Part of a post from Sept 18, 2010.
Many years ago, The Cowboy once told me I reminded him of The Princess and the pea. It baffled me as I'm not very high maintenance, I prefer to dig in the dirt or stand walls to going shopping. I’d forgotten the story so I asked him what he meant and he said, “if there was a pea and I placed one hundred feather beds on it you'd feel it.” I bet I haven't remembered that in 10 years. I forgot that after him I thought of being very sensitive as 'peas.' Noises too loud, lights too bright, fragrance too strong, too much everything and I am looking for a restful place.
I didn't want to remember more about him, I got up to go brush my teeth. Stupid, it makes it worse but I was on auto-escape. The memory came back as I was standing there looking at myself with the toothbrush whirring. There was a crystal box with one dried pea pod in it from a gift my cousin sent. I had an irrational fear he would try to come back again. When I finished I started repeating; he cannot come back, he cannot come back, he must not come back, he must not come back. I kept walking through the house repeating that until I grabbed my notebook to start to write. I wrote about the summer after he left.
It was summer 2002, he had left in April. His family and friends missed me, they missed us, and talked him into meeting with me and working it out, or finding that quick closure that is a popular notion. He called and suggested we meet in Boise, where we had first met. V loves us both so she told me come stay with her and we could meet at her house for the three days we were going to talk. He would stay in a motel nearby. The last time I’d seen him I didn't know he would be gone when I got home from work. I just didn't know, I came home and he was gone, everything but his pillow. It was hard.
V and her kids took off that first morning. When I answered the door, there he was, standing as still as ever. I never understood how someone so alive and active could be so still. I remember I wanted to reach out and touch him, that's all, just touch him. We were never that way, not he or I, no false shows of anything. We are both outwardly very reserved. Perhaps too alike. He has Sam Elliot's voice, and he said hello Doris and smiled. I said hi and he stepped in, I suggested we go out back and sit facing the canal and the mountains. Both of us would prefer that, especially in an uncomfortable beginning.
I remember it was very clear that morning, I remember the brightness of the day. We spent some time on non-talk about people I knew back in Minnesota. Then he asked if he could take me to IHOP for Swedish pancakes. It always made me happy inside that he remembers what matters to others. He would remember I would ask for extra Lingonberry butter of course.
It was nice but tense, as it always has to be during bad times when you can't act badly. We have to act like this is normal, feel our way slowly. There is no script for how you will feel, no matter how many times you rehearse. All the right words will fly out of your head and there will only be hurt and confusion. We both knew he just wanted to take me to eat something I love because there's no way to undo the past. I liked being there, I could sit and watch him eat like all the times before. He's a good eater and it's in my blood, I like to feed people, I need to see people eating. All in all, I'm glad we went, it was a good memory to keep. Then I was grateful when it was time to leave.
It felt so normal driving to V's, as if it wasn't more than a decade since we'd driven together in Boise. I was thinking we'll sit by the water and talk about ending the past and beginning again. As we talk it's real, but he has no answers or questions. Every answer he gives to any question of mine is "I don't know."
I know him as well as I know my children, I know he is telling the truth. He doesn't know, doesn't understand himself or what happened. We had a shouting match, no screaming or swearing, he woke up mad and moved 1700 miles away. He lost his way, and couldn't find his way back. I understand.
He started telling me he was sorry, he didn't know he would hurt me so much, he didn't know I would cry. Somehow in the 6 months we lived in California he forgot who I was. I reminded him it was just my way, I stopped crying years before. I was too busy learning to survive, tears have no place in survival. It was very hard when we moved, he forgot I was just me. I am a rock too. I am like him.
This is the bad part of the memory because I had to ask it. "Do you still love me?" "No." So I asked "When did you stop loving me?" "I don't know." I had no idea what to say, for the first time in 11 years I knew he lied.
I remember he got up to look at the mountains and he was holding the chain link. His hands are big, he is so thin but he's big, his fingers are stretched across the links and I see the freckles, the strawberry hairs are shining the way they do. I am just watching his right hand, it's as still and solid as ever. He's so still from all the years of hunting, sitting alone on some mountain, just to sit alone. I don't want to look at anything but the hand, I want to wait for him to remember who I am and who he is.
He let go and when he turned to face me I see he has tears running down his face and I was afraid then. He quietly said these exact words "You really are a princess." I didn't understand what he meant or why he would say such a thing to me. I never heard him say anything cruel or insulting to anyone. I don't know what I said but I was asking what I had done wrong, why would he say something like that and he said "No, that's not how I meant it, you really are a princess and you deserve everything."
He was still crying, the way people who learn not to cry do, it was just water running out of his eyes. His voice and breathing were so normal and he said "I have to go now." I begged him to stay, I told him I had everything I wanted, I don't know what I told him. I know I was trying to hold his arm, he didn't jerk away he only kept saying he had to go and kept walking.
He left on April 15th but that summer day was the day I knew he was really gone. I knew if he was willing to lie and say he didn't love me, he also wasn't coming back.
June 12, 2012
I have wondered many times what happened and in not understanding, all I could do was speculate. I understand now why he didn't understand how he felt, I don't have to speculate about why he left anymore. I can't think about it right now, I think I'm going to have to cry a bit first
I'm grateful to Libby and those who understand how sometimes people get really broken, even if they look okay. For now I'm going to see my daughter and granddaughter and enjoy the ones I love who are here.