned that in disagreements, i usually end up taking on the blame, promising to change myself. i learned that when we break-up, i don't share the issues i may have had with the relationship, but i listen wholeheartedly to yours. that isn't your fault, first love. it is just what i do when i am faced with leaving you. so you helped me learn this, but it isn't your fault.

ha. see, first love, here i go...about to blame myself again. 

anyway, first love, you taught me about needing space for a few years before i could become friends. and then you taught me about letting old love back in after four and a half years apart. and then you taught me that i haven't really let others in--the men between you, first love, and you, most recent love, were great men who i tried to love and couldn't. you are my achilles heel, love. there is something you have, a key, that opens me up. (i'm in the process of calling the locksmith and getting that lock changed, first love.) and i learned, first love, that you could open it again and move in even more than before and that once again, you could teach me about heartbreak. 

first love, you taught me a lot about the love i want and the love i accept. you taught me a lot about fear. you taught me about compassion. you taught me about family. you taught me about how people have different experiences and histories. you taught me about sharing space. you taught me about my love of travel despite being terrified of planes. you taught me about festering wounds. you taught me about how important it is that my dog like you. you taught me about how two people can say 'i love you' and mean two, equally important, but different things. you taught me about anger and pain, but also about pleasure and pain. you taught me about memory and how they can haunt a place, a person. you taught me about letting go and moving on and how it is hard for me when it comes to you. you taught me, first love, a lot about myself.

and i'm grateful for that, even as i sometimes wonder what would have happened if you weren't my first love. even as i sometimes question whether i hadn't fallen for you that day, in that rehearsal, when you said that line.

but, first love, it is a ridiculous notion. because i did. and i would. on some level, i was made for that, for falling in love with you.

for now, i am looking for a love that is beyond what we had. maybe it is a love of myself. maybe it is a love from someone else. i am scared it doesn't exist, first love, but i am scared of everything so no surprise there. 

first love, i hope you are doing well. i hope that you are happy. truly. i look forward to the day that i see that picture pop up and i smile. i do. 

but for now, first love, i am looking for my own happiness with all the self-knowledge i've gained from my times with you.  

(this is day ten of april love)

 

dear love (a month of writing)

susannah conway always comes out with photo challenges i really like. this year she is doing april love again...and this time focusing on also writing letters. i love that each day is a letter and reading through the list, i thought these were letters that maybe i should try to write. i figured i'd try to do this month of writing again on the blog. last time i did this, november, was quite fun and grounding despite it being a crazy month for me. april seems like it will also be crazy and so let's see if it works this time. 

so feel free to check in day-to-day this month and see what/who i'm writing to.

the first one is to love. (see here for all the days)

dear love,

love...oh you wily thing you. i've been thinking a lot about you these last few months. i've cursed you, i've revered you. i've tried to bury you and kill you off. i've tried to bring you into the light. 

love, you are written on my body twice. that feels significant (you and the word "do" share that honor). that feels like part of me knows i need the reminder to love. that feels like part of me knows love is super important. that feels like you refusing to be invisible.

i'm grateful for you, love. you have led me to people--to family, to friends, to lovers--that were, are, wonderful. you've also led me to pain. and that's hard to get used to...that you, the wonderful beyond emotion thing that you are, can also break me. but you also light me up, you also keep me alive, so i guess it is pain that is worth it.

i have felt such love from and for my family and friends these past few months. without them, the heartbreak side of you may have consumed me, burned me, annihilated me. but that is the thing about you, you shapeshifter, you are not one thing. you are not one relationship. you are everywhere. you are in everything. and i'm so thankful for that.

i am still scared of you. i still believe that you will not appear in the form of a romantic partner. i am scared i won't learn to love my life. i still have questions about my worthiness of love. i still am learning to love myself. 

but it is a process and you, love, you rarely disappear easily.

so i'm hopeful, love.