Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The edges of what you break

Do you remember the night I came over to clean up your blood? You were drunk and had called me in tears. You couldn’t tell me what happened, but I knew what to ask. After you broke the wine glass, you couldn’t stand yourself anymore, so you drew its pieces up the length of your arm. I knew it was really about your boyfriend and the way he made you view your body.

When I got to your apartment, I had to bang on the buzzer and throw pieces of ice at your window. It was so cold that night. I don’t think I was wearing socks, but I knew I was staying the night. The slices on your arm weren’t as deep at I had feared, but I wasn’t expecting that much blood on the walls. Your eyes were puffy but dry, and you had patted down your arms. I brought you a wet washcloth to ease the burning and settled you onto the couch.

Your roommate’s rabbits reminded me of kittens that night. They approached me carefully and sniffed my clothes, but they darted away as soon as I shifted.

You never said anything about that night after the fact. We took classes together. I can remember the day I walked into our African-American studies class, and you told me that today we wouldn’t be having sex. The woman next to you gaped, and we laughed. It was our afternoon class: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality. We abbreviated all of our class names, but we could never agree whether Analysis of Deviance was better shortened to “Anal” or “Deviance.” “Anal Deviance” was an adequate compromise.

Our professors saw us together all the time. I think some of them thought we were dating and yet were very confused. You walked me out to my car when I came over in the dark. I rubbed lotion into your skin when your hands cracked and bled in the winter. We shared taste in music and clothes. We went to shows and rallies together. When Fred Phelps came to campus, you held Nick’s sign up high while I played the Christian lesbian role.

God loves everyone – even bigots

Nick photographed us that day. I don’t know if you knew that. I see that photo every day. It’s you and me. I’m holding the microphone at the rally, and you’re holding up the sign.

We haven’t hung out since September 10, 2001, when we had dinner with Sheila and then played Monopoly. I don’t know what happened, if you had a life-changing experience the next days or weeks, but you stopped calling me back. You’ve never seen my house. You didn’t come to my wedding. You emailed about a year ago to say you had a new phone number. I made the cut that time. I replied to ask how things were going, and I never heard from you.

And when my mom was dying, you were on my list of people to inform. You had sent her a card when she was in the hospital, and she thought that was so sweet of you. You never wrote me back. She’s dead and I miss you.


At 12:02 PM, Blogger christa said...

oh, i feel a little sick to my stomach now, like someone punched me there. i have a friend like that, too... i never thought anything would ge able to drive us apart, but something did. something unseen and unspoken. it's confusing and confounding. but what can you do??

At 2:26 PM, Blogger alice, uptown said...

I had a very dear friend and ex-lover (in whose wedding I had to be a bridesmaid b/c that is supposed to be an honor and you can't get out of it.) Apparently once she was married, she wanted to be my friend only during hours in which her husband was working. I tried, I really did -- but 3 years into her marriage, she called and said that I represented a "void" in her life, and she wanted to be friends again. With our history -- after we broke up as lovers, we didn't speak (her call) for 5 years, so I had to get over losing her then, and we reconnected again for 10 years or so -- but this time I realized I couldn't put myself in the same vulnerable situation, and finally I told her, "I will always love you, but I cannot be your friend."
This was a few months ago, and while I am sad about the outcome -- all those secrets, all those years of our supporting each other -- I realized my limitations, and, finally, as kindly as I could, I let her go. It's not necessarily the outcome I would have wanted, but it protects me, and I'm proud of the way I handled the situation. It took a long, long, time to get to that place -- but what I miss is history; what I don't miss is the reality in which she currently lives.


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