Unlearning the Safety

"Nobody Passes," Make/shift, Fall/Winter 2009

I might as well go back to when we first met: we would sit at the same café and your best friend who was a dyke thought my best friend who was a dyke was hot but snotty and I thought you were hot but snotty, and I remember the duct tape on the back of your leather jacket or maybe it was your boots or maybe your boots and the back of your leather jacket and how it reminded me of one of the first guys I had a crush on the back of his leather jacket. Eventually you and I ended up dancing together at the bar where a certain group of dykes went to dance, and a much smaller group of fags who hung out with dykes, and then we were making out and sleeping together and already it was a dream. This dream of sluttiness shared, the dream we were enacting in crumbling apartments painted clashy colors to suit our moods this was the period when I would sign letters: crave intensity.

With you it just immediately felt like a shared experience of dreaming: really you were the one with more of that experience I’d just escaped who I was supposed to be. So we spent a lot of time in your kitchen. Cooking, and making out. And then of course there was the anger, the anger that felt like strength, with you it was soft like holding hands while throwing bombs. Back then I would routinely borrow pint glasses from cafés so I could drop them out my kitchen window just to listen to them shatter let the rage dissipate, of course I was scaring people too. That took longer to understand.

This was right after I’d escaped those first eighteen years; rage felt so powerful and intimate. Rage at the world but I didn’t necessarily have control over it we shared that rage it was something that connected us. We stopped sleeping together but held each other and revealed layer after layer and then when everything felt revealed we would go deeper.

We fled to different cities and returned, fled and returned—my anger shifted to sadness and exhaustion and things got easier but harder. It’s so ironic that you stopped talking to me after sixteen years because I said: I feel totally confident about the longevity of our relationship and our trust and intimacy, but I never feel secure. I even said: you’re the most important person in my life. Even if I didn’t want a most important person in my life I was trying to say what I felt anyway. I thought you’d offer something simple like thanks, I want you to feel more secure. Thanks, I want you to feel more secure. Thanks, I want you to feel more secure. It sounds simple, right?

I wonder what scared you more—that I told you I still felt angry for those five years when you lied about everything, or that I told you what you meant to me. Probably what I meant to you too and maybe that made it scarier. Of course it’s ironic that I told you I was angry in such a cautious, intimate tone and you became enraged. You said you were a different person. A different person reacting the same way you did when you were a disastrous alcoholic, a different person I guess I was losing in those moments maybe already losing with your different allegiances I’ve always had friends in so many different ways but I think you wanted to get rid of me in order not to feel guilty.

Sixteen years is a long time, a long time to lose just like that. I want to treasure everything you gave me, even as it turns to grief, does that mean I want to treasure grief? I’m sick of thinking about what to say when I run into you—usually I want to express exactly how I’m feeling but then I end up acting like I’m okay even if I’m saying that I’m terrible I don’t want to act like I’m okay but it always ends up happening. I want to go right to the feeling not hold back, especially with you who I trusted for so long even in my body with you I could go right to the feeling.

But my anger turns so swiftly to sadness and it’s not the sadness I want to show you. You already know about the sadness. But I don’t think it’ll feel good to express my anger. Although maybe if it shoots to my head I can say something like: I can’t believe how you’re treating me it’s disgusting. Maybe then instead of the distance I’ll just feel rage which is a kind of closeness or if the rage crashes fast then I can go right to the sobs that place where my whole body collapses and I know that it’s something that can hold me. Maybe the sobs are the most important thing even if it’s the anger I’m trying to express.

I hate that it was so easy for you to throw me away, so easy because we hardly have any overlapping friends, so easy because our schedules and our routes through the city barely cross. It didn’t used to be that way. First we existed around everyone and then later our relationship moved to a particular space away. Maybe that made us closer, the imprint of your arm around my shoulder or a kiss on the neck or just the way we walked together, sat together, holding the moments between us a shelter.

I miss that reliability, something I came to depend on but I didn’t know how much because it didn’t feel like a dependency. I knew I could rely on you. How do I go back and correct that, correct it in each individual cell in my body, unlearning the safety that left me here?