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  • The things I know now, should not be known by anyone, I feel. I won’t name them all. To put words to the specifics feels like participating in his humiliation, or maybe mine. I can say that there may not have been a trip, almost certainly there was no trip to Ireland. There is probably no nephew, and the detailed voice mails and emails describing long days spent at the hospital by his tragic bedside lead the mind down a murky and treacherous descent. I was contacted by another woman with whom he was involved. She had a different last name for him. As my brother says, I guess the only thing we can be sure of is that he’s Irish. (The accent.) I tried to comprehend it all, I spent too many hours cobbling together a reality, combing through and trying to rescue the truth. I had to wonder how I landed upon this man and how it was that I came to want, more than anything in the world, to spend the rest of my life with him. I wrote a thousand letters to him in my imaginings and endlessly returned in time to change the course of an evening, a conversation, a sliver of a moment, a sentence or question that should have been all so that things could have evolved less bleakly. I lived and re-lived actual, wished for, and feared realities to the point of total exhaustion, and then I started at the beginning and did it all over again. I used every tool I had to construct a shape around this that I could bear which was as satisfying as building a house from dust.

    The ground on which I stood, ground named and traversed intimately with this person and this person alone is not simply false, not simply gone, it is unknowable at its very core. I have learned in a detailed and daily way that this has a particular power to annihilate that is distinct from the experience of pure loss alone. What more can you take from someone than their idea of reality? I do not have the strange comfort of discarding the entire experience as a lie, because it wasn’t. But how does one ponder the actions, the intentions, the cruelties and the tendernesses of someone who may not fully exist?

    There are only choices, really, to be made. Or that’s what I found. Choosing how to remember, choosing what to keep, what to slowly disentangle from. I proceeded with a stubborn focus on what might mend or alleviate, him, me, something. It was pure guesswork. There’s a parching that comes out of turmoil like this. One of my friends said, I feel a little less safe in the world knowing this guy is out there and I wanted to punch her. Also, I knew exactly how she felt.

    His life was far more barren than I ever knew. While I longed for remorse, apologies, explanations, and on bad days, pure revenge, the truth is that what plagued me the most was the possibility that he no longer felt or experienced love. I imagined that he had taken it away from himself, the new, strange, desperately needed, and perhaps unbearable experience of being held by someone. The fear that he might think this was lost to him forever was so piercing as to somehow keep my heart indefinitely rent open and stinging. Truly, there is nothing in a palpable way that can be in relation to him. I could not imagine a single word that could pass between us. But what I did experiment with was the counter-intuitive pull, the choice, to continue to love him, somehow. What does this mean? That when I thought of him I felt warmth and tenderness. No, not even close. The choice to love him now, or to exercise the desire to love, is about refusing to blot out his existence in an effort to artificially shore up or restore my own. It is a fragile wish that I might be able to hold open a space that continues to softly behold the simple fact that this is another living being - a man, a person, with whom I came into intimate, flawed, full and living contact who is still welcome somewhere in my heart not because I have been treated well by him or because I got what I wanted but because it is, quite simply, the only imaginable balm for an infinite wound. It is my best response. And it was something like a humble prayer that while I could no longer reach his wanting, frail, and aching self that these efforts might somehow.
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