I found you on Facebook. Your face rougher and scrunched up, almost unrecognizable, your eyes little slits, your long brown hair mashed to your head by a blue knit winter cap. You have hidden your information, as you’ve wiped away most of your Web tracks over the years, holding your privacy to you as a cloak.
I found Andy, his face surprising but vaguely recognizable. You’ve moved to Chicago from New Haven. For his job? You are a freelance writer, working for the Latin University and Fortune 500 brands. So far from a small schoolhouse poetry teacher.
And through Andy I found Cleo. Infant when I last saw her, now a teenager, her hair a kaleidoscope of colors as she searches for her identity. She lacks my nieces’ exuberance in these photos. I wonder if she wonders about her birth parents, if you have found them, if she feels comfortable in this world. There is a photo on Andy’s wall of her at camp and she is on the fringes, holding back? Holding in? A friend of hers posted endlessly on her wall, but she reveals next to nothing about herself. Did she learn that from you?
Didn’t you have another daughter? Biological or adopted, I wasn’t sure. But at some point over the years I thought Google had yielded more.
I found you on LinkedIn. We are three degrees apart. Only two if you consider Charlotte Zietlow. We are so close, separated by an invisible wall. I stared and stared at the “Connect” button for so long, tears streaming down my face, cursor hovering seductively, knowing I cannot reach out to you when I promised that you would be left alone. You and Andy and Cleo and your possible other daughter. Alone. I. Alone.
I found you on YouTube. Your body (taller than mine) draped in shapeless garments. Your voice exactly as I remember it. I wear triangle shapes when I perform. Edges. You are poised, curvy, soft. I explode off the screen. You inhabit it. I cut my hair short. You grew your hair long. Outward signs that we are no longer the women we once were. I have started writing; are you learning WordPress?
You are reading a newer poem, more jagged in construction than the ones I read all those years ago; I didn’t quite get it. I remember fried eggs like eyes painted on the windows, light flashing from my rings, fishing a piece of glass from your arm on Easter. It’s been nearly fifteen years since I’ve read your poetry but still I remember. I have forgotten almost everything in the intervening years, but I remember you.
I found the poem you wrote about me. The poem of our time in England. Study (With Ocean). And I cried. I haven’t cried since you left. My spirit walked out on me as surely as you did and I haven’t cried since. Sometimes I get a few tears when I think of you, sometimes I cry for two minutes at a sad movie, but even at my worst I never cry for longer than ten minutes. You left, my spirit left, my humanity left. I am too dried up to cry.
I remember. I remember Whitby (didn’t I just tell that story of the dock in my very first Story Theatre class this semester?). I remember the Napoleanic prisoners of war carving bones into ships. I remember the ruined cathedral and the cemetery. I remember London and the Tube. And oh, how I remember Avebury. The room with the loud pink flowers all over the walls. The dramatic readings of the Book of Revelation to peals of giggles. The hysteria of “dlied aplicots.” The sacred silence I held in the Long Barrow as you spoke to Roonie, the silence I broke when I couldn’t bear your coldness to her. “Where will she go?” I crooned. You stopped. You changed. You warmed. And you welcomed her back with loving arms.
Candlelight. Have to pee. Hungry. Holy. Our ears ringing with the sound of my booming Earth chant. Staring into your “I will take this risk” love-filled eyes. My second handfasting. Wrapping the post office string around our hands, fingers clasped into one being. “No one knows what to do with the string,” I laugh. That string puts tens of thousands of miles on it as we send it back and forth on our missives between Bloomington and China. All in the future; for now, I am spellbound by your brown, brave eyes. My sister. Bound in holy vow, in the holiest place I know.
All is grey since that moment when my soul left, when I lost you. I live in a fog. There are bright moments here and there when I seem to come alive: The Summit—so many memories—where I became the Goddess and blessed each sister and brother individually in sacred Circle. September 11th. The audible “crack” that broke me, when I discovered I was three weeks past the deadline for ever selling my eggs. So much revolves around that. The slow, steady spiral downward until I lost my mind completely, total insanity, babbling utter gibberish on my bedroom floor for who knows how long. The absolute terror of going into the asylum. Finding asylum there, and the miracle of Klonopin, which finally silenced the voices without my having to gouge open my wrists.
And then—small sparks here and there during ritual. Hints of love for the strong girls in my life, for my sister. But not feeling. Not feeling. The years go by and without my feelings I am unstuck in time. It passes because I have a birthday each year (although sometimes I have to use a calculator to determine my age because I can no longer remember), but I don’t actually live it. I have gained my house and my land and my music but I have lost my family and my community and my self and you, you, you.
How I loved you. How you loved me. I read your poem and I am sobbing, my heart crying out, “Yes! Yes! This is how it was! This was true—this was real! I was loved once. And I loved in return. How I reveled in her luminous being.”
Who could look at me and believe I was ever loved? That I ever had anything to give in return? That was long ago, another me, when I still had a soul and was capable of anything. And then “anything” truly became “anything.”
I think I broke first. I said I would not move East with you. I felt it would put too much pressure on, that if I couldn’t find a job I would resent you for taking me from a good life and giving me only risk in return. I knew, no matter how many times you called me sister, that I was outside your family and could be discarded at any time. Which ended up being true.
Abegunde, a Yoruban priest, tells me that we have come together across many lifetimes to try to resolve something. And in this lifetime, like so many others, we failed. I don’t believe in past lives but I have never heard anything that so perfectly describes the profound sense of recognition we had for each other and the superglued sense of our bond. The reckless abandon with which we loved each other. The deep-seated need to be bound as one. And then how the two of us, enlightened, educated, psychologically savvy, and highly articulate, couldn’t stop hurting each other. Star-crossed lovers. Fated to come together, fated to break apart. And how I broke.
Did you submit this poem after you left me? Do you look at it as just a piece of good work or have you come to peace with my presence in your life? Have you blocked it out or chalked it up to Saturn returns? Do you diminish it in your mind? Do you miss it? Do you miss me? Can you ever—please, Goddess, please please—can you ever, ever forgive me?
I tried to forgive myself at Oidche Samhna. I tried to say, “Okay, I’ll never know if she has mercy for me, perhaps I can have mercy for myself,” but I couldn’t do it. I have little experience with forgiveness. And there are some things that cannot be forgiven. There are some things we have to remain accountable for. “Doesn’t she want to be forgiven?” She turned and walked away from the chalice of forgiveness. Will I always do the same? Can I, can I ever be released from this in-between state of Not Knowing?
I roam the Earth in darkness, occasionally lighting matches, wishing for torches, but underneath it all yearning for the dawn. Something broke in me, Cam. Something broke when you said, “Never again.” And everything that came after came from a broken human being, not from the strong, capable woman you knew. I observed myself from a distance and couldn’t recognize this strange, hurtful creature. I knew I was Edward Scissorhanding you but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t. And I would give everything I have, every piece of me, to throw myself at your feet and beg for your mercy. To somehow make things whole with you. I would risk everything. I would move mountains. I would take madness again if it meant you would forgive me. Because then there would be hope. Even if I never heard your voice again, never saw your beloved face, never read another of your words, there would be hope for me. Hope that someday my soul will come back and I will be made whole. Because honestly, there’s not a whole helluva lot to be living for without it.
I never imagined you would excise me so completely. I thought we would take a break, get some perspective, leave it lie with the Goddess for a year or two, and then see who and where we were. Just check in periodically over the long course of our lives. Now? How about now? Maybe now? And maybe, at some point, the hurt would be overshadowed by the love, mellowed by time into something powerful enough to transform us into greater beings.
I have never stopped loving you, Cam. I never will. We were not good for each other there at the end, and it was right to have some separation, but I want there to be peace between us. I want us to come to some rest. I want to release old hurts and find a way to let each other live in love. Maybe you’ve already done that. Will I ever know? I am Demeter, searching for Persephone. Will she ever be restored to my sight? Will I ever know mercy? Will I ever be able to lay down this burden? Will I ever live again?
I am waiting.